Location: Horticultural Crops ResearchTitle: Irrigation Management Effects on Yield and Fruit Quality of Highbush Blueberry Author
Submitted to: Acta Horticulturae
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/1/2008
Publication Date: 3/2/2009
Citation: Bryla, D.R., Yorgey, B., Shireman, A.D. 2009. Irrigation management effects on yield and fruit quality of highbush blueberry. Acta Horticulturae. 810:649-656. Interpretive Summary: We began a trial in 2004 to compare the effects of sprinkler, microspray, and drip irrigation on growth, production, and water use in highbush blueberry. The results during the first 2 years of production (2006-08) indicated that drip generally produced higher yields and larger berries with much less water than sprinklers or microsprays. In particular, plants irrigated by microsprays required at least 130% more water than those irrigated by drip to achieve the same level of production, while plants irrigated by sprinklers always had less production than drip even with 250% more water. Sprinklers and microsprays, conversely, produced firmer fruit with higher soluble solids than drip, especially when plants were under-irrigated and less water than needed was applied. Soft fruit is often a problem in blueberry, particularly when weather is sunny and hot just before harvest. Thus, under certain circumstances, irrigation with sprinklers or microsprays may improve storage and quality of the fruit for market.
Technical Abstract: A study was done to determine the effects of irrigation method and level of water application on yield and fruit quality of ‘Elliott’ highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). Plants were grown on mulched, raised beds and irrigated by overhead sprinklers, microsprays, or drip at 50, 100, and 150% of the crop evapotranspiration requirement (ETc). Overall, marketable yield and individual berry weight were higher in plants irrigated by drip than in those irrigated by sprinklers and microsprays. Yield and berry weight were also higher on average when plants were irrigated at 100% ETc than at 50% ETc but were similar between plants irrigated at 100% and 150% ETc. Thus, as expected, plants were generally under-irrigated at 50% ETc and over-irrigated at 150% ETc; however, this was not always the case. Yield did not increase between 50% and 100% ETc when plants were irrigated by drip, and berry weight increased from 100% to 150% ETc when plants were irrigated by microsprays. Interestingly, drip reduced berry firmness and soluble solids relative to sprinkler and microspray irrigation, potentially increasing problems with soft fruit during shipping and storage. Titratable acidity was also lower with drip but only when plants were irrigated at 50% ETc. While irrigation method and the amount of water application affected yield and fruit quality in blueberry, more work is needed to identify the best combinations of each to produce the most marketable fruit.