Cover crops and varieties
 How to plant
 Pruning and harvesting
 Financial returns
 Insects and disease

Group Title: Bulletin. new series
Title: Blueberry culture in Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00014996/00001
 Material Information
Title: Blueberry culture in Florida
Series Title: Bulletin. new series
Physical Description: 19 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Scott, John M ( John Marcus )
Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Publisher: State of Florida, Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication: Tallahassee Fla
Publication Date: 1929
Subject: Blueberries -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Blueberry industry -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by John M. Scott.
General Note: Cover title.
General Note: "September 1929"
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00014996
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA7390
ltuf - AKD9409
oclc - 28571226
alephbibnum - 001962732

Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
    Cover crops and varieties
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
    How to plant
        Page 14 (MULTIPLE)
        Page 15
    Pruning and harvesting
        Page 16
        Page 17
    Financial returns
        Page 18
    Insects and disease
        Page 19
Full Text

Bulletin No. 33

New Series

September, 1929

Blueberry Culture

in Florida


NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner

__ __ __ __ ___



Blueberry Culture in Florida

BLUEBERRY culture in Florida had received almost no
attention up until about 15 years ago. In fact, only in
the past 10 years has very much attention been given
to their culture. The blueberry, however, has been growing
wild in Florida for many years.
The best information available at this time gives the late
Mr. M. A. Sapp of Crestview, Fla., credit for taking the
native blueberry from the woods and planting it in orchard
formation. Some thirty-five or forty years ago Mr. Sapp
was so well impressed with the growth of the blueberry
that he went out into the woods and dug up enough wild
blueberry bushes to plant an acre or two of land near his
home. The original plants set out are still growing and
producing good crops of fruit. Other plantings have been
made on the Sapp plantation from time to time so that at
present there are nearly 200 acres devoted to blueberry
Many of Mr. Sapp's neighbors followed his example and
made plantings of blueberries. Some of these plantings in-
cluded only a few bushes planted in the back yard to supply
the family needs. During the past ten to fifteen years a
great many people in the western part of Florida, and more
especially farmers in Okaloosa, Bay and Walton counties,
have made quite extensive plantings so that at the present
time the acreage devoted to the culture of blueberries is
estimated at from 1,500 to 2,000 acres. From two-thirds
to three-fourths of this acreage will be found in Okaloosa,
Bay and Walton counties. A close estimate of the acreage
in Okaloosa county is 800 acres, and in Walton county the
acreage is 100, and Bay county has about 300 acres.
The blueberry may be grown in all parts of Florida
where the proper conditions for its growth prevail.

There are several species of blueberries found growing
wild in different parts of the State, but only the tall-
growing blueberry, usually termed the "Rabbit-eye" blue-
berry, is considered as having commercial possibilities.
The type of blueberry grown in New Jersey and else-
where in the northern states has thus far given little
promise of being a commercial success in Florida.
*Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 194.


The blueberry (including the Northern commercial blue-
berry) is included in the genus Vaccinium of the family
Vacciniaceae (Small; Britton and Brown), the huckleberry
family. The fruits of the genus Vaccinium have numerous
small, inconspicuous seeds, differing from the true huckle-
berry (Gaylussacia spp.), in which the fruits contain 10
large, hard seeds or nutlets. The native blueberry of the
Florida plantings is probably Vaccinium virgatum Ait., or
a form of V. corymbosum L., the former being considered
by some as a variety of the latter. These species as found
in the wild state in Florida are confined almost entirely to
the extreme northwestern portion where they are locally
termed the "Rabbit-eye" blueberry.* Within the wild
species which are being planted there is a striking varia-
tion in foliage, habit of growth, and size, shape or ap-
pearance of the fruits and several distinct horticultural
varieties will in all probability be described at some future
The mature plants of the Florida blueberry attain a
maximum height of about 15 feet and usually have several
stems resulting from the growth of suckers which spring
up about the base of the plant. The leaves, which are
normally deciduous, vary in shape from ovate to ovate-
oblong or elliptic to elliptic-lanceolate. They are from 1 to
3 inches in length, mostly having serrate or serrulate
margins. On different plants the color and general ap-
pearance of the foliage varies greatly; on some the leaves
are glabrous and on other glaucus.
The fruits, borne in clusters on wood of the previous
season's growth, are from one-quarter to eleven-sixteenths
inches in diameter, the average being three-eights to seven-
sixteenths inches. In color the berries are black or blue-
black, some having a heavy bloom and others no bloom.
The shape is generally globular but this varies, ranging
from oblate to ovate, conic, or oblong-conic. The calyx is
persistent and may be widely flaring or almost entirely
closed. The flavor generally is excellent but some plants
bear fruits which seemingly have a lower juice content
than is desirable, the fruit from these being somewhat dry
or mealy in texture. This mealiness is seldom as apparent
in fruit from older plants. To the taste, there is quite a
*Other more or less popular local names applied to these plants
are Huckleberry, or Arab, Tree, Swamp, June and Highbush
tThe term "bloom" as used here refers to the white waxy or
powdery coating that is commonly found on the surface of leaves,
stems or fruits of plants.


