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Blueberry production in northern NSW - Primefact 195

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Blueberries are a native fruit of North and South America, Asia and Europe. They were first introduced into Australia in the early 1970s. The cold climate 'Northern Highbush' varieties are suited to Victoria, the southern highlands of New South Wales and Tasmania. By 1978 it was recognized that the warmer climate 'Southern Hig hbush' and Rabbiteye varieties from the southern states of America would grow on the New South Wales North Coast and produce high value, early season fruit.
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O C T O B E R 2 0 0 6
P R I M E F A C T 1 9 5
Blueberry production in northern NSW
Greig Ireland
The NSW north coast blueberry industry is based
on varieties of both the Southern Highbush and
District Horticulturist, Tropical Horticulture, Coffs
Rabbiteye varieties. The Northern Highbush is not
Harbour
suited to subtropical areas as they have a higher
Phillip Wilk
chill requirement. Only a few selections have
proven to be of commercial value:
District Horticulturist, Tropical Horticulture,
Alstonville
• Southern Highbush varieties are Sharpeblue,
Misty and Biloxi
• Rabbiteye varieties include Climax, Powderblue,
Introduction
Tiffblue, Brightwell and Premier.
Blueberries are a native fruit of North and South
Over the next few years, newer varieties will be
America, Asia and Europe. They were first
released from current breeding programs and they
introduced into Australia in the early 1970s. The
will replace some of the existing varieties. These
cold climate ‘Northern Highbush’ varieties are
newer varieties will have the benefit of a number of
suited to Victoria, the southern highlands of New
improved characteristics such as greater disease
South Wales and Tasmania.
resistance, increased yield, larger berry size and
more even ripening. Many of these varieties have
By 1978 it was recognised that the warmer climate
Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) attached and growers
‘Southern Highbush’ and Rabbiteye varieties from
may only be able to gain access to them by entering
the southern states of America would grow on the
into licensed agreements with plant breeders.
New South Wales North Coast and produce high
value, early season fruit.
Intending growers should discuss varietal suitability
with reliable nurseries and officers of the NSW
The season starts in June with small amounts of
Department of Primary Industries, (NSW DPI) to
fruit, peaks in October/November and continues
ensure their suitability for a particular location.
into December/January, depending on the year.
(Rabbiteye peaks in December/January.) As new
varieties are released, a consistent supply of
Climate
blueberries will be available throughout the season.
Blueberry varieties require differing amounts of chill
hours for normal flower and fruit development.
Varieties
The commercial blueberry industry in North
America began from selections of wild plants of the
Highbush species Vaccinium corymbosum and V.
australe
made by FV Coville in 1909. Since then,
breeding and selection have produced a wide
range of Highbush cultivars suited to regions of
cold winters. The Rabbiteye blueberry V. ashei is
native to the warmer southern states of the USA
(Florida, Georgia, Alabama) and commercial
cultivars have been bred and selected to suit
regions where winters are milder. Southern
Highbush cultivars (V. corymbosum hybrids) are a
third group of cultivars suited to warmer and milder
climatic regions.
Figure 1. Southern Highbush blueberries showing
‘bloom’ on fruit



