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David R. Bryla

A study was done to determine the effects of irrigation with different drip configurations on growth of newly planted highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L. `Duke'). Plants were grown on raised beds mulched with sawdust. Different configurations included two laterals of drip tubing placed on the soil surface on each side of the plants, two laterals buried 0.1 m deep on each side of the plants, and one lateral suspended 1.2 m above the plants. Each treatment was irrigated three times per week (when needed) with enough water to replace 100% of the estimated crop evapotranspiration requirements. During the first 2 years after planting, plants irrigated by buried drip were larger and produced significantly more whips than those irrigated by drip placed at the soil surface. The size and whip number of those irrigated by suspended drip were intermediate. Subsurface drip eliminated water runoff and bed erosion observed with both surface drip configurations. It also maintained lower soil water content near the plant crown. Since plants tested positive for phytophthora and pythium root rot, lower soil water content may have reduced problems with the disease. As plants mature, the next objective will be to determine the effects of each drip configuration on fruit production.

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David R. Bryla

Right fertilizer placement is one of the 4Rs of an effective nutrient stewardship system and should be combined with considerations for the right fertilizer source, rate, and timing. Fertilizer placement decisions depend on mobility of applied nutrients in the soil and the depth and distribution of the crop's root system. Various methods are used to apply fertilizers to horticultural crops, including broadcasting, banding, fertigation, foliar application, and microinjection. Generally, the most appropriate method for any crop increases productivity and profitability and improves fertilizer use efficiency but varies depending on the nutrient element, fertilizer source, soil characteristics, cultural practices, stage of crop development, weather conditions, and farming enterprise constraints. Comparisons among application methods are available for many crops and provide useful information for improving fertilizer placement practices, but many practical questions such as how fertilizer source and availability are affected by irrigation interactions or whether there are ways to manage crop roots for more effective nutrient uptake still remain.

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David R. Bryla and Bernadine C. Strik

Plant water requirements were investigated in three northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) cultivars, Duke, Bluecrop, and Elliott, grown either at a high-density spacing of 0.45 m apart within rows or a more traditional spacing of 1.2 m. Spacing between rows was 3.0 m. As is typical for the species, each cultivar was shallow-rooted with most roots located less than 0.4 m deep, and each was sensitive to soil water deficits with plant water potentials declining as low as −1.6 MPa within 5 to 7 days without rain or irrigation. Compared with traditional spacing, planting at high density significantly reduced dry weight and yield of individual plants but significantly increased total dry weight and yield per hectare. High-density planting also significantly increased total canopy cover and water use per hectare. However, although canopy cover (often considered a factor in water use) increased up to 246%, water use never increased more than 10%. Because of more canopy cover at high density, less water penetrated the canopy during rain or irrigation (by overhead sprinklers), reducing both soil water availability and plant water potential in each cultivar and potentially reducing water use. Among cultivars, water use was highest in ‘Duke’, which used 5 to 10 mm·d−1, and lowest in ‘Elliott’, which used 3 to 5 mm·d−1. Peak water use in each cultivar was during fruit development, but water use after harvest declined sharply. Longer irrigation sets (i.e., longer run times) or alternative irrigation methods (e.g., drip) may be required when growing blueberry at high density, especially in cultivars with dense canopies such as ‘Elliott’.

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Bernadine C. Strik and David R. Bryla

