Submitted to: Evapotranspiration
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: August 19, 2011
Publication Date: November 9, 2011
Citation: Bryla, D.R. 2011. Crop evapotranspiration and irrigation scheduling in blueberry. In: Gerosa G., editor. Evapotranspiration – From Measurements to Agricultural and Environmental Applications, pp. 167-186. Intech Publishers, Rijeka, Croatia.
There are currently 139,000 ha of blueberry worldwide, including 66,000 ha of highbush [comprises northern highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), southern highbush (Vaccinium sp.), and rabbiteye (V. virgatum formerly V. asheii) cultivars] and 73,000 ha of lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium). The majority of the fruit is produced in North and South America and Europe, although production is increasing in Asia and Africa. No matter where blueberries are grown, proper irrigation management is critical for high yields and to produce high quality fruit. Even within a few days without rain or irrigation, water stress develops quickly in blueberry, reducing photosynthesis and leading to less growth and fruit production. Over irrigation, however, reduces blueberry root function, increases soil erosion and nutrient leaching, and enhances the probability of developing crown and root rot infection by soil pathogens such as Phytophthora. Developing accurate irrigation regimes requires knowledge of both the timing and amount of water needed to replenish any loss by crop transpiration and soil evaporation. In this chapter, I discuss the importance of irrigation on growth and development in blueberry and examine its relationship to plant water relations. Identified are symptoms of water stress, the most critical stages of water limitations, and various techniques used to monitor plant water status throughout the growing season. I then discuss irrigation scheduling for blueberry, including procedures used to calculate crop evapotranspiration and estimate total irrigation requirements, and finally present recent data on the best methods to apply irrigation. Information is provided on the response of blueberry to not only different irrigation systems and configurations but also of when and where to apply the water. Throughout the chapter, irrigation methods and practices are related to other factors essential to consider when growing blueberries, including interactions with field establishment, planting bed management, nitrogen nutrition, and root disease.