The time is now for some blueberry producers to prune their crop. Pruning is the process by which farmers selectively cut parts of their plant. This will sustain the overall health of the plant while enhancing its fruit quality.
In a webinar on the Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture Facebook page on Monday, Eric Schavey, Regional Extension agent in Northeast Alabama, said pruning limits the height of the plants. Shorter plants are easier to harvest. New vigorous shoots also produce larger fruit.
“We want to develop a good plant structure. This is going to help you in production,” Schavey said. “We’re going to help you control that plant size. We don’t want to pick anything off of a ladder. If you’re a home-owner, small, U-pick, you don’t want all of your production eight or nine foot off the ground. We’re going to control the fruit number and size by pruning.”
Schavey said pruning now will aid in disease and insect control. An open canopy will allow more air to move through. If growers need to apply pesticides, they can also get good coverage.
Growers can also prune during the summer right after harvest to achieve height control. Schavey emphasizes that research indicates producers only do this every other year, however.
For producers who refuse to prune, they are likely to meet significant challenges come harvest season. The blueberries are a lot smaller and out of reach. There is more interior shedding, increased pest issues and water needs go up because of the increased size of the plant.