The organic blueberry industry in Oregon: results of in-person, on-site interviews with growers in 2015

J.A. Fernandez-Salvador, B.C. Strik, G.O. Stephenson
Certified organic blueberry area in the USA grew nearly ten-fold from 2003 to 2011. In 2015, there were an estimated 283 ha of certified organic blueberry in Oregon. New transitional and organic blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) fields continue to be planted in this region by small and diversified organic farmers at a rapid rate. In 2015, a survey was developed to conduct on-site in-person interviews with certified and transitional organic growers in Oregon. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected including pre-planting practices and soil amendments, management systems, cultivars and area grown, soil pH and fertility programs, pruning, irrigation, pest management, average yields, harvesting and postharvest practices, sales, and marketing. Different farm sizes and business structures were included in the 28 interviews conducted. Although the diversity of farms varied, the majority of operations were small farms of 8 ha or less total certified organic land and a total blueberry area less than 2 ha. 71% of the farmers interviewed had diverse organic production systems including crops other than blueberry. Blueberry production systems were diverse among farms including: 14% using drip irrigation, 61% overhead and 25% a combination of both; slightly less than half were grown on flat ground; 70% had fields with plants at least 10 years old; and all pruned at least some part of their fields annually. Soil and tissue testing, use of pre-plant soil amendments, nitrogen and other fertility management practices varied widely among growers. The most important pest problems noted were weeds, spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), mummy berry (Monilina vaccinii-corymbosi) and Blueberry shock virus (BlShV). Other important pests included birds, rodents and deer. Growers described a wide variety of harvest methods and marketing outlets for their blueberry fruit with the vast majority of them producing for fresh direct consumer sales or for fresh wholesale or retail buyers.
Fernandez-Salvador, J.A., Strik, B.C. and Stephenson, G.O. (2017). The organic blueberry industry in Oregon: results of in-person, on-site interviews with growers in 2015. Acta Hortic. 1180, 409-414
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1180.57
blueberries, survey, production practices, small farms, fertility, irrigation, marketing, pest management

Acta Horticulturae