Generally, this is the cumulative number of hours
especially important for bore water during times of
below 7.5°C in autumn and winter. Southern Highbush
drought as the quality can change rapidly, making it
varieties generally require 250–450 chill hours.
unsuitable. Blueberries are sensitive to saline water.
Water with a salt reading less than 0.45 dS/m
However, due to early flowering of blueberries on
(decisiemens per metre) is suitable for blueberry
the North Coast, growers need to avoid frost prone
production.
areas as this may damage foliage, flowers and fruit.
Irrigation systems should be designed by
Whilst local knowledge of frost frequency and
professionals to ensure that all plants receive the
severity can be useful it is better to use devices
optimum amount of water. The irrigation system is
such as thermographs, digital data loggers or
also generally used for nutrient application which is
maximum/minimum thermometers to determine if
called ‘fertigation’. Over-watering creates anaerobic
the specific area is frost prone.
soil conditions which lead to root diseases.
Hail prone areas should be avoided as hail can not
Peak water demands occur during the periods of
only ruin the current crop but damage buds for the
fruit set and fruit growth. Inadequate watering in the
following year’s crop and also predispose plants to
final 2–3 weeks of fruit growth can seriously reduce
disease.
berry size and lead to small fruit and fruit not
ripening. Another critical period is February and
Site selection
March when floral initiation for the following
season’s crop occurs. Inadequate irrigation in
Selecting a suitable site for blueberry production is
heatwave conditions will result in wilting and
extremely important. By selecting a suitable site,
dieback of tender shoots and shrivelling of berries
many potential problems can be avoided. The main
which then drop. During periods of high temperatures
criteria for assessing the suitability of an area for
it may be necessary to irrigate twice a day.
blueberry growing are soil type, water availability,
aspect and slope.
Good filtration is essential to ensure that all algae
and sediment is removed to avoid blockages which
could lead to plant deaths. Regular flushing of the
Soil type
filter and irrigation system will ensure that plants
Blueberries prefer a deep, well-drained soil such as
get adequate water for their demands at all stages
coarse sandy loam or Krasnozem, high in organic
of growth. A rule of thumb guide for irrigation is to
matter but low in clay. On poor sites, growth is weak
allow for 25 mm per week during the growing
and production is low. Plantings on poorly drained,
season with bursts of up to 38–40 mm in the final
compacted soils are less vigorous and they may
two weeks of fruit growth. Minimal irrigation is
develop root problems resulting in plant losses.
required during winter. A mature plant requires
100–150 litres of water per week. This is best
Blueberries grow on a wide range of soils but prefer
applied in small amounts on a regular basis to keep
a well drained acid soil with pH (water) of 4.5–5.2
the root zone at optimum moisture levels. Avoid
for Highbush and up to 5.5 for Rabbiteye varieties.
over-watering young plants once they are
Soils high in organic matter (above 5%) are
established.
preferred as they retain nutrients in the root zone
rather than allowing them to be leached.
There are many devices that will assist the grower
with water scheduling. Some of this sophisticated
The water table in the soil should be at least 90 cm
equipment is very costly but tensiometers are
below the surface during the wettest part of the
relatively cheap and accurate if they are properly
year. This is essential as blueberry roots will rot if
installed and maintained.
water logged. A poorly drained soil will allow root
diseases to flourish and may cause plant death.
Aspect
Avoid heavy soils. Soils must be well aerated at all
times for optimum plant growth. Soils with a high
A north to north-easterly aspect is preferable to
clay content or those that become compacted may
give maximum sunshine hours and the earliest
result in poor plant growth.
production. Whilst other aspects can be used you
will find south-facing slopes will be cooler and
hence produce a later crop. South-facing slopes
Water and irrigation
are also more prone to frost and severe wind
Blueberry plants have a shallow, fibrous root
damage. Planting on gentle slopes allows cold air
system and as such require supplementary
to drain out of the orchard and helps to reduce the
irrigation throughout the growing season. Water
potential for frost damage. Tall timber belts at the
storage facilities of 2–3 megalitres per hectare are
bottom of the slope can act like a dam wall and
required for blueberry production.
cause cold air to back up and can push frost back
into lower areas of the crop. Cutting breaks through
Growers should have their water supply tested to
the timber will avoid this.
ensure its suitability for blueberry irrigation. This is

PRIMEF ACT 195, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION IN NORTHERN NSW 2

