Blueberries: A berry with a long way to go in the Spanish market

Sustainable management and its economic consequences, object of analysis. Increases in national organic farming are expected. World production will double.

La drought and climate change, predictably, affect berries and specifically blueberries, which have been the subject of a specific technical conference organized by Coitand, where it was revealed that the crop has many possibilities for expansion ahead and different techniques for fighting pests, intensified by weather conditions, were analysed.

These issues were addressed in the sixth edition of the Province's Blueberry Cultivation Technical Conference, organized by the Huelva Delegation of the Official College of Agricultural Technical Engineers of Western Andalusia, Coitand, had a large influx of people, who filled the Aula Magna of the ETS La Rábida, in Palos.

The meeting brought together 350 professionals from the sector, who have addressed the issues of greatest concern, in relation to plant health, physiology and nutrition, research, variety analysis, crop management and marketing.

The inauguration was in charge of the provincial delegate of Agriculture, Álvaro Burgos; the mayor of Palos, Carmelo Romero; the director of the ETS of Engineering, Salvador Pérez, and the Delegate of Coitand in Huelva, Julio Volante.

El provincial delegate, Álvaro Burgos, recalled that red fruits and, more specifically, blueberries, play a fundamental role in Huelva's economy and highlighted "the increase in the area of ​​this crop in the province, which is accompanied by a investment bet very important from the private sector, along with the aid that the Junta de Andalucía grants, mainly through producer organizations, and also to promotion and industry”.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Palos, Carmelo Romero, highlighted the "vital importance of these conferences, to see how the product and the work that is carried out evolves, a good product and a good job, but also to think about new possibilities, for example in industrialization, to continue going forward".

blueberry potential

In turn, the Coitand delegate in Huelva, Julio Volante, expressed his satisfaction with this new edition of the conference, three years after the previous one, with extensive content related to pests, physiology and marketing, and recalled that the blueberry "is a product whose potential at the national level has not peaked."

After the inauguration, the first presentation dealt with the "Threat of Q-tip and other risky mealybugs. Philology and behavior in blueberries, present species and future threats, means of fight”. It was in charge of Julio Volante himself, together with Pablo Alvarado, director of the Plant Health Laboratory, and Juan Antonio Ávalos, Technical Advisor of Bioplanet Ibérica.

They talked about the threat of cotton wool, which according to Volante "is an emerging pest that is gaining importance in this crop, and for which there are few chemical tools. For this reason, the technicians are working fundamentally with biological control strategies”.

In this line, Juan Antonio Ávalos elaborated on the biological control of the Q-tip, explaining the tools that are available, the doses and the moments of release of the insects that are used. He recalled that cultural practices are important when it comes to handling the Q-tip. This pest, which in principle is a secondary problem for blueberries, has become more important due to the presence of other infections and biological imbalances which partly have to do with weather conditions. As Pablo Alvarado pointed out, "the fact that it has suffered quite warm winters lately means that this Q-tip installed under plastic has very favorable conditions for its development during the winter, hence we have very early infections compared to what would be crops at open air like citrus.”

Biologic control

El Hortifrut entomology consultant, Jesús Quintano, gave a conference entitled "Identification of Parasitoid Aphidius Ericaphidis in Huelva, behavior and biological control of the aphid Ericaphis Seammelli". He explained that it is "a very powerful example of the capabilities and possibilities of biological control", since this parasitoid, Aphidius Ericaphidis, has enabled 90% control of attacks by the aphid Ericaphis Seammelli.

And the Professor of Plant Physiology and Pharmacognosy at the San Pablo CEU University, Javier Gutiérrez spoke about the use of biofertilizers aimed at increasing production and improvements in response to stress situations, a fundamental aspect that currently affects the entire agricultural sector, such as the drought. Gutiérrez raised the use of biotechnological methods to stimulate and favor the fortification of the mechanisms that the plant has to adapt to drought conditions.

Thus, with bacterial-type tools (bacteria that are part of the plant's microbiome), the plant's own mechanisms can be fortified to maintain production with less water consumption.

Endogenous content of the plant 

Carmen Reig, PhD in Agronomist Engineering and Full Professor and Master's Degree from the UPV, referred to the “Endogenous hormonal balance throughout the crop cycle”. He explained that it is essential to know the endogenous content of the plant and see what factors regulate it, from an environmental, genetic, nutritional and hormonal point of view. “Only by knowing how the endogenous content of the plant evolves throughout the cycle, we can regulate it. You have to know endogenously what happens to it, to then try to imitate it exogenously, both from latency to harvesting”.

THE CONSUMPTION OF BLUEBERRIES WILL FOUR

The blueberry has more than 300 different varieties in the European Union and it is one of the crops with the greatest growth prospects in the near future.

Different market studies indicate that, in Europe and Spain, the consumption of blueberries will multiply by four, from the current 0,180 kilos to almost one kilo per person per year, according to data from the National Association of Plant Breeders (Ove).

Spain already leads the production in Europe, with more than 43.000 tons, which represents 41% of the total community production. The rapid increase in its consumption suggests that in the coming years the World production can double and reach 2 million tons per year. Spain is the leading blueberry producer in Europe.

During the last five campaigns, almost all of its production has been destined for export. 97% of exports were destined for the European continent, with Germany, UK and the Netherlands as the main destination countries. In recent years, research activity in blueberry cultivation has intensified to adapt it to the climatic conditions of the different European regions.

Ecological cultivation

El CAAE territorial delegate, José Manuel Gómez, referred to the ecological cultivation of “Blueberries. Regulations and Possibilities”. Gómez explained what organic certification is and what the most relevant requirements are in the case of blueberries, and also detailed the good prospects it offers: "Blueberry cultivation is already installed, with more than 1000 organic hectares, the conversion is easy and the future is promising.

In turn, the Director of Innovation of the Territory of the lnstitut Cerdá Foundation, Lluís Inglada, spoke about "Social, economic and environmental contribution of the breeder sector to the agri-food chain: the case of blueberries".

He offered a summary of the study carried out by the Cerdá Institute for the National Association of Plant Breeders (last night), which analyzes “how the R&D carried out by seed producers and crop breeders contributes to improving productivity throughout the chain, reducing the necessary inputs, gross added value and the generation of occupation. And how, ultimately, the work of these breeding companies contributes to responding to the challenges of the agri-food sector”.

green roofs

Louis Miranda, Head of Sustainable Agriculture Syngenta, spoke of "Vegetal cover and multifunctional margins". In it, he addressed the agronomic and environmental advantages of the use of plant covers in blueberries, and of the multifunctional margins of flowers to attract pollinators and auxiliary insects, and recalled that "this sustainable management, beyond the improvement of biodiversity, It has an economic contribution that must also be quantified”.

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