Blueberries pack a big punch for being in such a small package. In The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, it was said that blueberries contain the highest levels of antioxidants compared to sixty different fruits and vegetables in a study by Tufts University. The antioxidants compounds of anthocyanidins are what cause the blue pigment of the berries. Blueberries are a great plant to have in the garden at home as well as on a commercial scale.
Vaccinium Cyanococcus, better known as the blueberry is one of the most potent fruits, full of antioxidants and micronutrients. Blueberries are best grown in zones 4-6 and are native to the Eastern United States were the lowbush blueberry lives wild in the woods. They thrive under the same conditions as rhododendrons and azaleas. They have shallow root systems that usually don’t go deeper than 18 inches and can stretch past the drip line of the plant (Cornell Unv., 2012). Blueberries require acidic soils with a pH ranging from 4.5 to 5.5. Soils in the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades, are already slightly acidic and only need slight soil manipulation to support blueberries. Soils that are best for growing blueberries have high levels of organic matter like bark and mulch, which lower the pH as they break down. Proper drainage is essential because blueberries are prone to root rot if soil does not drain. An ideal soil mix would contain five parts pumice, four parts peat moss, and one part loam. Blueberries need high amounts of nitrogen, but in the form of ammonium sulfate which can be obtained by cover crops with nitrogen fixation. Ammonium nitrate can be toxic to blueberry bushes. Soil manipulation and preparation is crucial before. Using organic methods, it has been suggested to mix peat moss and cottonseed meal into the soil before planting to add nutrients and lower the pH (while adding organic matter such as compost, manures and green manure crops that grow in acidic soils). Cover crops such as crimson clover, buckwheat, cereal rye and spring oats require closely the same soil needs as blueberries. The cover crops can be turned into the soil while they are still young, before planting blueberries (Venkat, 2012). Below is a list of the necessary nutrients needed for blueberry production. http://nysipm.cornell.edu/organic_guide/blueberry.pdf Growing blueberries in an agroecosystem differs slightly from growing them conventionally. The difference between the two systems is the way fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are used, for example, an organic farmer would use no synthetic substances to treat their soils or to prevent diseases and pests. Soil preparation is moderately the same for both systems, a 2 to 3 year period is used to prepare the soil. Since blueberries are perennials there is no need to till the land, reducing soil erosion. If maintained very well, blueberry plants can live to be over 50 years old.
Structure, Physiology and Reproduction
Blueberry plants are perennials from the Ericaceae family, commonly know as the Heath family. Other plants in the Heath family are huckleberries, rhododendrons, azaleas and cranberries. They have shallow root systems that grow woody cane-like branches that come from the crown. From the canes of the blueberry grow branches, and then grow shoots, where the buds are found. The roots are very fibrous but have no root hairs, making blueberries sensitive to changes in soil and water.
Vaccinium corymbosum L., The Highbush blueberry is one of the most common varieties in North America and is native to Northeastern America and up into Canada. It grows upright and is 6-12 feet tall. The roots form a crown underneath the canes. The branches are a yellow-green color that turns red in Winter, the twigs are covered with small dots. Simple and ovate style leaves that are dark green. The deciduous leaves are 1 – 3 ½ inches long, turning red in autumn before falling. The leaf texture is “slightly