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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Horticultural Crops Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #317160

Research Project: Integrated Water and Nutrient Management Systems for Sustainable and High-Quality Production of Temperate Fruit and Nursery Crops

Location: Horticultural Crops Research Unit

Title: Age-related changes in responses of highbush blueberry plants to drip irrigation

Author
item EHRET, DAVID - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item FREY, BRENDA - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item FORGE, TOM - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item HELMER, TOM - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item Bryla, David

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/23/2015
Publication Date: 3/30/2015
Citation: Ehret, D.L., Frey, B., Forge, T., Helmer, T., Bryla, D.R. 2015. Age-related changes in responses of highbush blueberry plants to drip irrigation. HortScience. 50(3):486-490.

Interpretive Summary: Drip irrigation has rapidly become the most popular method to irrigate blueberries in most countries, including the United States and Canada. Young plants often grow better with drip than with conventional sprinkler systems and, as a result, produce more fruit with much less water during the first year or two after planting. However, there is little information currently available on the use of drip in mature plantings. The present study was conducted to examine how the response to drip changes over time in blueberry. Over a a six-year period, we found that plants became more sensitive to water deficits with age and required more irrigation for profitable production. We also found that antioxidants in the fruit were higher with than without drip irrigation. Therefore, drip irrigation, if properly managed, could help to improve the health benefits of blueberries. Clearly, irrigation requirements change over time as the plants begin producing more and more fruit and must be adjusted accordingly. The information will be used to develop grower guidelines for drip irrigation of blueberries.

Technical Abstract: A study was conducted in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada to determine the effects of drip irrigation at moderate and heavy rates (5 and 10 L/plant) in a mature planting of highbush blueberry. Results were compared to those published previously from the first 4 years after planting. While plant size increased with irrigation rate when the plants were younger, there was no added benefit of heavy irrigation on growth in the older plants. However, the plants became more sensitive to soil water deficits and, therefore, unlike when they were younger, had greater yields when more water was applied. Berry size and fruit firmness were little affected by irrigation in the older plants, but antioxidants, measured as oxygen radical absorbance capacity(ORAC), were higher with than without irrigation, suggesting that irrigation has the potential to improve the health benefits of blueberries. Overall, the results revealed that the response of highbush blueberry to drip irrigation changed over time and indicated that irrigation management should be adjusted as a planting matures.