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Systems Approach to Improving the Sustainability of Wild Blueberry Production


<OL> <LI> Conduct a comparative analysis of four crop production systems (organic, low, medium, and high input systems) in a large-scale systems experiment and determine the effects of these systems on: <OL type="a"> <LI> crop growth and yield, quality and food safety, <LI> pest levels and dynamics and the level of "risk" to growers,<LI> soil health, and <LI> perform economic and ecological cost/benefit analyses under a range of simulated energy and input constraints.</ol> <LI> Ancillary experiments on specific management factors include: <OL type="a"> <LI> Determination of factors affecting the recovery of wild blueberry after land-leveling disturbances, <LI> Incorporation of reduced-risk herbicides in blueberry production systems, <LI> Landscape level effects on native pollinators, <LI>Determination of the causal agents of new stem blights and leaf spot diseases emerging as potential threats, <LI>Gypsum as a soil amendment for release of nutrients,<LI>Plant and soil nutrient dynamics affected by different fertilizers, and <LI>Development of a Biosensor for food-borne pathogens on blueberry fruit </ol> <LI> Systems Modeling - Production of a systems component model using game theory to investigate the best management practices based upon several criteria for optimizing gain chosen by a community of growers and/or public citizens.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The needs addressed in the proposal are to develop sustainable wild blueberry production systems that will provide ecological and economically based production into the future. The goal is to develop a suite of production systems that are tailored to the entire spectrum of growers: organic, low input, medium, and high input growers to sustain the entire industry with all its variation. Outreach plan will include regular publication of the Wild Blueberry Newsletter emailed or mailed to growers and available on the web. Educational grower field meetings to be held at research sites in Maine. Education Grower Meetings in other states with wild blueberry production. Develop Extension fact sheets for economic enterprise budgets, soil fertility and pest management, and food safety. Develop a blueberry production simulator for growers. Train growers on the use of partial budgets to make management decisions. Develop podcasts of extension bulletins for growers who prefer learning in an auditory mode. Evaluate the social changes that have occurred over time with the change in ownership patterns. Wild blueberry growers will benefit by having the resource based knowledge needed to remain competitive with cultivated and Canadian wild blueberry production. Research that contributes to ecologically and economically based blueberry production not only helps consumers and producers, but also the large proportion of the population that live in economically depressed Washington County, Maine who depend upon blueberry production directly and indirectly for their livelihood.


APPROACH: Four cropping systems of organic management and low, medium and high of conventional inputs, indicative of variation in management methods used by growers, will be set up as one-acre plots replicated eight times on growers' farms in Maine and a study of factors affecting transitioning to organic management will be continued to determine some of the long term effects certain organic management. Wild blueberry fields that have been previously land-leveled will be chosen for the medium and high input management systems. A series of eight discrete field experiments will be conducted on grower's fields in order to investigate the dynamics of particular factors affecting the production of wild blueberry. All of these experiments will be replicated in time and space so that each experiment will be conducted for at minimum two years. System responses in the four management systems, and the long-term organic study and disturbance study will be conducted by different researchers and will examine the health and productivity of the soil and plants, effects on weeds, insect pests and diseases, and fruit quality and safety, and long term sustainability of the systems in their impacts on the environment. Statistical analysis of the results will be performed by both MANOVA and ANOVA. These analyses will be corrected through regression of covariates (ANCOVA) where appropriate and linear correlation will be used to assess the degree of association between no managed factors or random effects. Outreach efforts include: Regular publication of the Wild Blueberry Newsletter mailed to growers and available on the web; Educational Grower Field Meetings to be held at research sites in Maine Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Developing Extension bulletins: economic enterprise budgets, soil fertility, pest management, and food safety and a blueberry production simulator for grower exploration; Training to growers on the use of partial budgets to make management decisions; Developing podcasts of extension bulletins for growers that prefer learning in an auditory mode; and Exploring the social changes that have occurred over time with the change in ownership. Growers will be solicited to give feedback on the value and adoption of project outcomes and benefits in both oral and written form when new information is presented at meetings. This information will be summarized and made available to growers in the Wild Blueberry Newsletter to increase awareness of the study. A survey will be conducted to both provide a more comprehensive profile of the current wild blueberry grower and to provide a baseline of current activities in order to determine what changes in practice growers are adopting once new Extension publications become available. Case studies will also be developed to profile the different management systems

Wu, Vivian; Yarborough, David
University of Maine
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