variation in the acidity of the fruit from different plants
even in the older plantings. Part of this difference may be
due to variations in soils, fertilizers, or cultural methods
employed, but as like differences are to be noted in fruits
from plants growing wild it is quite probable that the
cause is quite largely genetic variation.
An examination of several samples of fruit showed that
the fresh fruit was about 80 per cent water. Approximately
35 per cent of the dried fruit was reducing sugar with a
trace of non-reducing sugar, probably cane sugar; indicat-
ing that about 7.5 per cent, by weight, of the weight of
the fresh fruit was sugar. The fruit examined contained
about 0.38 per cent acid calculated as citric acid, though
it was not certain that the acid was entirely citric. A com-
parison of the approximate sugar and acid content of
some of the common fruits based on fresh weight, is given
An extract of the crushed fruit was approximately
pH 3.5 as compared with the pulp of Oranges which is
about pH 3.8-4.0. The fruit was mealy in texture and there
was little free juice that could be readily extracted.
Cane Sugar Reducing Sugar Acid
Cherries ..--..----...................--...............-----------0.0 10.0 0.7
Strawberries .............................. 6.0 5.0 0.6
Raspberries ..--------.......-..-............-......-.. 2.0 5.0 1.4
Gooseberries ............................ 0.0 6.5 1.6
Oranges ---.........---..-..-.................... 4.0 4.5 1.0
Blueberries .............................. Trace? 7.5 0.38*
While the plants grow wild along the banks of streams
they cannot be said to be swamp plants, since they do not
grow in swamps or on other submerged lands. Ordinarily
they are to be found growing best in locations where the
drainage is good although the location may be occasionally
flooded by unusually high waters. The wild plants in Flor-
ida have been reported chiefly in the northwestern portion
of the State, and most of the commercial collecting has
been carried on in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa
The presence of a mycorrhizal root fungus is commonly
considered necessary to the maximum development and
thrift of blueberry plants. The fungus is supposed by
many to aid in the absorption of nutrients by the plant
while being in turn partially nourished by the plant. The
roots of a large number of wild and cultivated Rabbit-eye
blueberry plants have been examined and the fungus has
*Calculated from electrometric titration as anhydrous citric acid
with actual identification of the acid.


been found without exception on every specimen. It would
seen that under like environmental conditions, those plants
having the most vigor would normally have the greatest
amount of this fungus if it plays as important a role as
is commonly ascribed to it. This has not proven to be the
case with the specimens examined, there being no correla-
tion between growth of the plant and the amount of the
fungus. Wide variation was found in the amount of fun-
gus present but this variation could not be correlated with
the condition of the plants; some of the very thrifty plants
had very small amounts of the fungus, others a great deal,
while some very poor plants had as much of the fungus
as any plant examined.

71 -.
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t SW

Ii IIir 4.


Fig. 1-Nursery.-Courtesy American Agricultural Chemical Co.
If the presence of this fungus is necessary for the maxi-
mum development of the plants it is quite probable that
the roots of all plants dug from the wild are plentifully
supplied. In the event rooted cuttings are planted, the
fungus may be easily introduced by including some roots
from old plants with the roots of the cuttings at the time
of planting in the field. Such roots should be some of
the finer fibrous roots and should not be allowed to become
completely dried out in transferring.
According to Beckwith and Coville (2), blueberries re-
quire cross pollination to set a full crop of fruit. Thus a


Fig. 2-Rooted Blueberry sucker taken from the nursery row. Ready to
set in the orchard.-Courtesy American Agricultural Chemical Co.


field should contain plants of at least two inter-planted
varieties, to insure a full corp. At this time this informa-
tion is of no value to Florida growers, there being numer-
ous varieties in every planting. There will probably come
a time, however, when only plants of known parentage
will be planted and it will be to the grower's advantage at
that time to know that probably more than one variety
should be planted to obtain maximum yield.
The blueberry will grow on almost any kind of soil,
although it will naturally grow better on some soils than
on others. One of the first requirements of a good blue-

