Blueberry grows best in soils with consistent moisture. That is why irrigation systems are recommended for commercial plantations. Irrigation systems mitigate the risk of experiencing yield or quality losses caused by irregular rainfall during the growing season, while providing consistency in the production that the market requires.
Irrigation is also essential for the establishment and survival of young plants, and it can increase the yield of healthy adult plants up to 40% more than the yield obtained by rain-fed crops.*
Among the irrigation systems used to grow blueberry, drip irrigation is one of the most suitable options, due to the soil moisture uniformity achieved by the system.
SunnyRidge, also known as Blueberry Farms of Mexico (BBFM), grows and markets berries on their blueberry plantations in Tuxpan, Jalisco, México. The company decided to install a drip irrigation system from the very beginning.
Due to their shallow root system, blueberry bushes can suffer water stress before other plant species with deep roots. Therefore, the soil's water holding capacity is an important factor. Overall, we should not only consider the total volume of water applied, but also the coverage pattern and the frequency of application, in order to make sure that the root system has the right quantity of available water.
Drip irrigation emitters are ideal for young plants with immature root systems, since they make more efficient use of water. In the case of adult plants, the humidity bulb must cover 50% of the root zone, requiring the right spacing between the tape emitters.
Another advantage of drip irrigation in blueberry production is the possibility of injecting soluble fertilizers directly to the root. Orlando López Jiménez, responsible for fertilizing and controlling pests and diseases confirms this fact: "fertilizer's use is optimized; waste and losses are reduced because everything goes directly into the root".
This system allows for the optimization of fertilizer applications. On one hand, we avoid wasting leached product and on the other hand, we can control how much to apply. This last point is of particular importance, because blueberry plants are highly sensitive to excessive quantities of fertilizer.
In addition to having the right soil moisture conditions, pH is probably the most important success factor in blueberry production. The ideal soil is acidic, with a pH ranging between 4.2 and 5.5 to ensure blueberry's crop success. Alejandro Barajas Capistran, General Manager in Blueberry Farms of Mexico, says that "maintaining the pH" is one of the many benefits of drip irrigation. *
Indeed, besides injecting fertilizers using the drip irrigation system, it is also possible to apply other products, including rooters, insecticides and products aiming to adjust soil's pH to the ideal crop range.
Currently, the blueberry cultivars of SunnyRidge de Mexico yield fruits of excellent grades and exceptional taste eight months a year. Careful selection of cultivars, the local climate, and careful water and nutrient management using John Deere Water's drip irrigation system, have been decisive success factors.
At John Deere Water, we provide the most reliable integrated ag water management solutions, with superior channel partners, to growers who want to optimize operations and output.
"Fertilizer's use is optimized; waste and losses are reduced because everything goes directly into the root."- Orlando López JiménezSunnyRidge berry plantation, Jalisco, Mexico
*Disclaimer: Production results with an irrigation system may vary depending upon a variety of factors, including the following: management and maintenance of the irrigation system, fertilization management, type of crop, weather conditions, type of soil and pest control.