Berry Crop Enhancement
Title: Berry Crop Enhancement
Principal Investigator: Dr. Eric Gerbrandt, Plant Scientist, Sky Blue Horticulture Ltd.
Duration: April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2023
BC’s berry industry faces numerous challenges in an increasingly competitive global landscape and a changing climate. Moreover, costs of production are rising rapidly in comparison to other major production regions. Long-term competitiveness relies upon advancement of the horticultural methods used by commercial growers to manage new cultivars. This research project addresses key opportunities to enhance crop establishment, plant growth, yield performance, and fruit quality. With additional work on raspberry and strawberry to address threats presented soil-borne diseases, this project has two activities relating to blueberries:
- Enhanced establishment, yield, and quality of blueberry: This activity will determine the impact of four classes of alternative crop input products (marine kelp extracts, humic acids, high P fertilizer, phosphites) on vegetative growth as well as fruit yield and quality of blueberry. Evaluating the potential to increase revenue through these field applications will be directly applicable to establishment of novel blueberry cultivars. Many growers use these alternative crop input products based on their potential to enhance plant performance through several potential modes of action, including fostering a robust microbiome, directly adding plant nutrients, stimulating plant growth and improving nutrient availability and cycling. The economic utility of these alternative crop input products is not well-documented for establishment of blueberry. Therefore, it is not known whether wide-spread use in the industry is worth the cost of application.
- Mitigation of cultivar-specific challenges of blueberry: This activity will develop cultivar-specific strategies that overcome adaptational challenges and develop market opportunities for new blueberry cultivars. Determining cultivar-specific fruit quality management requirements will permit growers to overcome production challenges while moving the industry forward with the best genetics available. Three novel cultivars require optimization of fruit quality to reduce losses during packing, storing and shipping to maximize potential for fresh export market development. Also, understanding the genetic control of leaf and fruit nutrient contents for advanced selections from the BC Berry Breeding Program is important for developing field management protocols that mitigate fruit yield and quality concerns.
The overall objective of this research project is to improve the profitability and the long-term viability of local berry production in BC with specific objectives for each activity:
- Enhance establishment and fruit yield and quality through application of alternative crop inputs that are expected to increase soil microbial abundance and diversity as well as root health and efficiency of novel blueberry cultivars.
Enhance fruit yield and quality through mitigation of cultivar-specific challenges related to local climatic adaptation and develop unique market opportunities for novel cultivars.