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EARI14-064: Effects of judicious fertilization on wild blueberry growth, development, and yield over a complete cycle

Applicant: Institut de recherché sur les zones côtières Inc.

Project Lead: Dr. Mathieu Quenum

Project Year(s): 2014 -2017      Status: Complete

Funding Source: Canada/New Brunswick Growing Forward 2 (Non-Business Risk Management Programs)

Funding Program: Enabling Agricultural Research and Innovation

Objective: The main objective of the project is to study the effects of judicious fertilization on wild blueberry growth, development, and yield over a complete cycle. The specific objectives are as follows: update soil information (soil series, large groups of soils, and soil order) about a number of blueberry fields in the province and conduct a sampling campaign to assess soil fertility levels and test the application of soluble fertilizer (10-52-10); test the application of commercial fertilizers and find the optimum fertilizer application rate and the split application of fertilizers that might give optimum yields; evaluate crop yields on the basis of interactions of products x physico-chemical parameters of the soil x weather parameters of the environment; assess the visual appearance of blueberry plants throughout the experimentation process and screen the different clones on the basis of fertilization, density, phenology, agro-morphology, plant physiology, and yield parameters (under bare soil conditions).

Deliverables: At the end of the project, a detailed report presenting the agronomic data collected on plant growth, phenology, crop yield, and impact of fertilization will be prepared for the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Bleuet NB Blueberries, producers involved in the project, and the entire New Brunswick blueberry industry. However, for 2014-2015, an annual report on the soil update for blueberry fields in the province will be prepared. This report will also include the soil analysis results and an interpretation of the data collected in the summer and fall of 2014.

Summary: This project touches on the advantages of using foliar fertilizer for wild blueberry production during the sprout year. Specifically, the aim is to determine the effect on the development of yield potential; and the evolution of nutrients in the leaves from the tip-dieback stage through to 5 weeks following the application of foliar fertilizer. The study was carried out on 4 sites having varying cultural practices. Plots with and without the application of foliar fertilizer were compared. Results clearly indicated that foliar fertilizer contributed to an increase in the quantity of floral buds by no less than 23%. Otherwise, with the exception of certain elements, foliar concentrations of nutrients at tip-dieback stage fell within the recommended range even prior to an application of foliar fertilizer. Five weeks following an application, the increase or decrease of foliar concentrations of nutrients did not follow any specific trend for any of the sites or treatments studied. However, while considering changing pedoclimatic conditions and varying cultural practices of each producer, the beneficial effect of the foliar fertilizer in increasing the quantity of floral buds in the sprout year will need to be verified in the harvest year. For instance, pollination will be a critical and deciding factor in confirming whether the positive impact on foliar fertilizer translates to the harvest year.

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