Modification of Soil Properties for Blueberry (Vaccinium Corymbosum L.) Cultivation

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Highbush blueberries are a relatively new crop in Latvia raising interest in farmers who wish to diversify their commercial horticultural activities. It is considered that soil properties are one of the possible shortcomings limiting establishment of high-productive plantations in areas where soil reaction is close to neutral. The research objective was to test the main soil characteristics in a commercial highbush blueberry plantation where initial soil properties were changed as a result of soil modification (deep tillage, peat additions) before planting of bushes and afterwards maintained (mulching with acid peat and sawdust) periodically. The research was carried out in 2011 - in a farm where the blueberry plantation had been established seven years ago. The experimental plots were arranged on a complex slope, by choosing different parts of terrain. Soil - Haplic Cambisol, sandy loam, formed on a low calcareous moraine. Original topsoil’s reaction was pH KCl 5.37. Five experimental plots, each consisting of seven bushes, were set up. Research showed that modification of topsoil significantly changed the physical and agrochemical properties of soil. Soil bulk density reduced, porosity and soil aeration increased. Sphagnum peat (pH KCl 3.0) as a soil modifier allowed efficiently reducing the soil reaction at the soil root zone and provided an optimal environment for blueberries. Soil properties were not the determinant factor that limited establishment of a productive blueberry plantation. Soil properties adjusted accordingly to the requirements of highbush blueberry gave the possibility of establishing plantations also in typical mineral soils that develop on a low calcareous moraine.

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