Integrating Cover crops into Sustainable Highbush Blueberry Production in New Jersey

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2009: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Dr. Zsofia Szendrei
Michigan State University


  • Fruits: berries (blueberries)


  • Crop Production: cover crops, intercropping, no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management, mulches - living, row covers (for pests)
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    The native highbush blueberry crop is worth over $90 million to New Jersey. With the ongoing changes in insecticide regulations, growers are faced with restrictions on the application of broad-spectrum insecticides. In commercial highbush blueberry management, this mandates the search for alternative and sustainable practices with which growers can tackle pest challenges. One such sustainable solution is the use of row-middle cover crops in blueberry production for insect and weed control and reducing run-off. This strategy can work for both conventional and organic blueberry management strategies, therefore we expect to disseminate this technique on a large scale throughout the region. Cover crops are expected to reduce the need for application of harmful pesticides and help retain the purity of the ground water in New Jersey, which is a vital concern for local communities. Currently, all of New Jersey’s blueberry fields are clean cultivated, thus this research will be the first to investigate the use of cover crops among local conditions. This pioneering work will prove useful for New Jersey blueberry growers in the changing world of pesticide use and on a larger scale it will contribute to providing healthy fruit and a healthier ecosystem. Six cover crop species will be tested at a commercial higbush blueberry farm in New Jersey. The goal of the proposed research is to measure and evaluate the tested cover crops in their ability to manipulate pest populations (insects and weeds), pollinators and their contribution to improve soil health, plant quality and yield.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Test and select multiple cover crop species that can provide ecosystem services in commercial highbush blueberry production. Throughout a growing season six selected row-middle cover crop species are tested for weediness, pest pressure, natural enemy and pollinator species abunadances. Concomitantly, pests and natural enemy species abundances are assessed on the blueberry plants. Soil samples are taken before and after the growing season for measuring soil-dwelling pests species abundances and for measuring soil nutrient quality. Leaf samples are taken to assess the direct impact of cover crops on blueberry plants. The overall goal is to evaluate and identify cover crop species that provide some of these important pest mangement, biocontrol and/or plant health services and to inform farmers in the region at meetings and through printed/online material of these results.

    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.