Shelter
Exposure of plants to hot drying winds can cause
desiccation of young shoots and flowers, resulting
in dieback and early fruit drop. This is most likely
to occur when irrigation has been inadequate.
Adequate shelter from strong winds is essential. If
not available naturally, windbreaks should be
planted ahead of crop establishment. Consult your
local NSW DPI horticulturist for suitable species.
Remember to irrigate and manage windbreak trees
as you would any other crop. Most windbreak
species require regular canopy management to
maintain height and growth at lower levels.
Figure 2. Machines laying plastic mulch and
Site preparation
irrigation on mounds.
Establishing an orchard is costly, and this
investment can be jeopardised if sound planning
mulch over beds and securing. Some growers use
and management strategies are not adopted. Refer
natural mulch instead of plastic to suppress weeds.
to Primefact 133 Establishment and production
These include products such as hardwood
costs for blueberry
woodchips and pine bark fines. Install irrigation
prior to planting to ensure plant losses do not occur.
A complete soil test is essential to determine any
nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. These are best
carried out prior to mounding as this ensures a
Planting
thorough mixing of the soil. Information on soil
Growers need to order plants at least 12 months
sampling can be obtained in the NSW DPI
ahead of planting to ensure the plants are available
publication Soil Sense – Soil management for north
when needed. Growers need to order the right
coast farmers.
number of plants of each variety to ensure they have
the correct varietal mix for pollination. Plantings
Soil improvement is advisable. Ideally, soil
usually consist of alternate rows of two varieties
preparation should commence a full 12 months
that flower at the same time. Some plantings may
before planting. This allows for correction of
have two rows of one variety followed by a single
nutrient deficiencies, weed control, improvement of
row of the other variety.
soil organic matter content and structure.
Plant spacing will vary depending on variety.
Current industry best practice is to herbicide and
Generally for Southern Highbush, plant in rows 3 m
then cultivate the whole site to eradicate all
apart with plants spaced at 0.8 m to 1 m within
vegetation before sowing a green manure crop.
rows (3700–3300 plants/ha). Rabbiteye varieties,
Sow a green manure crop appropriate to your
due to their greater vigour, are planted at 1.2 m to
district and time of year. Top-dress with a fertiliser
1.4 m spacings within rows (2500–2100 plants/ha).
as determined by the soil test. Growing a green
Fruit and flowers on young plants should be removed
manure crop will benefit the soil by building up the
prior to planting and for the next 12–24 months, to
organic matter, and will assist in weed control.
promote vegetative growth. Failure to do this will
Allow the green manure crop to grow for up to six
lead to poor plant growth and predispose them to
months but cultivate before flowering commences.
diseases such as Phomopsis spp.
Plough or rotary hoe the green manure crop and
then form beds using an offset disc plough or a bed
Highbush and Rabbiteye varieties are best planted
former. A cover crop should then be sown in the
in late winter or early spring while plants are
inter-row to stop erosion.
dormant or before new growth begins. Low chill
cultivars, which are evergreen, may be planted at
Bedding up ensures adequate drainage, particularly
anytime but late winter and early spring are both
on flat land. The planting beds should be 1.2–1.4 m
ideal. This will ensure good root development and
wide at the base and 0.4 m to 0.6 m high at the
rapid shoot growth.
centre. This allows machinery access between the
rows. The inter-row space is best sown as a grassed
Plants should be watered immediately after
area which can be mown and the cuttings used as
planting and in lighter soils mulch can be applied to
help avoid moisture loss. Keep plastic or woodchip
extra mulch around the plants.
mulch 40 mm away from the stems at all times as
Some specialty machines can lay irrigation lines on
they may cause fungal disease problems.
top of the bed and install plastic mulch over it at the
Experienced growers replant Highbush varieties
same time. If this machinery is not available then
every 6–8 years and Rabbiteye varieties every 10–
install irrigation manually prior to putting plastic
12 years under good management.

PRIMEF ACT 195, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION IN NORTHERN NSW 3

Nutrition
Table 2. Foliar nutrient level for blueberry
Local plant nutrition practices for blueberries are
Element
Low
Adequate
High
not well understood and more research is needed.
Many of the nutrition programs are based on North
American data. However, regular annual leaf and
Nitrogen %
1.7
1.8–2.1
2.5
soil analyses can help to determine the correct
nutrition program required for your orchard.
Phosphorous
0.1 0.12–0.4
0.8
%
Current best practice in the blueberry industry is to
*0.08–0.17
supply nutrients to plants via the irrigation system,
which is called ‘fertigation’. Proprietary products are
Potassium %
0.3
0.35–0.65
0.95
used and then adjusted for shortfalls as determined
by leaf tissue analysis. More accurate nutritional
* 0.28–0.6
information relating to varietal differences will
emerge as growers become more experienced.
Calcium %
0.13
0.4–0.8
1
There are a number of liquid fertiliser products on
* 0.24–0.7
the market that are suitable for blueberries that
have a 3:1:1 or 3:1:2 N:P:K ratio.
Magnesium %
0.08
0.12–0.25
0.45
The optimum pH range for blueberries is from
4.5 to 5.2. Soils that have a pH level greater than
Sulphur %
0.1
0.125–0.2
0.3
5.5 will often lead to the development of chlorosis
and iron deficiency, leading to reduced growth. The
use of fertilisers based on sulfur and ammonium
Manganese
23 50–350 450
sulfate to reduce soil pH on marginally high soils
(mg/kg)
has been effective although it is important to start
the treatments 12 months before planting. On very
Iron (mg/kg)
60<
60–200
400
acid soils, particularly below pH 3.5 to 4.0, good
results have been achieved from the application of
Zinc (mg/kg)
8<
8–30
80
agricultural lime or dolomite applied 12 months
before planting.
Copper
5< 5–20 100
(mg/kg)
Crop nutrient replacement
This strategy relies on replacing nutrients to the
Boron (mg/kg)
20
30–70
200
orchard that are exported annually by the removal
of fruit, leaves and prunings. It must also account
* Indicates level for Rabbiteye varieties
for nutrient losses through leaching, fixation and
(C.C.Doughty, E.B.Adams, L.W.Martin, 1981.
volatilisation. The fertiliser program should be
Highbush blueberry production in Washington and
developed for individual orchards in conjunction
Oregon)
with soil and leaf tissue analysis as well as the
annual crop production.
Leaf tissue analysis
Table 1. Annual fertiliser program using liquid
fertiliser applied once per week.

