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Cost-effective Blueberry Production

Blueberries are Canada's most valuable fruit export by far; they made up 58% of total fruit exports with a farm gate value of $262 million in 2016. Lowbush blueberry is a native wild species that has become a commercially important crop in North America. However, in some areas, including much of Newfoundland and Labrador, there are a number of factors preventing growers from establishing cultivated lowbush blueberry fields. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers, led by Dr. Samir Debnath, are developing tools to help producers increase commercial blueberry production.

The researchers developed for the first time a new method to produce hybrids of lowbush and highbush (or cultivated) blueberries, known as 'half high.' These can be introduced to the fields the way cultivated blueberries are, yet they have many of the attributes of their wild counterparts.

The novelty of this work lies in using bioreactor systems with liquid nutrients to rapidly grow the plants. The bioreactor, which is a self-contained, sterile environment that uses liquid nutrients and air flow systems to control environmental conditions, helps resolve challenges that occur during the manual handling of plants during the various stages of growth or propagation. The hybrid blueberry plants were then acclimatized in a greenhouse with 80-90% survival rate.

More research is underway to study the variation in these blueberries and to explore the possibility of using this in other small fruit crop production. Blueberry producers will benefit from the developed technique as they will be able to produce a wide range of blueberry types all year round with relatively low cost.

For more information

Debnath, S.C. (2016) Temporary immersion and stationary bioreactors for mass propagation of true-to-type highbush, half-high, and hybrid blueberries (Vaccinium spp.). Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, 2016 (Published online: 05 Sep 2016)

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