Raspberry and blackberry (Rubus sp.) plantings have a relatively low nutrient requirement compared with many other perennial fruit crops. Knowledge of annual accumulation of nutrients and periods of rapid uptake allows for better management of fertilization programs. Annual total nitrogen (N) accumulation in the aboveground plant ranged from 62 to 110 and 33 to 39 lb/acre in field-grown red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) and blackberry (Rubus ssp. rubus), respectively. Research on the fate of applied 15N (a naturally occurring istope of N) has shown that primocanes rely primarily on fertilizer N for growth, whereas floricane growth is highly dependent on stored N in the over-wintering primocanes, crown, and roots; from 30% to 40% of stored N was allocated to new growth. Plants receiving higher rates of N fertilizer took up more N, often leading to higher N concentrations in the tissues, including the fruit. Reallocation of N from senescing floricanes and primocane leaves to canes, crown, and roots has been documented. Accumulation of other macro- and micronutrients in plant parts usually preceded growth. Primocanes generally contained the highest concentration of most nutrients during the growing season, except calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn), which often were more concentrated in roots. Roots typically contained the highest concentration of all nutrients during winter dormancy. Nutrient partitioning varied considerably among elements due to different nutrient concentrations and requirements in each raspberry and blackberry plant part. This difference not only affected the proportion of each nutrient allocated to plant parts, but also the relative amount of each nutrient lost or removed during harvest, leaf senescence, and pruning. Macro- and micronutrient concentrations are similar for raspberry and blackberry fruit, resulting in a similar quantity of nutrient removed with each ton of fruit at harvest; however, yield may differ among cultivars and production systems. Nutrient removal in harvested red raspberry and blackberry fruit ranged from 11 to 18 lb/acre N, 10 to 19 lb/acre potassium (K), 2 to 4 lb/acre phosphorus (P), 1 to 2 lb/acre Ca, and 1 to 4 lb/acre magnesium (Mg). Pruning senescing floricanes in August led to greater plant nutrient losses than pruning in autumn. Primocane leaf nutrient status is often used in nutrient management programs. Leaf nutrient concentrations differ with primocane leaf sampling time and cultivar. In Oregon, the present recommended sampling time of late July to early August is acceptable for floricane-fruiting raspberry and blackberry types, and primocane-fruiting raspberry, but not for primocane-fruiting blackberry, where sampling leaves on primocane branches during the green fruit stage is recommended. Presently published leaf tissue standards appear to be too high for K in primocane-fruiting raspberry and blackberry, which is not surprising since the primocanes are producing fruit at the time of sampling and fruit contain a substantial amount of K.

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David R. Bryla and Bernadine C. Strik

Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is well adapted to acidic soils with low nutrient availability, but often requires regular applications of nitrogen (N) and other nutrients for profitable production. Typically, nutrients accumulate in the plant tissues following the same pattern as dry matter and are lost or removed by leaf senescence, pruning, fruit harvest, and root turnover. Leaf tissue testing is a useful tool for monitoring nutrient requirements in northern highbush blueberry, and standards for analysis have been updated for Oregon. Until recently, most commercial plantings of blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) were fertilized using granular fertilizers. However, many new fields are irrigated by drip and fertigated using liquid fertilizers. Suitable sources of liquid N fertilizer for blueberry include ammonium sulfate, ammonium thiosulfate, ammonium phosphate, urea, and urea sulfuric acid. Several growers are also applying humic acids to help improve root growth and are injecting sulfuric acid to reduce carbonates and bicarbonates in the irrigation water. Although only a single line of drip tubing is needed for adequate irrigation of northern highbush blueberry, two lines are often used to encourage a larger root system. The lines are often installed near the base of the plants initially and then repositioned 6–12 inches away once the root system develops. For better efficiency, N should be applied frequently by fertigation (e.g., weekly), beginning at budbreak, but discontinued at least 2 months before the end of the growing season. Applying N in late summer reduces flower bud development in northern highbush blueberry and may lead to late flushes of shoot growth vulnerable to freeze damage. The recommended N rates are higher for fertigation than for granular fertilizers during the first 2 years after planting but are similar to granular rates in the following years. More work is needed to develop fertigation programs for other nutrients and soil supplements in northern highbush blueberry.

