IMPROVING NORTHERN BILBERRY (VACCINIUM ULIGINOSUM) PRODUCTION

D.E. Yarborough
Northern bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) has a circumboreal range occurring predominantly between 60 to 70 degrees north. It is harvested commercially from wild unmanaged stands in North America, Northern Europe and China. In Alaska, it is known as one of the huckleberry species V. occidentale. It is taxonomically distinct from the highbush V. corymbosum and lowbush V. angustifolium species of North America and the bilberry V. myrtillus of Europe as it resides in its own section of Vaccinium. This species has the potential for high value pharmaceutical uses since it has high antioxidant values. Northern bilberry has a growth form as a procumbent rhizomatous shrub capable of forming dense mats, so management techniques that have been successful in substantially increasing the production of wild blueberries (V. angustifolium) in North America could be adopted to increase the productivity of this species. If a site has sufficient bilberry cover, removing the overstory which has improved both European bilberry and wild blueberry production would improve yields. The close alternate year pruning, originally by fire and now by mowing to within a centimeter of the ground, is the principle means of enhancing and maintaining wild blueberry yields in North America. The reduction of weeds that shade the blueberry by cutting or wiping with herbicides has greatly improved production and the addition of mulch has enhanced blueberry plant spread. Importing pollinators and improving habitat for native pollinators has been essential in improving yields. Maintaining or planting wind rows has reduced winter injury, frost and improved pollination in wild blueberries. Some of these management inputs may be readily adopted for northern bilberry, but site specific information on pruning height and frequency of pruning needs to be determined for local conditions. In addition, the use of huckleberry rakes and better handling practices will improve efficiency of harvest, quality and marketability of the fruit.
Yarborough, D.E. 2014. IMPROVING NORTHERN BILBERRY (VACCINIUM ULIGINOSUM) PRODUCTION. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 1017:223-229
http://www.actahort.org/books/1017/1017_28.htm
bog bilberry, management
English

Acta Horticulturae