David Ehret has spent five years studying the effects on fruit of different watering systems.
Agassiz researcher aims to provide solid answers for blueberry growers.
By Judie Steeves
lueberry growers soon could have more scientific data available on which to base
decisions about irrigation scheduling. David Ehret, a researcher in the area of plant physiology at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre in Agassiz is five years into research on the impacts different watering systems have on fruit.
He is experimenting with emitter spacing as well as use of one and two irrigation lines and is comparing the productivity and the fruit quality of using different volumes of water on blueberry plants.
Fruit size and firmness, shelf life and flavour components such as sugar and acidity, and antioxidants are all parameters Ehret is testing under the various systems. He keeps track of climate information as well, and measures
British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2010 15
soil moisture under the different water regimes.
So far, overall, he says it appears that higher irrigation rates may produce bigger fruit, but the fruit is not as firm.
Funds for the research come from the federal Growing Forward program and it is grower-directed. Ehret is also working on research on the effects of different rates of nitrogen on productivity and fruit quality.
He is using both fertigation and hand-spreading fertilizer to study the
impacts of each.
Although most growers are still broadcasting fertilizer instead of using fertigation, Eheret feels in the long run fertigation requires less labour to apply and there are probably savings in the volume of fertilizer used.
He is also assessing the effect on root health of the different quantities of fertilizer.
As yet, he says there isn’t much information because it is only in the third year and those blueberries will begin producing fruit this year.
How much — and when?
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