Suggestions for organic blueberry production in Georgia
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Organic food production is a niche market that is increasing at about 1520% each year. It now constitutes over $11 billion in retail U.S. food sales. Organic blueberries often sell for a premium of about 20% or more over conventional blueberries. Organic farmers are required to follow an ecological soil management program and are restricted in their use of chemicals to naturally derived fertilizers and pesticides. Organic certification and recording keeping is required for the crop to be marketed as organic. There is a three year transition period before the crop can be sold as “organic”during which premiums are low or nonexistent. Because most of Georgia has low blueberry maggot pressure and the bulk of our crop ripens ahead of the organic producers in Michigan and Oregon, Georgia may have good potential for organicblueberry production. The rabbiteye type should be easier to grow organically than the southern highbush type and is the suggested type for growers to try for organic production. Weeds, blueberry maggot, thrips and mummy berry disease appear to be the main limiting factors for organic blueberry producers in Georgia.