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  • Author or Editor: David P. Leon-Chang x
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Boron (B) is often deficient in many fruit crops, including blueberry (Vaccinium sp.). The objective of the present study was to evaluate different methods for applying B fertilizers to two commercial cultivars of northern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum Earliblue and Aurora) in western Oregon, USA. Treatments included soil application of sodium tetraborate in early April (before bloom), foliar application of boric acid in late April (during bloom or petal fall), weekly fertigation with boric acid from April through July, and a control with no B. The plants were irrigated by drip, and the fertilizers were applied for two consecutive seasons at a total rate of 1.5 kg·ha−1 B per year. Each method of fertilizer application increased the concentration of B in the soil solution relative to the control, but fertigation was the only treatment that increased extractable soil B to the recommended level of 0.5 to 1.0 mg·kg−1 B. In terms of plant nutrition, foliar application of B was the most effective method for increasing the concentration of B in the leaves, roots, and fruit, followed by fertigation. Soil application of B, on the other hand, was relatively ineffective and, after 2 years, only increased the concentration of B in the leaves of ‘Earliblue’. Although leaf B levels were initially deficient at the site (<30 ppm B), none of the B application methods had any effect on yield, berry weight, fruit firmness, or titratable acidity of the fruit in either cultivar. However, foliar applied B resulted in higher concentrations of soluble solids in the fruit than no B or soil applied B in ‘Earliblue’, whereas B fertigation resulted in higher concentrations of soluble solids than soil applied B in ‘Aurora’. On the basis of these results, applying B by fertigation or as a foliar spray is recommended over the use of soil applications of B fertilizer in northern highbush blueberry.

Open Access

Although northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) fields are often fertigated using soluble or liquid fertilizers, recommendations for applying most nutrients to the crop, including K, are based on the use of granular fertilizers. The objective of the present study was to compare fertigation to granular application of K in a mature planting of Duke, a popular early season blueberry cultivar that ripens from June through July in Oregon and Washington. The plants were grown on raised beds and irrigated using two lines of drip tubing per row. Treatments were initiated in 2016 and included no K fertilizer, a single application of granular potassium sulfate (K2SO4) in April, and fertigation once a week from April to August with soluble K2SO4 or liquid potassium thiosulfate (K2S2O3). Each treatment was applied for 2 years at a total rate of 70 kg·ha−1 K per year. The plants were also fertigated with 168 and 224 kg·ha−1 N in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and 30 kg·ha−1 P per year. Although extractable soil K was initially low at the site (144 mg·kg−1), the treatments had no effect on plant dry weight, yield, fruit quality, or the concentration of K in recently expanded leaves. However, during the first year of the study, K fertigation with K2SO4 or K2S2O3 reduced soil pH and increased the concentrations of K+, Ca2+, Mn2+, and SO4 2− in the soil solution under the drip emitters compared with no K or granular K2SO4, whereas granular application of K2SO4 resulted in higher concentrations of K+ between the emitters than any other treatment. Fertigation also affected the concentration of K in the fruit during the first year, although in this case, the concentration was lower with K fertigation than with no K or granular applications of K2SO4. During the second year, fertigation and granular K continued to result in higher concentrations of K+ in soil solution under and between the drip emitters, respectively, but at this point, extractable soil K was higher with each of the K fertilizers than with no K. Consequently, the concentration of K in leaves sampled from entire plants in late September that year was higher with any of the K fertilizers than with no K. Potassium fertilization also altered concentrations of other nutrients in the plants, including Mg, S, B, Cu, and Mn in the leaves; Ca, Mg, and B in the fruit; Mn and Zn in the woody canes; and P, Mg, S, and Mn in the crown. In many cases, concentrations of these nutrients were higher with one or more of the K fertilizers than with no K. Thus, regardless of the application method, K2SO4 and K2S2O3 appear to be good sources for increasing availability of K and other nutrients in the plants and soil. However, the amount of K in the plants was sufficient at the site, and therefore, none of the fertilizers provided a short-term benefit to growth or fruit production in the present study.

Open Access