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Oscar L. Vargas and David R. Bryla

Fertigation with liquid sources of nitrogen (N) fertilizers, including ammonium sulfate and urea, were compared with granular applications of the fertilizers in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. ‘Bluecrop’) during the first 5 years of fruit production (2008–12). The planting was established in Apr. 2006 at a field site located in western Oregon. The plants were grown on raised beds and mulched every 2 years with sawdust. Liquid fertilizers were injected through a drip system in equal weekly applications from mid-April to early August. Granular fertilizers were applied on each side of the plants, in three split applications from mid-April to mid-June, and washed into the soil using microsprinklers. Each fertilizer was applied at three N rates, which were increased each year as the plants matured (63 to 93, 133 to 187, and 200 to 280 kg·ha−1 N) and compared with non-fertilized treatments (0 kg·ha−1 N). Canopy cover, which was measured in 2008 only, and fresh pruning weight were greater with fertigation than with granular fertilizer and often increased with N rate when the plants were fertigated but decreased at the highest rate when granular fertilizer was applied. Yield also increased with N fertilizer and was 12% to 40% greater with fertigation than with granular fertilizer each year as well as 17% greater with ammonium sulfate than with urea in 2011. The response of berry weight to the treatments was variable but decreased with higher N rates during the first 3 years of fruit production. Leaf N concentration was greater with fertigation in 4 of 5 years and averaged 1.68% with fertigation and 1.61% with granular fertilizer. Leaf N was also often greater with ammonium sulfate than with urea and increased as more N was applied. Soil pH declined with increasing N rates and was lower with granular fertilizer than with fertigation during the first 3 years of fruit production and lower with ammonium sulfate than with urea in every year but 2010. Soil electrical conductivity (EC) was less than 1 dS·m−1 in each treatment but was an average of two to three times greater with granular fertilizer than with fertigation and 1.4 to 1.8 times greater with ammonium sulfate than with urea. Overall, total yield averaged 32 to 63 t·ha−1 in each treatment over the first 5 years of fruit production and was greatest when plants were fertigated with ammonium sulfate or urea at rates of at least 63 to 93 kg·ha−1 N per year.

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David R. Bryla and Robert G. Linderman

A 2-year study was done in Oregon to determine the effects of irrigation method and level of water application on the development of root rot in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. ‘Duke’). Plants were grown on mulched, raised beds and irrigated by overhead sprinklers, microsprays, or drip at 50%, 100%, and 150% of the estimated crop evapotranspiration requirement. Soil at the site was a silty clay loam. By the end of the first season, plants were largest with drip, intermediate-sized with microsprays and smallest with sprinklers; however, this was not the case the next season. By the end of year 2, plants irrigated by drip had less canopy cover, fewer new canes, lower pruning weights, and only half the shoot and root dry weight as plants irrigated by sprinklers or microsprays. Destructive sampling revealed that the field was infested by root rot. Less growth with drip was association with higher levels of infection by the root pathogen, Phytophthora cinnamomi. Phytophthora infection increased with water application, regardless of irrigation method, but averaged 14% with drip and only 7% with sprinklers and microsprays. Roots were also infected by Pythium spp. Pythium infection likewise increased with the total amount of water applied but, unlike P. cinnamomi, was similar among irrigation methods. Overall, drip irrigation maintained higher soil water content near the base of the plants than sprinklers and microsprays, resulting in conditions more favorable to root rot. Sprinklers and microsprays may be better alternatives than drip at sites prone to problems with the disease.

Open access

Fan-Hsuan Yang, David R. Bryla, and R. Troy Peters

Heat-related fruit damage is a prevalent issue in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) in various growing regions, including the northwestern United States. To help address the issue, we developed a simple climatological model to predict blueberry fruit temperatures based on local weather data and to simulate the effects of using over-canopy sprinklers for cooling the fruit. Predictions of fruit temperature on sunny days correlated strongly with the actual values (R 2 = 0.91) and had a root mean-square error of ≈2 °C. Among the parameters tested, ambient air temperature and light intensity had the greatest impact on fruit temperature, whereas wind speed and fruit size had less impact, and relative humidity had no impact. Cooling efficiency was estimated successfully under different sprinkler cooling intervals by incorporating a water application factor that was calculated based on the amount of water applied and the time required for water to evaporate from the fruit surface between the intervals. The results indicate that water temperature and nozzle flow rate affected the extent to which cooling with sprinklers reduced fruit temperature. However, prolonging the runtime of the sprinklers did not guarantee lower temperatures during cooling, because cooling efficiency declined as the temperature of the fruit approached the temperature of the irrigation water. Users could incorporate the model into weather forecast programs to predict the incidence of heat damage and could use it to make cooling decisions in commercial blueberry fields.

