The blueberry is a recently domesticated crop, due to its healthy and organoleptic properties it has become a popular crop with a large number of supporters all over the world. The immense interest of markets in this crop has made it an avant-garde in terms of technology and genetic alterations.
The challenges of growing blueberry come from its high sensitivity to water stress, salinity, and acidity levels. While the highest cost comes from harvesting blueberries, whether it is hand-picking or using machinery, even though there are only a few berry varieties that can be machine-harvested.
The most common blueberry varieties come from the family Highbush, which at the same time has two other families inside this group: Northern Bush & Southern Bush.
Climate and soil requirements
Blueberries were originated in cold weather, but, today, we can find different varieties that need as many as 1.200 cold hours to bloom, such as in the USA and Canada, to varieties that need as little as 24 cold hours to bloom, in warmer climates like Mexico and the Mediterranean Area (South of Spain and Morocco).
Blueberries prefer light, acidic and permeable soils, full of nutrients and humus. Even though they are highly vulnerable to water stress, they grow best on well-drained soils to avoid water excess.
Blueberries planted in beds should be planted in raised beds of 15-20 cm high, and 40-60 cm width with a separation between grown plantations of 1.5 x 2.5 mt.
In the case of hydroponic plantations, the distance should be shorter, increasing the density per hectare arriving to 9,000 plants per hectare, almost 2 adult plants per square meter.
Blueberries are extremely sensitive to water stress, and they need a very specific amount of water during the blooming time, fruit set, and ripening. Using a drip irrigation system in blueberry crops is highly recommended to obtain a satisfactory production during the life expectancy of this crop.
- Soil Irrigation
The irrigation system should use two driplines, one on each side of the bed, with a PC-AS emitter from 1.6 to 2.3 l/h with a spacing of 33 cm. The irrigation time will vary depending on the periods of maximum hydric demand during the day.
- Soilless Irrigation
Soilless cultivation of blueberries is gaining popularity, especially in regions where blueberries are not originally from, such as Peru, Mexico, Morocco, and South of Spain.
Irrigation emitters play a key role in soilless irrigation. It must be pressure compensated and anti-drainage (CNL) because this irrigation method demands constant flow in all the plants of the sector simultaneously. If the pipeline gets empty every time it stops, there will not be uniformity in all sectors. Only PC CNL drippers offer these qualities, with a labyrinth big enough to avoid any clogging and a fast-self-cleaning flow from 2-4 l/h.