Fresh Blueberry Production
Blueberries are one of the more unusual soft fruit crops grown in Ireland. Blueberries are perennial flowering plants, which produce berries each year. All growers must operate under the food hygiene programme of the DAFM. There are excellent opportunities for new entrants to supply the local market
Locally grown is the best
Blueberries belong to the genus Vaccinium and are acid-loving plants. Both the wild (low bush) and the cultivated (high bush) are native to North America. Most of the varieties we grow today were also bred in the United States.
The most popular varieties grown in Ireland are Bluecrop, Duke, Draper and Brigitta. Traditionally in Ireland, blueberries were planted on some old cutover bogs, where the acidity was ideal for the crop. Recently, blueberries have been planted on more traditional soils. The acidity (pH) of the soil can be ameliorated and managed over time to suit the crop.
Ideally, blueberries should be protected from the weather. Tunnels must also be netted to prevent attacks from birds. The blueberry season is short (approximately six to eight weeks). This can be lengthened and staggered with the use of different varieties. One of the main advantages of protective cropping is that it allows for the supply of fruit outside of the traditional short, late summer season. With protection, blueberries will be harvested from late June until early August. This all depends on the varieties chosen.
Facts and figures
There are excellent opportunities for new entrants to supply the local market. The national crop is valued at an estimated €1m, but we import at least €20m worth per annum. All blueberries grown are sold and consumed in Ireland. Protected cropping is the mainstay. The season can be extended by using different varieties and protective covering. Blueberries are seen as healthy and nutritious by the consumer. Growing methods are very advanced in terms of sustainable farming.
Yields and Returns
From a 1ha field-grown crop – expect 1-2kg of fruit per bush two years after planting. At full crop production, expect a yield of approximately 20 tonnes per hectare at €5/kg, giving a farm gate value of approximately €35,000 per hectare. Labour costs can be reduced by using a specialised picking rig available on the market.
Any project undertaken may be eligible for a capital grant of up to 40% (50% for those aged under 35) from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). This scheme is competitively based and is for new capital investments in the commercial horticulture sector only.
Fact sheet produced by Eamonn Kehoe, Soft Fruit Advisor
For more details and to see the entire Factsheet click here https://www.teagasc.ie/rural-economy/rural-development/diversification/fresh-blueberry-production/