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David R. Bryla, Robert G. Linderman, and Wei Q. Yang

Fifty-five commercial blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) fields were sampled in northwest Oregon in 2001 to determine the incidence of Phytophthora and Pythium root rot pathogens and identify cultural factors that increase the probability of developing infection. Phytophthora was detected in 24% and Pythium was detected in 85% of the fields sampled. The only species of Phytophthora identified in the study was P. cinnamomi. Root infection by P. cinnamomi was significantly related to cultivar with incidence observed more frequently than expected in ‘Duke’ and ‘Bluecrop’. Both blueberry cultivars are two of the most popular grown in the region, representing 42% of the fields in this survey and ≈46% of the total area planted in Oregon. Two other cultivars found infected by P. cinnamomi were ‘Rubel’ and ‘Briggitta Blue’, together accounting for an additional 24% of the fields surveyed. Phytophthora was not detected in fields planted with ‘Berkeley’, ‘Bluejay’, ‘Bluetta’, ‘Darrow’, ‘Earliblue’, ‘Elliott’, and ‘Powderblue’, each of which represented only 2% to 7% of the fields surveyed. Pythium spp. were identified to genus only, but one or more species of Pythium was found in all 11 cultivars included in the survey. Occurrence of either Phytophthora or Pythium was unrelated to soil type, planting age, or cultural practices such as bed type, cover crop, mulch, irrigation system, fertilizer application, fungicide use, or the source of plant material used in the fields. Overall, most fields with Phytophthora or Pythium remained largely symptomless under good soil drainage conditions and had similar levels of vigor as those without the pathogens.

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Javier Fernandez-Salvador, Bernadine C. Strik, and David R. Bryla

Blackberry (Rubus ssp. Rubus) cultivars, three trailing types (Marion, Black Diamond, and Obsidian) and one semierect type (Triple Crown), were studied for their response to different types of fertilizer from 2011–12, at a certified organic, grower collaborator site located in Jefferson, OR. Plants were fertilized at a target rate of 50 lb/acre nitrogen (N) each spring using three different sources: 1) a liquid fish and molasses blend (4N–0P–1.7K); 2) pelletized soy (Glycine max) meal (8N–0.4P–1.7K); and 3) pelletized, processed poultry litter (4N–1.3P–2.5K). Plants were drip irrigated, and weeds were managed using a polypropylene, permeable landscape fabric (weed mat). Plant responses were greatly affected by cultivar, whereas the effects of fertilizer type were relatively minor. ‘Triple Crown’ produced the greatest yield in both years, whereas ‘Black Diamond’ and ‘Marion’ had the lowest yield in 2011 and 2012, respectively. ‘Triple Crown’ fruit had the highest percent soluble solids and were the least firm in 2011, whereas ‘Marion’ fruit were the least firm in 2012. Harvest date, within year, affected the fruit quality variables measured in all cultivars. Most soil nutrient levels were within the recommended range for all fertilizer treatments, except for boron (B), which declined to deficient levels in the second year. Fertilizer type had no effect on soil nutrient levels other than fertilization with the fish and molasses blend product increased soil potassium and sodium. Soil nutrient levels were affected by cultivar but varied by year for many nutrients. Primocane leaf tissue nutrient concentrations were above or within recommended standards for most nutrients, except for magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), and B, which, depending on the cultivar, were below standards. Over the 2-year study, the blackberry cultivars responded similarly to the three types of organic fertilizer. However, the cost of N varied from $8.16/lb for the liquid fish and molasses blend, $5.35/lb for the pelletized soy meal, and $2.54/lb for the pelletized, processed poultry litter. Supplemental fertilization with B, Mg, and Ca would be required with each fertilizer studied to maintain recommended soil fertility levels.