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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Horticultural Crops Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #223885

Title: A Survey of Blueberry Cultural Practices in Australia Emphasizing Implications for Mycorrhizal Infection

Author
item WATERS, EDWARD
item Scagel, Carolyn
item MCLEAN, CASANDRA

Submitted to: International Journal of Fruit Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2008
Publication Date: 12/1/2008
Citation: Waters, E., Scagel, C.F., Mclean, C. 2008. A survey of blueberry cultural practices in Australia emphasizing implications for mycorrhizal infection. International Journal of Fruit Science. 8(1-2):109-124.

Interpretive Summary: The blueberry industry in Australia is characterized by cultivation of Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) in southern regions and southern Highbush hybrids or Rabbiteye varieties (V. ashei Reade) in the warmer northern regions. The genus Vaccinium is not native to Australia and although indigenous ericoid mycorrhizal fungi (EMF) may form relationships with blueberries in Australia their distribution and function in blueberry production systems is unknown. Further information on plant age and cultural practices will assist in understanding factors influencing the distribution of EMF in Australian commercial blueberry fields. Additionally, knowledge of blueberry growers' interest in organic systems and sustainability may be an indicator of their receptiveness to utilizing EMF as a production tool. Knowledge of growers’ perceptions of problems faced in blueberry production may be relevant to understanding whether EMF can play a role in ameliorating some of their concerns. A survey was conducted of 171 blueberry growers in four Australian states to collect detailed information on cultural practices which have been shown to affect the infection of commercial plantings with ericoid mycorrhizal fungi. Explanatory factors including climatic and edaphic variables and growers’ attitudes to blueberry production and marketing were also collected and assessed to interpret survey responses. The survey found that there were highly significant relationships between a number of cultural practices and the geographic location of growers. Differences between northern and southern growing regions in crop scheduling and pre-plant soil amendment were especially significant. Crop scheduling in northern Australia has implications for the distribution of mycorrhizae in northern Australian blueberry plantings. The survey also provided a percentile representation of the current state of blueberry cultural practices in Australia, problems in blueberry production and the extent of encroachment of organic production and markets into the industry.

Technical Abstract: A survey was conducted of 171 blueberry growers in four Australian states to collect detailed information on cultural practices which have been shown to affect the infection of commercial plantings with ericoid mycorrhizal fungi (EMF). Explanatory factors including climatic and edaphic variables and growers’ attitudes to blueberry production and marketing were also collected and assessed to interpret survey responses. In general, there were only a few cultural practices potentially important to EMF infection and function that differed between blueberry growing regions in Australia. The survey found that there were highly significant relationships between a number of cultural practices and the geographic location of growers. Differences in cultivar selection, pre-plant amendments, frequency of plant replacement, and root distribution could potentially affect EMF infection intensity and distribution in commercial production settings. Plants were replaced more frequently in the northern Australian blueberry growing region than elsewhere, with possible impacts on EMF. Given the potential shown in the literature for EMF to affect the productive capacity and vigor of blueberries it appears that there are areas of blueberry cultural practices in the northern states that could be of interest for further research.