The timing of sampling and the selection of suitable
leaves is important to obtain results that can be
Annual total of element
used to interpret the nutrient status of the plant.
Element
required per hectare (kg)
The optimum period for sampling blueberry leaves
is following harvest. Leaves are taken from
Nitrogen (N)
121
hardened ‘first flush’ laterals just below the fruit
Phosphorous (P)
83
clusters. The mid leaves of these laterals should be
sampled.
Potassium (K)
55
Calcium (Ca)
15
Mulching
The majority of growers use either plastic or
Magnesium (Mg)
10
organic mulches to protect the raised beds, control
Sulphur (S)
37
weeds, and reduce moisture loss from the root
zone. Weedmat is the most popular plastic mulch
Zinc (Zn)
0.8
due to its strength and its ability to allow some
rainfall to permeate once it has aged. Some
Boron (B)
0.5
growers place woodchips around the planting hole,

PRIMEF ACT 195, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION IN NORTHERN NSW 4

but it is important to ensure that the woodchip does
• Cut out one or two older canes. Choose the
not contact the plant stem as this encourages
least vigorous.
fungal growth which may result in plant death.
• Remove low branches and short, soft new
Growers using woodchip rather than plastic mulch
shoots that develop from the crown late in the
need to ensure that they design their beds correctly
season.
to keep the mulch from slipping off. An additional
• Remove weak, twiggy wood from the top and
problem with woodchip is that pickers disturb the
outer parts of the plant. Be sure sufficient light
layer which can then collapse into the inter-row
can penetrate to the centre of the plant. Weak,
leaving the raised bed open to weed growth and
twiggy wood produces few flower buds and the
moisture loss. Wood mulches gradually break down
berries are small.
and have to be continually replaced. Wood mulch,
• If the plants tend to overbear, tip back the fruiting
however, provides the added advantage of
shoots to remove about one third of the flower
increasing soil organic matter levels, allowing rain
buds. These are the fat buds on the terminals of
penetration and keeping the root zone cool.
the previous season’s growth.
Pruning
Pollination
Pruning is essential to promote strong new wood,
manage plant size and maintain fruit quality.
Studies in America have demonstrated the value of
Pruning is also carried out to allow better spray
having bee hives in the orchard to improve fruit set.
penetration and coverage for pest and disease
Whilst commercial honey bees are not the best
control. It also makes fruit easier to harvest when
pollinators to use because of their relative size, they
using mechanical harvesters.
do aid in pollination. Two to five hives per hectare
should be adequate for most orchards and can be
Poorly pruned or neglected bushes become
introduced at or before 5% flowering. Further
crowded with weak, twiggy growth, produce small
information is available in Primefact 157 Honey bee
berries and fail to develop strong new wood for
pollination of blueberries.
future production. Pruning is traditionally practised
in late winter in cooler regions, although in northern
Other insects and smaller native bees will also
NSW plants can be pruned at any time from the
assist in pollination.
end of harvest. During the first 2 to 3 years, pruning
Highbush cultivars, while self pollinating, will
is limited to removing older twiggy growth at the
respond to cross pollination (mainly Sharpeblue)
base of the plant and providing a structural
and should be planted with another variety to
framework that keeps lower fruit off the ground.
maximise production and fruit size. Rabbiteye
Removing these lower branches also ensures that
cultivars require cross pollination for successful
fruit is not missed by pickers. Strong new growth
fruit set. Plant two rows of one variety flanked on
may be left as replacement wood.
either side by another variety. Growers should
The removal of flowers for the first 12 months will
discuss this with their nursery to ensure the
encourage vegetative growth and generate larger
flowering times of the varieties overlap adequately
bushes in year two. This reduces the stress on
to ensure maximum pollination.
young plants which can weaken them and leave
them prone to diseases such as Phomopsis spp.
Harvesting
which may kill the plant.
With increased plantings and as existing bushes
Mature plants are pruned to remove old canes that
mature, the availability of labour will become a
have no strong new wood, and weak twiggy growth.
major issue in the blueberry industry. During the
It is important to prune systematically to make the
orchard planning phase, a reliable labour supply
job easier and to be sure that production is not lost.
should be considered when deciding how many
First year canes are not branched and will produce
hectares to plant. This is due to many growers
very little fruit in the first season, but they are very
relying heavily on backpackers, students or
important for subsequent crops. Fruit is mostly
itinerant pickers to harvest their crop.
borne on strong laterals and twigs of second and
third year canes. Fourth year and older wood is
Harvesting blueberries by hand is the main method
not productive and should be removed. Cut canes
of removing berries for both the fresh domestic and
back to the ground or a strong new side shoot. By
export markets.
removing one or two old canes and allowing these
Fruit for use in the culinary trade is mechanically
to be replaced each year, no canes will be over
harvested and then processed and frozen. Different
3–4 years old.
sections of the culinary market require different
A basic guide to pruning is as follows.
berry sizes and therefore grading on size is

