Blueberry Tree Project
by Wei Yang, OSU Blueberry Extension Agent, NWREC

Since the Oregon Blueberry Commission (OBC) and the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research (NCSFR) provided seed money to fund my blueberry tree project in 2005, the project got on solid footing by receiving a five-year, Specialty Crop Research Institute (SCRI) federal grant with additional OBC financial support in late 2009. With Dr. Rebecca Darnell of University of Florida leading the way on this SCRI grant, a group of scientists are attempting to integrate desirable traits for soil adaptation and mechanical harvesting from Vaccinium arboreum into highbush blueberry production and to evaluate the use of V. arboreum as a rootstock for commercial blueberry production.

The research projects in Oregon are focused on testing blueberry trees (highbush blueberry varieties grafted on wild V. arboretum rootstocks) in commercial growing conditions. A blueberry tree research plot was established at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) in late 2011. There are two root types (own roots vs. grafted) and three varieties growing in two soil treatments (sawdust amended soil vs. no amendment). The blueberry varieties are “Draper,” “Liberty” and “Aurora,” which are grafted onto wild V. arboreum rootstock. These blueberry trees were grafted in the spring of 2011 and grown in the greenhouse over the summer. Once the plot is completed in spring 2012, there will be 60 “Draper” blueberry trees, 60 “Liberty” blueberry trees and 60 “Aurora” blueberry trees growing side by side with their own-rooted counterparts.

This will be the first study using highbush blueberry trees for commercial blueberry production. Of course, the key to this research is having quality blueberry trees, which aren’t easy to produce. One difficulty has been to grow enough wild V. arboreum from seeds or cuttings and wait for the plants to grow big enough for grafting, but germinating V. arboreum seeds wasn’t a cakewalk, neither were cuttings. With dedicated technical support from Peter Sturman and various seed germination and cutting experiments, we now have enough V. arboreum to produce many blueberry trees. Some initial growth observations of grafted plants indicated the scion variety seems to maintain its own growth habit. For example, “Liberty” blueberry trees tend to grow upright, while “Aurora” blueberry tree seem to exhibit a weepy type of growth which may need trellis support. From about 90 blueberry trees planted in the field, we will compare how they stand up against the rainy Northwest winter to their own-rooted varieties. If we're lucky, we may have some fruits from these blueberry trees for the first time. Looking at the bud set now, we may just have beginner's luck next season.

So stop by if you want to see how these blueberry trees do the next growing season!


Message from the Chairman

Seasonal In-State Promotions Keep the Spotlight on Oregon Blueberries

Market Update

USHBC to Discuss Assessment Hike

South Korea Gets Fresh with Oregon

GAP Answer to Fruit Safety Concerns

Spotted Wing Drosophila Update

Blueberry Production Research at the NWREC Highlights

Blueberry Tree Project

Blueberries Dropped from Pristine and Cabrio Labels

2012 Blueberry Day at the Ag Show, January 24, 2012

NRCS Offers Financial Assistance for Energy Audits

Oregon Blueberry Commission • P.O. Box 3366 • Salem, Oregon 97302
Paid for by the Oregon Blueberry Commission, an agency of the State of Oregon.