Organic southern highbush blueberry production in high tunnels
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Growers interested in producing early high quality yields of southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. x darrowi) in high tunnels face a lack of information regarding appropriate cultural methods. We sought to elucidate the optimal date to close the plastic covers over high tunnel blueberry plantings to hasten vegetative and reproductive growth of organic southern highbush blueberry. We also investigated inorganic nitrogen release from an organic fertilizer in a pine bark medium. High tunnels raised soil and daytime air temperatures during winter months, but the tunnels did not retain heat during night-time and did not provide freeze protection without the use of propane heaters. Initiation of flowering was advanced by 38 d in ‘Emerald’ and 39 d in ‘Jewel’ with the earliest tunnel closure date as compared to outdoor control plants averaged over the two year study. A late closure date (Jan 16), cultivars with short fruit development period (80-90) days, and careful tunnel management practices regarding freeze protection and pollination are recommended. Understanding nitrogen processes in pine barks can assist growers in nutrient management.