Developing pest management guidelines for organic production of highbush blueberries in the North Central Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $149,991.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Annemiek Schilder
Michigan State University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (blueberries)


  • Crop Production: cover crops, organic fertilizers, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, compost extracts, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, physical control, mulching - plastic, mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, organic matter, soil quality/health


    The overall goal of this project is to facilitate organic blueberry production in the region by evaluating organic nutrient and soil health management, weed control, and disease and insect management practices. Organic management improves soil health and nutrient cycling in blueberry soils, but low soil pH may be limiting to beneficial microbes. Organic herbicides were mostly ineffective and mulches reduced the need for hand-weeding. Care must be taken to supply sufficient N when wood chips are use. Compost is a good source of nitrogen at the time the plant needs it but may raise soil pH. Insect and diseases can be managed with available organic products, but sprays may need to be applied more frequently.


    High consumer demand for organically produced fruit, perceptions of increased marketability and value of organic blueberries, and concerns over the safety of conventional inputs have motivated Michigan highbush blueberry growers to consider organic production practices. Michigan growing conditions are perceived to be favorable for organic production as highbush blueberries are a native plant. Spodosols, acid sands, and mucks are present in several regions within the state and there are several major metropolitan areas in the region to provide a marketplace for organically produced berries (Chicago, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Lansing). However, despite Michigan being the number one blueberry production region, only 60 of Michigan’s over 19,500 acres (less than 0.3%) of blueberries were certified organic at the start of this project). Potential reasons for the low percentage of certified organic blueberry acreage in Michigan include a lack of knowledge and resources regarding organic production methods; challenges related to organic management of weeds, pests and nutrients; and lack of an established organic marketplace for wholesale organic blueberries.

    Project objectives:

    1. Evaluate and optimize organically acceptable cultural, chemical, and biological options for control of pests (insects, diseases, and weeds)

      Evaluate different cover crops in row middles for their effects on soil and plant nutrient status and pest pressure

      Evaluate organic fertilizer programs for their effects on soil and plant nutrient status and pest pressure

      Develop a guidebook on pest management in organic blueberries for the North Central Region.

    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.