essential. Fruit is graded to either greater or less
Remove any canes damaged by disease,
than 12 mm. With mechanical harvesting there are
insects or mechanical injury.

PRIMEF ACT 195, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION IN NORTHERN NSW 5

fruit losses both in the field due to berries falling on
transported to the packing shed, sorted, packed
the ground and during processing due to damaged
and forced air cooled to around 16°C.
and immature fruit being collected by the harvester.
Freshly picked, pre-cooled fruit is packed into 150 g
Losses may be as high as 30% overall. Mechanical
punnets for domestic use and 125 g punnets for
harvesters are expensive and cost around $200,000
export and then placed in trays of twelve punnets
landed in Australia. The rate of harvest varies with
for marketing.
variety and how well the plants are pruned. Machines
can harvest up to 1 tonne / hour and their use is
An extra 10 g is added at the packaging stage to
only limited by the throughput of the processing
allow for moisture loss along the supply chain.
packhouse.
Growers may face heavy fines for underweight
punnets at the retail level.
Depending on the quality and experience of the
labour available, pickers are paid at either a rate
The packing area should be at no more than 18°C,
per kilogram or a set hourly rate.
which will avoid condensation occurring on the fruit,
which often leads to post-harvest losses.
Educating pickers on correct picking methods and
berry maturity is essential if a high quality product
The fruit once packed in trays is then stored at
is to be achieved. Pickers also need to be aware of
around 5°C or transported. Coolrooms are essential
diseased and pest damaged fruit so that product
to ensure maximum shelf life and quality.
quality is maintained. Failure to do this could
Fruit that is mechanically harvested and processed
jeopardise our export markets. Fruit should not be
for the culinary trade is packed in 12 kg cartons
picked after rain until moisture has dried from the
and stored frozen at up to minus 18°C.
fruit surface. This also applies to early morning
harvested fruit which should not be picked until
after the dew has evaporated. Field hygiene is also
Yields
an important issue for pickers. Since fruit is packed
Yield will vary with cultivar, age of plant, vigour,
without surface sterilising there is a greater chance
management and the growing season. In the first
of compromising food safety if good hygiene
harvest season most cultivars will average 3–4 t/ha.
procedure is not followed. Many growers have
In the second and subsequent years they will
mobile field toilets and hand washing facilities to
average 5–7 t/ha. Some of the newer varieties if
minimise this risk during harvest.
well managed can yield 5–8 t/ha.
Depending on the time of the year, fruit is harvested
every 4–14 days. Hand harvest rates vary from
Marketing
3–14 kg/hour with an average of 4–8 kg/hour
depending on age of plants, variety and the
As blueberries are a new fruit to most Australians
uniformity of the ripening.
and to many of our export markets, it is essential
that only good quality, fully mature fruit is marketed.
Hand harvesting of berries is an intensive operation
Immature berries with low sugar levels are tart in
involving continuous hand-eye coordination. A few
taste and could easily alienate potential new
simple rules which can increase the picking rate
markets.
are:
Growers have a number of marketing options for
1. Tie or strap a small 3 litre collecting bucket
fresh blueberries.
around the waist

