Improving Blueberry Farming Sustainability Through Better Fertilizer Timing

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2022: $15,620.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2024
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Gerardo Nunez
University of Florida


  • Fruits: berries (blueberries)


  • Crop Production: fertilizers, nutrient management

    Proposal abstract:

    Blueberry farms have a high potential for nutrient leaching. Previous research in our lab has identified periods when young roots are abundant (root flushes) in blueberry. In other crops, young roots are more efficient at taking up nutrients than old roots. This project aims to assess nutrient uptake during and outside root flushes to inform fertilizer timing in blueberry. We will use fertilizers with isotopic nitrogen (N15) to measure nutrient uptake efficiency in an experimental field in Citra, FL during three points in the season: spring, fall, and winter dormancy. We will use these data to calculate nutrient uptake efficiency and relate it to root flushes. We will disseminate results from this research using traditional (extension publications) and innovative (extension videos and social media) tools. Altogether, we aim to make blueberry farming more sustainable by identifying periods when growers should fertilize to promote uptake efficiency.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall objective of this project is to increase nitrogen uptake efficiency in blueberry farms by improving fertilizer timing. I aim to investigate if nutrient uptake efficiency is higher during periods when young roots are abundant (root flushes). Specific objectives include:

    Objective 1: Evaluate nitrogen uptake rates during and outside root flush periods in southern highbush blueberry (SHB).

    Activity 1-1: Measure blueberry nitrogen uptake efficiency in SHB plants during three key parts of the year (spring, fall, and winter dormancy).

    Objective 2: Disseminate research results to inform growers, citizens, and young adults.

    Activity 2-1: Write and publish an extension article focused on fertilizer timing. Current blueberry growers are the intended audience for this article.

    Activity 2-2: Record and publish an instructional video focused on blueberry fertilizer timing. Growers and industry professionals are the intended audience for this video.

    Activity 2-3: Record and publish series of videos focused on at home blueberry production and the basics of sustainable fertilization practices in social media platforms (Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram). Young adults not familiar with growing blueberries and home gardeners are the intended audience for these media.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.