Fig. 3-Planting of Blueberries that have been in the field about six months.

berry soil is that the soil must have an acid reaction.
Numerous tests seem to indicate that a soil having an acid
reaction of pH 5 to pH 5.5 is best suited for blueberry
The next important consideration is that the soil be well
drained. The blueberry will not grow in a poorly drained
soil. Like most other plants, they will not make a satis-
factory growth nor produce a maximum crop of fruit
when grown on a soil that will not retain a liberal amount
of moisture. Neither is a heavy clay soil desirable for
their best growth. Any soil that is acid and which will


produce a good crop of corn or cotton will generally be
found satisfactory for growing blueberries. This means
a good sandy loam soil, well filled with humus, with a
clay subsoil, would be the ideal soil for their growth. The
thinner lighter soils will grow the blueberry and will pro-
duce fairly good crops, but when maximum growth and
production of fruit are to be expected the better types of
soil should be selected.
Experimental data is lacking as to the best method of
fertilizing the blueberry. Growers in West Florida differ

Fig. 4--This shows three year old trees in orchard formation.-Courtesy
American Agricultural Chemical Co.

widely as to the fertilizer requirements of this crop. Some
growers not only think that fertilizing is unnecessary, but
occasionally a grower believes that it is harmful. How-
ever, the majority of the growers use fertilizer, and the
orchards that have been fertilized regularly seem to have
made the best growth and look better than those that have
not been fertilized.
A number of the best orchards have been fertilized as
For the first five or six years, a 4-8-4 (4 per cent ammo-
nia, 8 per cent phosphate and 4 per cent potash). Then


as the trees become older, the potash is increased to a
4-8-6 or 4-8-8 formula. When the plants are set in the
field, they are fertilized at the rate of 1/2 to 1 pound per
plant. The amount given to each plant is increased so
that a two-year-old plant will receive from 11/2 to 2 pounds,
a three-year-old plant from 21/2 to 3 pounds. When the
plants are from six to eight years of age, they should be
bearing considerable fruit and need from six to eight
pounds of fertilizer per plant per year. Plants ten years
old and over should be fertilized according to size and
amount of fruit they are capable of producing.
So far no experimental data are available as to the value
of cover crops for blueberry culture. Nevertheless. it is
reasonable to believe that since cover crops are valuable
for all other fruit crops, they would be just as desirable in
the blueberry orchard. Readers of this bulletin who are
interested in soil improving crops for Florida should
write to the State Department of Agriculture, Tallahassee,
Fla., for a copy of Bulletin No. 18, New Series, "Soil Im-
proving Crops for Florida." It will be sent free upon
Since the Florida blueberries are all seedlings there are
no distinct commercial varieties. Hence there is no uni-
formity as to size, shape or color of the fruit. This is not
only true of the fruit but it is also true of the plants and
Some plants bear fruit that is oblong or pear-shaped to
the spheroidal; the variation in color is from a shiny black
to the characteristic bluish-gray; the variation in size is
from about the size of a buckshot up to one-half inch in
The variation in foliage, both in color and amount, is
as great as the variation in the size of the fruit. Some of
the bushes have a very limited amount of foliage and of a
very pale green color, others have an abundance of foliage
and of dark green color; there is also a noticeable differ-
ence in the shape of the leaf, some being much larger
than others.
There is just as much variation in the quality and flavor
of the fruit as there is in the size. Some of the fruit
though small is of excellent flavor and quality. Some of
the largest fruit may be of very poor flavor and quality.
It is for the above reason that great care must be exer-


cised at the present time in the choice of planting material.
The right kind of planting material can be had by
choosing suckers from those plants that produce the de-
sired size and quality of fruit. This can be accomplished
by marking the plants in the orchard that produce the
quality of fruit desired.
Suckers to be grown in the nursery should be taken only
from the marked plants.
If the above directions are followed, it will be only ,a
question of a few years until a large percentage of our
orchards will be producing the best quality of blueberries
to be obtained in Florida.

); ; : I

^,5 Y- *" , X t_

A % .