2. Pick with both hands turned upwards and
Direct sales to wholesalers or retail distributors
gently massage the bunches to remove the
• Cooperatives where fruit is bulked by the
individual berries. The ripe berries are easily
cooperative and sold under one label to a variety
removed. In most cases berries turn dark blue
of markets. The advantage lies in cost savings
about 1–2 weeks before they are fully ripe. Do
from increased purchasing power for members
not attempt to remove all the blue fruit, just
and the reduction in price competition on the
those that come away easily.
free market.
3. Whilst transferring the fruit to the bucket your
• Specialty markets such as pick-your-own, tourist
eyes should be selecting the next bunch, so no
outlets or local restaurant trade
time is lost looking for fruit.
• Export is best carried out through a specialist
Once the fruit is picked, it is then taken to a
selling agency such as a cooperative or large
covered vehicle, weighed and its details recorded
grower group. This allows them to have control
against the picker’s name or number.
of the product and become a price setter rather
than receiver as with most other horticultural
Harvested fruit should be removed from the field as
products. This method has proven itself for both
soon as possible to avoid heat build up, loss of
export and domestic markets.
quality and shelf life. The fruit should be

PRIMEF ACT 195, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION IN NORTHERN NSW 6

By professional marketing on a national scale
Herbicides are available that can provide selective
growers can expect to maintain healthy returns for
control of many annual and perennial weeds in
their crop. To achieve this, individual growers prefer
established plantings.
to align themselves with larger companies that are
Several herbicides are registered for blueberries in
experienced in export and domestic sales.
NSW and growers should contact the local district
Growers sending plants or blueberry fruit to local or
horticulturist with NSW DPI for advice on which are
interstate markets will need to check the current
appropriate.
entry conditions for those jurisdictions with the
relevant plant quarantine authorities before
Netting
attempting consignment. Currently, both plants and
fruit require treatment for blueberry rust, and fruit
Bird control is essential for blueberries and if left
also requires treatment for Queensland fruit fly. As
unchecked will cause major economic losses,
quarantine requirements can change, it is important
particularly in areas close to forest. Due to a lack of
that the NSW exporter contact the relevant state or
the bird’s natural food in the forest at harvest time
territory quarantine authority to obtain the latest
they will feed on the blueberry fruit until food
information. Alternatively, they may contact their
becomes available elsewhere.
local regulatory officer or district horticulturist, who
Whilst there have been many bird scaring devices
can help them source this information.
on the market, the only effective and reliable
method is total exclusion netting. Netting is costly;
Weed control
however the gain in productivity will offset the costs
in a few seasons.
Weed control is essential and should commence
before the soil is prepared or beds formed. The use
Growers have two options when budgeting for
of herbicide, competitive green manure crops and a
netting: either erect permanent netting or install
fallow period prior to planting will help to reduce the
removable netting.
resident weed population.
The cost of permanent netting is approximately
The use of weedmat on mounded beds is excellent
$28,000 per hectare or $2.80/m². This may be
for preventing weeds. The addition of good mulch
delayed until full production in year 3 or 4 but it is
around the planting hole will further reduce weed
far easier to erect the structure before planting.
problems.
Growers can save some of the cost by supplying
In the first year it is best to avoid the use of
and installing their own posts and assisting with the
herbicides as young plants have shallow roots that
erection of the cables and netting.
if exposed could lead to herbicide damage. The
Temporary netting is a cheaper option initially due
young tender green bark is also very susceptible to
to the lower capital outlay. However, it has ongoing
herbicide damage. Hand weeding in the first year is
annual costs for maintenance, erection, removal,
preferable and if done regularly before the weeds
repairs, tractor and labour costs. The netting
get too advanced or set seed, will give the plants a
remains over the crop for 3–4 months each year.
good start. Weeds will compete for nutrients, water
There is an initial cost of $12,000 per hectare for
and light, harbour pests and retard the growth of
materials plus the cost of a netting machine at
the plant. If weeds are allowed to grow too large,
around $10,000 and $1,000/ha in annual labour to
plant root systems may be damaged while growers
put it up and remove it. It normally takes 6 workers
are trying to remove the weeds.
one day to put the netting up and half a day to
remove it.
Disease control
Growers need to become familiar with the diseases
that affect blueberries and develop a spray strategy
along with cultural practices such as pruning that
will ensure that plants can function to their optimum
level.
The main diseases affecting blueberries are:
Pucciniastrum – blueberry rust can cause early
leaf drop and affect the following seasons
potential crop.
Botrytis spp. – twig and blossom blight
Figure 3. Bird netting is essential for blueberry
Phomopsis spp. – cane dieback and death of
production.
plants

