The annual Blueberry Open House at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center last month warranted lengthy coverage by Western Farm Press.
Freelance writer Dennis Pollock reported that Manuel Jimenez, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Tulare County, a small-scale farming expert, walked among the mature blueberry plants at Kearney, describing their good points and bad points.
"The perfect blueberry would be one that is big, firm, sweet, easy to harvest and grows in high pH (soil conditions)," he said.
At the event, Richard Molinar, UCCE advisor in Fresno County, small-scale farming, conducted a blueberry tasting, allowing those who attended to vote for their favorite three varieties. He said that variety isn't the only factor impacting flavor.
"Flavor is also affected by weather, soil factors, plant nutrition and irrigation frequency," Molinar said.
Jimenez introduced growers to two new research projects in blueberries:
- Jimenez and Larry Schwankl, Kearney-based UCCE irrigation specialist in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, have teamed to study the effects of varying irrigation levels on blueberries.
- Jimenez has grafted popular blueberry varieties onto the roots of farkleberry (Viccinium abroreum), which has greater tolerance of alkaline soils like those found in the San Joaquin Valley. By reducing or eliminating soil and water acidification, using the alternate rootstock may provide a significant cut in production costs.