As the world’s second largest blueberry producer, Canada’s blueberry industry continues to thrive with strong crop prices and high demand. Two types of blueberry production combine to make it Canada’s largest fruit crop by acreage. Highbush, or cultivated blueberries, are the higher value crop and are generally easier to manage using agricultural machinery. Lowbush blueberries have a unique set of issues as they generally propagate underground, rather than through seeding, and their delicate nature can offer greater management challenges for producers.
Disease control protects floral buds and yield
Lowbush blueberries are susceptible to Canada’s most common disease pathogen – rust. Septoria leaf spot is also a threat for lowbush blueberries. Both diseases can be managed with a foliar, systemic fungicide applied in the sprout year of the plant. Highbush blueberries are at risk from anthracnose, which makes the berries unmarketable if not controlled. Other disease such as phomopsis and phythopthora attack the plant roots and can ultimately cause plant death.
Clear ground to manage weeds
The weed profile for lowbush and highbush blueberries varies greatly. Annual weeds tend to be more of an issue for highbush crops, as it is easier to clear the ground below the plants each season to reduce perennial weed concerns. While more challenging, it’s also important to keep the ground as clean as possible for lowbush blueberries. Cultural methods such as hand weeding, managing stands, periodic burns and mowing can help reduce weed pressure.
Determine economic thresholds for insect control
Scouting is key to insect management in blueberries. While common in-season, aphids aren’t problematic until they reach threshold levels where by 30% of the shoot tips are infested. Aphids are problematic because they feed on new shoots by sucking plant sap. They can also become a vector for disease. European chafers and Japanese beetles, commonly called white grubs, feed on the roots and can reduce productivity of the plant. They can be especially harmful in highbush blueberries in early years following planting.