The keys to establishing a blueberry orchard in southern Chile

To establish a fruit orchard, the first thing to consider is to conduct a study of the property. Through a mapping we can identify in detail the type of soil (which will also allow to analyze if the establishment of the garden will be optimal for the project we want to carry out), with this we can correct the limiting factors and define the irrigation design that we want to implement .

It is necessary to define what variety is productive in the area, currently the varieties that are sought are those that produce fruit of good caliber, firm, and of long post-harvest, that allow to arrive in good conditions at destination. In both the Central Zone and the South Zone, new plantations use varieties from the “FALL CREEK” nursery.

Currently the orchards being planted use the following varieties: Top Shelf, Cargo, Blue Ribbon, Legacy and Last Call. The oldest orchards are composed of: Duke and Legacy.


Before starting the plantation the land must be worked, for this it is necessary to subsolar the soil, the recommended options are those that de-compact the soil at a depth of 0,8 to 1 meter, which are: Excavator with claw and Bulldozer.

It is not advisable to use the subsoiler known as “JYMPA”, since it does not deepen properly, an example of this is that in the presence of an obstacle its claws rise, losing the objective of a good soil preparation.

Next, the planting frame should be determined, generally this is defined in 3 x 1 meters or 3 x 0,8 meters. Therefore, per hectare it should be considered that the requirement will be in the range of 3.333 to 4.167 blueberry plants. It is always convenient to make ridges at the time of defining the plantation, especially in marginal soils, with this work we will deliver greater depth of soil to the root zone.

In areas of high rainfall, the ridges allow more drainage conditions, avoiding for example root anoxia. With this consideration, we prevent plants from being under stress conditions, reducing exposure to pests and diseases. Regarding irrigation, two irrigation lines with self-compensated drippers of 1,6 liters / hour must be considered.

It should never be planted without having the irrigation system installed and working. To determine the frequency and duration of irrigation, you must make calicatas (once a week), defining the appropriate humidity for the Blueberry.

Currently the technology has helped the producer to determine soil moisture, through the installation of Capacitance probes (FDR). There are even companies that offer the technology that allows soil moisture monitoring and remotely activate irrigation equipment.

At the time of planting a conventional blueberry orchard, it is advisable to incorporate a granular insecticide with slow-release fertilizers into the planting hole, which will protect the plant from pests and nourish it in the first stage of its development. It is suggested that the planting instruction indicates the opening of the root, as well as leaving the root well positioned (erect) in the space determined to be established and finally considering that the crown should remain at ground level, because if it cannot generate rot crown if it is deeper, and if the crown is above ground level can dry.

It is advisable during the first three years of establishment of the garden to keep the soil free of plant material between rows, to avoid hosts of soil pests that can damage the orchard in formation. The most important pests in this area are: Proeulia, Drosophila Suzukii, Burrito, Cabrito, Pololo, Chanchito Blanco. It is important to perform pest monitoring that allows timely control of these pests in their most susceptible stages.

With regard to the pruning of formation is key during the first three years, since with this work we will generate vigorous plants and pairs. It is suggested to eliminate weak sides and flowers during the first 2 years of the garden.

The establishment of the garden must be accompanied by a fertilization program according to the size of the plant. For which a soil analysis and foliar analysis - Fruit should be performed once the garden begins in production. With regard to nutrition, to obtain a quality fruit it is necessary to have a balanced program where we can replenish what was consumed by the plant during a productive year and correct soil deficiencies. The key nutrients are Nitrogen, Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium. It is very important to avoid excessive use of nitrogen as was normally done. Also consider using good sources of calcium to get firm fruit.

It is very important to use rooting in root Flush, which begins when there is the presence of white rootlets, which coincides with an approximate soil temperature of 12 degrees. This condition occurs in the southern zone between the end of September and the first half of October. The second root Flush occurs in postharvest between the end of February and the beginning of March. In the southern soils, the PH of the soil is acidic, the range of PH 5,5 - 5,8 being favorable for this fruit tree. On several occasions the soil can be extremely acidic, so it is necessary to consider Liming.

It is also important to monitor the saturation of aluminum in the soil, which determines the availability of nutrients for the plant and can also affect optimal root development. Another relevant factor to consider in this project is that when the garden begins its production, it must be ensured with a pollination strategy, using bees attractant in addition to the use of Bombus and Bees. Generally 1 Hive of Bombus is used for every 2500 kilos of productivity, and 6 to 10 beehives per hectare. This is essential because the pollination of this fruit is entomophilic. With regard to the harvest, we must consider whether it is for the fresh market or IQF. If it is for fresh harvest it must be done manually, if specialized machinery is not used to perform it.

For the fresh market, we must look for the best quality of harvest, which should be at the right time of ripeness of the fruit, should not be very green as well as very blue, it is for the above that several crops should be considered in the same plant. It should be considered that, on average in the southern zone, an average harvester reaps between 50 to 80 daily kilos. During this work, the fruit harvested in the field should be kept under shade, to avoid dehydration, as well as keeping the fruit free of dust, for this the surrounding roads must be kept wet so that this is not a cause of rejection in the exporting company, finally the fruit should be cooled as soon as possible to maintain the quality and condition of fruit.

Cranberry export markets are mainly China, Europe, England and the United States. The most attractive for Chile is the Chinese market. Cranberries in bulk, clamshelf and punnet format are currently exported. It is estimated that the investment to a project of this size is approximately recovered between the eighth and tenth year of planting.

Southern Countryside

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