The blueberry is one of few fruits native to North America. They were gathered by Native Americans from bogs and forests, and consumed fresh or preserved. They were also used for medicinal purposes, as dye for baskets and cloth, and dried for use as a spice.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
The most common types of blueberries are Northern highbush, lowbush (wild) and rabbiteye. Northern highbush blueberries are predominant in North America and include many different varieties. Thirty-eight U.S. states produce blueberries, but six account for the majority of cultivated highbush crops in terms of acreage and commercial production: Michigan, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Newer acreage planted in both Florida and California may influence production in years to come.
British Columbia is the primary producer of highbush blueberries in Canada. Lowbush or wild blueberries are used primarily in food processing and grown in Maine and eastern Canada. Requiring minimal management and indigenous to the area, wild blueberries are naturally resistant to many pests. Rabbiteye blueberries are commonly grown in the South and have no major pests associated with them.
References: Texas A&M University, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, USDA.
PESTS & DISEASE
Botrytis rot (grey mold) is a fungus that grows at temperatures as low as 32°F, but growth is slow at this temperature. Rhizopus rot is easily spread but will not die at temperatures below 41°F. Twig blight is a fungal disease that develops in early spring from dead, infected twigs.
Other diseases of concern include anthracnose, bacterial wilt, canker, and both scorch and shock viruses.
Aphids feed on the undersides of young leaves and tender shoots and reproduce quickly. When present, natural enemies tend to control aphid populations. Rhagoletis mendex (blueberry maggot) is a small fly that lays eggs in the fruit. Upon hatching, the small white larvae (maggots) feed on the inside of the berries.
Other pests to look out for include bud mites, caterpillars, cutworms, fruitworms, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, plum curculios, scale insects, and thrips.
References: Louisiana State University Ag Center, Michigan State University Extension, North Carolina State University, UC Davis Postharvest Technology website.