Commercial blueberry production methods in Hillsborough county

Alicia Whidden

Abstract


More inquiries are received on starting up a commercial blueberry operation than are received for any other fruit or vegetable commodity in Hillsborough County. Hillsborough County is located along the west central coast of the state and is in climate zone 9. Florida Ag Statistics records show there were around 1,500 acres of blueberries in the entire state in 2000–01. The 2004–05 Florida Ag Statistics reported 2,500 acres in the state. In 2006 Hillsborough County had 325 acres with approximately half of the acreage established in the last 10 years or less. The size of the farms in the county varies from ¼ acre to almost 30 acres with most being 5 acres or less. The south central part of the state has a unique market window from mid-March to early May. This is the only place in the world with fresh blueberry production at that time of year. This has allowed growers to sell at a high price. Many new growers who may or may not have growing experience are attracted to the hopes of continued high returns and the ability to be competitive in the market even though they may only be a small farm. Growers in this area are using three cultural management systems. The three systems are mulched rows, broadcast mulch high intensity plantings, and container production. Container production has been very popular in this area. Reasons for using each system and pros and cons of each will be discussed.


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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283