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Commercial blueberry production in Minnesota and Wisconsin

The information in this article is for commercial growers of blueberries. Home gardeners should see Growing blueberries in the home garden

The challenges of northern blueberry production

The climate of Minnesota and Wisconsin has made successful blueberry production difficult. But with the introduction of blueberry varieties with good winter hardiness, minimum upright growth, and large fruit, commercial production of blueberries is possible. 

Half-high blueberries are crosses between high-bush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and low-bush blueberries (V. angustifolium). The short stature of half-high blueberry plants, along with their inherent cold-hardiness, allows reliable production.

Given proper site selection and cultural methods, half-high varieties offer growers in USDA zones 3, 4 and 5 the potential for long-term (30 years or more) blueberry production.

 

Choosing varieties

The blueberry varieties best adapted for Minnesota and Wisconsin produce flavorful fruit on short-statured bushes that can survive typical winter temperatures. 

All listed varieties require an average of five years before producing a large harvest and up to ten years, or perhaps more, before reaching mature size.

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Selecting and preparing a site

Blueberries require moist but well-drained acidic soil. Choose a frost-free, level or gently sloping site in full sun with good air circulation. Blueberries must have a consistent moisture supply, yet only a few hours of standing water can kill the plants, so surface and internal soil drainage are essential.

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Planting

Although stock can be planted in either spring or fall, spring is preferable to

  • benefit from spring rains
  • reduce the potential for winter injury
  • and avoid loss of plants due to frost heaving.

Dormant stock may be planted as early in spring as field conditions permit.

Planting blueberries which have already leafed out should be delayed until frost danger has passed.

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Caring for blueberry plants

Strategies for fertilizing, irrigating and protecting blueberries from planting through harvest and into the winter.

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Managing pests and challenges

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Doug Foulk, research associate; Emily Hoover, Extension horticulturist; Jim Luby, horticulturist and plant breeder; Carl Rosen, Extension soil scientist; Ward Stienstra, former Extension plant pathologist; David Wildung, horticulturist, North Central Research and Outreach Center; Jerry Wright, Extension engineer, West Central Research and Outreach Center; Teryl Roper, associate professor of horticulture, University of Wisconsin

Reviewed in 2018

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