Fig. 5-Showing how a plant suckers.-Courtesy American Agricultural
Chemical Comnany.
The market for all kinds of fruit has reached the point
where fruit is sold on quality. The fruit of the best quality
brings the best price. This is as it should be. If Florida
blueberry growers will strive to grow the best quality of
fruit, it will be a long step toward improving marketing
of their product.
Like other fruit crops, there are numerous ways by
which the blueberry may be propagated. One method is
to grow the plants from seeds; however, this method is
slow and uncertain. Cuttings are sometimes set out, and


Fig. 6-This shows a six year old tree with a good set of fruit.-Courtesy
American Agricultural Chemical Company.



occasionally budding is practiced. At the present time,
however, propagation from suckers is the most satisfac-
tory way known. The chief advantage of using suckers is
that fruit of the same size and quality as the parent plant
is reproduced.
Observations seem to indicate that the plants which
produce fruit of the best size and quality do not produce
suckers as freely as do many of the plants that produce
fruit of only medium quality. Care should be used to
select suckers only from those plants that produce heavy
crops of fruit of the best size and flavor. Plants that
produce fruit of good size and quality should be selected

Fig. 7-A close u! view showing how they grow.

and marked during the summer when the fruit is ripening;
then during December and January when the plants are
dormant the suckers should be selected and dug up. They
are then planted in the nursery where they should grow
for about two years. Nursery planting gives the plants
a better chance to develop a good root system. Too much
emphasis cannot be placed on the necessity of using a
great deal of care and judgment in the selection- of the
planting stock.
When blueberry plants are grown from seed the plants


thus produced will not all bear the desired size and quality
of fruit. This is due to the fact that plants grown from
seed do not always produce fruit of the same size and quality
of the parent plant. Therefore, to be sure of the size and
quality of the fruit to be produced, the blueberry should
be propagated from suckers. The same results can be
obtained by budding, but budding has not in the past been
as successful as has the use of suckers.
As yet there is no uniform distance for setting blue-
berry plants in orchard formation. Many of the early
growers planted 10 x 10 feet and 12 x 12 feet. However,
at the present time there is a feeling that it would be ad-
visable to give the plants more space. A distance of
16 x 16 feet is now a popular distance for planting. A few
advocate planting 25 x 30 feet. This latter distance is too
wide unless it is intended to interplant with some crop.
Planting 16 x 16 feet gives an opportunity to intercrop
or grow some good soil improving crop between the rows
until the trees become eight to ten years old.
Planting may be done any time from December to Feb-
ruary. In other words, planting should be done when the
plants are dormant. It would be advisable to select a
time when there is plenty of moisture in the ground .to
insure the growth of the plants. If there is not sufficient
moisture to insure the growth of the plants, then they must
be watered from time to time until the rainfall is sufficient.
Beginners are likely to make the mistake of setting the
plants too shallow. For best results the plants, when re-
moved from the nursery and set in orchard formation,
should be set from six to eight inches deep.
Best success has been had by planting during the season
of the year when the plants are dormant, which is Decem-
ber. January and February. When conditions are favor-
able the early planting, that is in December or January
will usually give the best results. If the soil is dry and
unfavorable to growth, plar.n'._ s-hould be delayed until
the ground is in the best of condition for planting. The
plants should be cut back, at the time of planting, to not
more than ten or twelve inches high. When cut back as
suggested above it insures, in most cases, a well shaped
tree or bush.
After the trees are set in the orchard the tree rows


should be given frequent shallow cultivation. This will
keep down all weed growth and at the same time keep
the soil in the best condition to induce a good growth. It
is a mistake to allow a heavy growth of weeds around the
plants. This growth of weeds will take up both plant food
and moisture from the soil that should go to the blueberry
plants. The lack of moisture is usually the limiting factor
to maximum crop production. This is not only true of
blueberries, but is true of all crops grown.
A space from four to six feet wide on each side of the
tree should be given clean culture. One of the best imple-
ments to do this work with is the acme barrow.

Fig. 8-These trees are twenty-five or thirty years old.-Courtesy American
FAgricultural Chemical Company.

The space between the rows should be seeded to some
good cover crop.
There are a number of good legumes that are well
adapted to Florida conditions and that are very desirable
to use as cover corps in a blueberry orchard. Some of
these are cowpeas, soy beans, beggarweed, velvet beans,
crotalaria, and Austrian winter pea.
When the cover crop has matured in the fall it should
be disked into the soil.
As the blueberry plants become older and larger there
will be less space between the rows in which to plant a


cover crop. It is important, therefore, to grow all the
cover crop possible while the plants are small.
So far little or no pruning has been practiced by the
Florida growers. Since there is no experimental data
available regarding pruning or non-pruning, the majority
of growers have done no pruning. However, a few have,
in the past two or three years, done some pruning. Most
of those who have pruned are of the opinion that it has


