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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Poplarville, Mississippi » Southern Horticultural Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #223303

Title: Effect of Worm Castings, Cow Manure, and Forest Waste on Yield and Fruit Quality of Organic Blueberries Grown on a Heavy Soil

Author
item PANICKER, G
item SIMS, C
item Spiers, James
item SILVA, J
item MATTA, FRANK

Submitted to: Acta Horticulturae
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/22/2007
Publication Date: 8/3/2009
Citation: Panicker, G.K., Sims, C.A., Spiers, J.M., Silva, J.L., Matta, F.B. 2009. Effect of Worm Castings, Cow Manure, and Forest Waste on Yield and Fruit Quality of Organic Blueberries Grown on a Heavy Soil. Acta Horticulturae 841 p.581-584.

Interpretive Summary: Increased concerns over the last several decades on environmental quality and contamination of groundwater and surface water have stimulated farmers to accept organic farming as an alternative. The objectives of this research were to evaluate the effect of worm castings, cow manure and forest waste on yield and fruit quality of Rabbiteye blueberry, and physico-chemical changes and ground water quality in a heavy soil. Two organic manure treatments (worm castings, cow manure) were applied in basins around each plant. Control treatment received regular inorganic fertilizer. All treatments received pine bark and pine needle uniformly. No chemicals were applied to control pests, diseases, and weeds. Percent canopy cover, canopy width and height, stem diameter, and yield were significantly higher in organic plants treated with worm castings. There was no significant difference in size, diameter, degree Brix, and vitamin C of the fruit, but the content of total anthocyanins was higher in fruit treated with worm castings. The results suggest that blueberries can be grown successfully with pine needle and bark on heavy soils. Worm castings is excellent organic manure and may improve fruit quality, and controlled application of animal waste on blueberry orchards can be an agronomically and environmentally sound practice. These results can be used in recommendation for growers interested in converting to an organic production. These results will also be useful in traditional blueberry culture to increase health benefits of blueberry cultivars.

Technical Abstract: Blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytochemicals having a high level of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are phenolic compounds that possess antioxidant activities. Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade var. Tifblue) was grown on Memphis Silt Loam soil (Typic Hapludalf, silty, mixed, thermic). Two organic manure treatments (worm castings, cow manure) were applied in basins around each plant. Control treatment received regular inorganic fertilizer. All treatments received pine bark and pine needle uniformly. No chemicals were applied to control pests, diseases, and weeds. Percent canopy cover, canopy width and height, stem diameter, and yield were significantly higher in organic plants treated with worm castings. There was no significant difference in size, diameter, degree Brix, and vitamin C of the fruit, but the content of total anthocyanins was higher in fruit treated with worm castings. There was no difference in microbial load and no pathogens were found in the fruit. Concentrations of nitrate-N and P were higher in surface soils treated with organic manures, but there was no trend in N or P enrichment in lower layers of the soil. The leaching of N and P into subsurface layers from inorganic fertilizer was highly significant. Blueberry can be grown successfully on heavy soils with forest waste that can maintain soil acidity and worm castings increases yield and fruit quality of this crop.