Choosing a Variety

Blueberries are members of the genus Vaccinium and belong to the Rhododendron family (Ericaceae). The Vaccinium genus contains several species of economic importance. The highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is the most widely cultivated, grown from the Mid-Atlantic to California, Oregon, and Washington, and from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-South. The lowbush (wild) blueberry (V. angustifolium) is adapted to the far North and is commercially important in Maine, Eastern Canada, and parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Rabbiteye (V. ashei) is a large bush well-adapted to the South, in the region roughly south of Interstate 40. Southern highbush (V. corymbosum x V. darrowi), a new hybrid, is adapted to the southern rabbiteye zone as well as the coastal South. It has a lower chilling-hours requirement, and it flowers and fruits earlier than highbush or rabbiteye varieties.

Blueberries have fewer pest problems than most other fruits, offering an advantage for organic production. In some areas, most insect and disease problems can be controlled through cultural manipulation and proper cultivar selection. Weather fluctuations and geographic seasonal advantage are the major economic considerations for variety selection.

The National Organic Standard is unclear on the precise requirements for planting stock when establishing a perennial crop like blueberries. Historically, non-organic transplants could be used to establish perennial crops. However, if conventional planting stock were used, most certifiers required that the plants be grown at least 12 months under organic conditions after transplanting before any harvested product could be marketed as organic. It is likely, but not certain, that most certifiers are continuing that policy. Therefore, it is important that you discuss your plans with your certifier prior to making a purchase.

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