Fig. 9-Grading and Packing Blueberries.
been a benefit. It is the general belief that it would be
advisable to prune out all dead wood from year to year
even if no other pruning is done.
It must be remembered that the new growth on the
blueberry bushes produces the fruit crop of the next sea-
son; therefore, do not prune out any of the new growth,
except for the purpose of correcting the general shape of
the plant.
The season of ripening begins in late May or early June
and lasts from 10 to 12 weeks, mid-season being about the
"Florida Experiment Station Bulletin 194.


first or second week of July. As the earliest of Northern
blueberries do not begin ripening until late in June, it
will be seen that the Florida berries are without competi-
tion on Northern markets for at least three weeks. All
the berries do not ripen at once, due in part to a long
blooming season which extends from early February into
March. Normally, but a few berries in a cluster ripen
at one time, which necessitates picking at least once each
week. If this can be considered as a disadvantage, it is
partially offset by the long season which makes the fruit
available for nearly three months and prevents the glut-
ting of markets as would no doubt occur if large acreages
were ripening their fruit within a limited period.

Fig. 10-Packed and ready for shipment.-Courtesy American Agricultural
Chemical Company.

When large plants are used in planting and a thrifty
growth follows, some fruit will be borne the second year
after transplanting, but fruit in commercial quantities
should not be expected until the third or fourth year.
Thrifty plants should produce from four to seven quarts
of fruit by the fifth or sixth year, the yield increasing
annually until the plants are from 12 to 15 years old when
they can be considered as mature. If the planting is
properly located and given the required attention, an
average yield of 12 to 16 quarts per plant should be pro-


duced by the 10th to 12th years. These figures are con-
servative, as greater yields have been authentically re-
ported. Plants from 11 to 15 years old have produced
from 50 to 60 quarts of fruit in a single season, but such
yields are exceptional and plants cannot be expected to
average this in field plantings.
The fruit is marketed in blueberry cups of one quart
capacity, resembling the ordinary strawberry cup but with
no wide cracks at the corners. These are shipped by ex-
press in the regulation 24-quart strawberry crate. Trial
shipments of 16-quart crates also have proven quite satis-
factory. The fruit carries to Northern cities in good con-
dition, without icing, provided proper attention is paid
to picking, packing and promptness in shipment. It
should be shipped on the same day as picked, as delay in
shipment after picking may cause it to arrive at destina-
tion in poor condition.
Women and children do most of the harvesting of the
crop, such labor picking from 20 to 30 quarts per day.
The fruit is picked as soon as it ripens, this condition
being denoted by the color which, in ripe fruit, is blue or
black. At the time of picking the surface of the fruit
must be free from moisture to insure minimum loss from
decay in transit. Some growers, by using care when pick-
ing to exclude leaves and green or immature fruit, do not
repack for shipment, others use less care in picking, pre-
ferring to cull the fruit in a packing shed. Either method
is satisfactory provided only clean and mature, but not
over-ripe, fruit is included. No general attempt has been
made, as yet, to grade the fruit for size or quality. It is
quite probable that were the berries graded according to
size that the larger fruit would bring a premium on all

The financial returns that it is possible to obtain from a
planting of blueberries will vary in much the same way
as returns from other crops. The character of the soil,
choice of trees for planting, climatic conditions, cultiva-
tion, and fertilization of the crop are all factors that will
influence the returns per acre. However the returns may
vary anywhere from almost nothing up to $150.00 to
$200.00 an acre after the tenth year.
The following table shows the returns from one 5-acre
planting made in 1921 in Walton County, Florida:


Yield in Gross Total Total Net Profit
Year Acres Quarts Return Expense Return Per Acre
1921 5 (From 1921 to 1925 truck crops were raised between the
1922 5 berries, which paid for keeping the planting.)
1923 5 100 $ 25.00
1924 5 400 100.00
1925 5 1,300 195.00 $200.00
1926 5 2,304 390.00 220.00 $170.00 $ 34.00
1927 5 3,034 704.00 221.00 483.00 96.60
1928 5 7,081 1,253.00 615.00 638.00 127.60
*Florida Grower for October, 1928.

Up to the present time there have been very few or no
insects or diseases that have attacked the blueberry here
in Florida. As the plantings increase in the State and as
the earlier plantings become older it is possible that some
insect pest will come upon the scene of action, or it is
possible that some new disease may make its appearance.
Write to the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station,
Gainesvillc. Florida, for information on insects and disease
of the blueberry.

* *

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