PRIMEF ACT 195, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION IN NORTHERN NSW 7

Guignardia – tip dieback and stem browning
Further information
Botryosphaeria – stem canker

Scientific papers, books, bulletins
Phytophthora spp. – root rot and death of plants
Rhizoctonia – death of plants
Australian Blueberry Grower Magazine, Australia

Blueberry Growers Association Inc.
Pestaliopsis – death of canes and plants
www.abga.com.au
Crown gall – growths just above ground level
Doughty, CC, Adam, EB, Martin, LW (1981),
and eventual death of plants
Highbush blueberry production in Washington and
Colletotrichum (Anthracnose) – affects leaves,
Oregon.
stems and fruit

Lines-Kelly, R, (1995) Soil Sense – Soil
Mycosphaerella – leaf disease
management for north coast farmers.
Septoria – leaf disease
NSW DPI Orange
Cercospora – leaf disease

Mountain Blue Orchards
Alternaria – fruit disease
www.mountainblue.com.au
Phyllosticta – leaf disease.
Williamson, J, Lyrene, P, Commercial Blueberry
Management of resistance to all pesticides is now an
Productions in Florida. Institute of Food and
important consideration when choosing a control
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
strategy. Growers should not rely on one chemical
group for disease control and they should alternate
Primefacts
between chemical groups where possible. Some
Rhodes, J. (2006) Honey bee pollination of
export markets have a nil tolerance to some
blueberries NSW DPI Primefact 157
chemicals and therefore growers need to plan which
chemical to use for these markets. Even though a
Wilk, P, Ireland, G (2006) Establishment and
chemical may be registered for blueberries in
production costs for blueberries NSW DPI
Australia it may not be acceptable to the importing
Primefact 133
country. Neglecting withholding periods on
Wilk, P, Ireland, G (2006) Handy Guide for
chemicals may also jeopardise export markets.
blueberry production NSW D.P.I. wall chart
Spray equipment suitable for blueberry production
should be calibrated annually to ensure good spray
Acknowledgments
coverage. Nozzles should be checked and replaced
if worn. Use water sensitive paper attached to the
The authors wish to thank the following people
plant to check the actual coverage.
for their valuable contribution to this publication:
Some of these diseases do not affect all varieties –
• Ridley Bell, Mountain Blue Orchards
new varieties are being selected for disease
• Other industry leaders in their particular fields of
resistance to reduce reliance on chemicals.
expertise
This publication is based on an earlier Agfact
Insect control
(G3.1.4) by Brian Freeman, Former Special
The main pests of blueberries are: painted apple
Research Horticulturist.
moth, light brown apple moth, Helicoverpa spp,
looper caterpillar, leaf roller caterpillar, aphids, leaf
© State of New South Wales through NSW Department of
miner, leaf eating beetles, elephant weevil, and
Primary Industries 2006
scarabs. Queensland fruit fly can be a problem if
ISSN 1832-6668
not controlled regularly.
Updates of this Primefact are available at
Anyone purchasing, handling or applying chemicals
www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/primefacts
is required to complete a farm chemical user course.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is
For further information on disease and insects of
based on knowledge and understanding at the time of
blueberries refer to the Handy guide for blueberry
writing (October 2006). However, because of advances in
production 2006 wall chart.
knowledge, users are reminded of the need to ensure that
information upon which they rely is up to date and to check
There are a number of pesticides registered for
currency of the information with the appropriate officer of
blueberries. Growers should check with their local
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries or the
district horticulturist at NSW DPI for advice on
user’s independent adviser.
chemicals registered for blueberries.
Job number 6596

PRIMEF ACT 195, BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION IN NORTHERN NSW 8

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