For blueberry growers in BC, there are few varieties that present as many opportunities as ‘Draper.’ Boasting superior size, texture, and flavour, this highbush blueberry represents one of the world’s most advanced cultivars and a significant source of revenue for the local industry.
Despite its potential, ‘Draper’ also carries a significant drawback known as Green Fruit Drop. Relating to a nutrient deficiency that causes green fruit to prematurely drop before harvest, this disorder can result in devastating yield losses (up to 40 percent in some fields), after nearly all input costs have already been invested.
Seeking a solution to this industry-wide issue, the BC Blueberry Council (BCBC), with the help of agricultural researcher Eric Gerbrandt, undertook a two-year project to develop and demonstrate best management practices to combat Green Fruit Drop.
According to Gerbrandt, the study builds on previous research that identified calcium deficiency as the underlying cause and foliar calcium applications as the potential solution.
“With this latest project we were able to pilot a spray management program that can virtually eliminate the condition and considerably increase ‘Draper’ yields,” says Gerbrandt, adding that without funding, growers would have continued to lose thousands of dollars in net profits per acre.
Having shared the good news with local growers, the BCBC is now focusing on research that investigates the genetic tendency for Green Fruit Drop in blueberries.
According to Gerbrandt, this will be increasingly important as novel genetics are developed using ‘Draper’ as a parent in blueberry breeding.
“In an increasingly competitive global market, the profitability of this industry depends upon the use of the world’s best genetics and most advanced horticultural management practices,” he explains.
While knowledge transfer is an ongoing task, the BCBC anticipates enhanced industry returns from ‘Draper’ based on results shared thus far.
“The economic benefit of this project in the first year alone will be substantial,” predicts Gerbrandt. “Even based on conservative estimates, near complete elimination of Green Fruit Drop has the potential to increase farm-gate revenue by $1.2-4.3 million in 2017!”
Funding: $38,475 provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN208)