Prepare & Protect

The Blueberry News|Fall 2019

Prepare & Protect
Fertilization and Irrigation Guidelines for Blueberries in Fall and Winter
Jeffery G. Williamson

SINCE WE HAVE now moved into the fall season, it’s time to think about preparing for fall and winter in the Florida blueberry fields. The following are some management suggestions to consider for each of these seasons.

FALL FERTILIZATION

With the approach of fall, many growers in the deciduous production system either reduce the rate of fertilizer applied or stop fertilizing entirely to slow the growth of the plants as they approach dormancy. For the evergreen system, some level of fertilization should continue to be applied to support and maintain the foliage through the following spring’s harvest. Make sure to have enough fertilizer supplies on hand to last at least through December.

IRRIGATION

In the deciduous system, as the plants go dormant and defoliate they will not be transpiring as much and will likely need less irrigation. For example, large mature “Emerald” plants grown in a standard deciduous production system at Citra, Florida, reduced their monthly average water use by nearly 40% in October compared with September. December water use was further reduced by about 50% when compared with October.

However, plants grown using the evergreen system will not defoliate, are typically grown in warmer winter climates, and must continue to be supplied with sufficient irrigation to keep the foliage healthy and intact to support early fruit production and ripening. For either production system, growers should carefully monitor moisture in the beds and plant appearance in making decisions on when and how much to irrigate. Check the irrigation system for leaks, clogged drip line emitters, proper drip line placement, and sprinkler or spray head damage.

INSECT PESTS

One of the most important insect pests becoming active in the fall is blueberry gall midge. Adult gall midge lay their eggs as floral bud scales are just beginning to open, and the larvae develop and feed inside the bud. Make sure to have sufficient trapping and monitoring supplies on hand (sticky traps or bucket traps) and recommended chemicals for control. See UF EDIS Publication Blueberry Gall Midge on Southern Highbush Blueberry in Florida (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN123900.pdf) for additional information and control recommendations.

DISEASE

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Fall 2019