Establishing Wildflower Habitat To Support Highbush Blueberries

Highbush blueberries rely on bee pollinations to set a good crop. One strategy some Michigan blueberry growers have begun using to support crop pollinators on farms is planting wildflower strips or meadows near crop fields.

Wildflower planting to support bees on a Michigan blueberry farm. (Photo Credit: Emily May)
Wildflower planting to support bees on a Michigan blueberry farm. (Photo Credit: Emily May)

Research from Michigan State University (MSU) has shown that growers can increase pollination and yield of blueberry by planting wildflowers that support wild bees, like bumble bees, and as well as honeybees. These plantings have the added benefit of supporting natural enemies and the biological control services they provide without increasing insect pests, according to additional MSU research.

However, planting wildflowers isn’t as simple as sowing seeds into a patch of ground and watching them grow. Like any crop field or garden, wildflower habitat requires careful site selection, preparation, and maintenance to control weeds.

Site Selection
Choose a sunny site that is protected from spray drift. The soil nutrient and moisture conditions need to be suitable for wildflowers. While these plantings are typically located on land that isn’t otherwise suitable for fruit production, it’s not worth the cost and effort to plant them in nutrient-poor or extremely dry or wet soils.

Site Preparation And Seeding
Converting a field edge, old field, or grassy area to a wildflower planting requires a full season of weed control prior to seeding. The spring before planting, burn or mow to cut back on existing vegetation. Cultivate the soil and apply a non-persistent herbicide such as glyphosate in spring, mid-summer, and early fall.

Organic growers can use solarization or other non-chemical methods to control these weeds. Before seeding in late fall or early spring, lightly disc or harrow to loosen the topsoil. The seedbed should be as bare as possible prior to seeding. Seed a mix of native wildflowers suited to the site conditions that will bloom continuously through the growing season. Tamp or roll the soil after seeding to ensure good seed-soil contact.

Weed Control After Planting
In the first year, mow the vegetation to a height of 6 to 8 inches every couple of weeks. Most perennial wildflowers will not grow taller than this in their first year, so regular mowing will help prevent weeds from going to seed. Make sure to set the mower higher than lawn height.

In the second year, mow in early spring and rake off the cuttings. To avoid damaging wildflowers, do not mow after late spring when vegetation has reached a foot or higher. Consider spot-spraying and reseeding problem areas.

A little effort and patience will pay dividends. With proper early weed control, plantings require little management after their second year aside from an occasional burn to remove thatch. A well-managed wildflower planting will improve and continue to bloom year after year, supporting crop pollinators, improving pollination and yield, and providing important resources for other beneficial insects.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Establishing Wildflower Habitat To Support Highbush Blueberries

  1. Two years ago, my wife, Ann, and I started a foundation in Minneapolis, to try to save the Monarch Butterfly.     The foundation is SaveOurMonarchs Foundation, devoted to saving Monarchs by planting Milkweed seeds.
     
    So now SaveOurMonarchs.org offers free milkweed seeds to anyone.   You can just send your request for seeds to SaveOurMonarchs.org and click on ‘Get ‘Seeds’.  

    In 2015, over 1 million Milkweed Seed Packets were provided. Milkweed Seed Packets will be provided to anyone requesting them.
    
Ward Johnson

  2. Florida and other southeastern blueberry growers can find plenty of great pollinator plants, seeds and expertise from organizations in Florida’s native plant movement, including: Florida Association of Native Nurseries (FANN), Florida Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association, Florida Native Plant Society and Florida Wildflower Foundation. We welcome the opportunity to assist our Ag colleagues with real solutions for sustainability. We’re here for you! #GoBlueberries and #bees

Berries Stories
Growers boot up drone technology on the farm
Berries
March 3, 2017
Specialty Crops Primed for Precision Agriculture
Employing the latest horticultural technology tools could have substantial financial benefits for producers of hand-picked specialty crops, according to a new research paper. Read More
Berries
March 2, 2017
Pruning Pointers for Dormant Care of Berries
If you haven’t started pruning your berries, it’s time you do. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush Blueberries
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry Production
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
2017 Florida Strawberry Picking Challenge winners
Berries
February 22, 2017
Florida Strawberry Picking Contest a Big Winner for Charity
Fourth-annual fundraising event brings in more than $100,000 to benefit children of local farmworkers. Read More
Registration area at the 2017 Florida Blueberry Growers Association Spring Meeting
Berries
February 17, 2017
Florida Blueberry Growers Counting on a Comeback
With last season's disaster in the rear view, all eyes are searching for bluer skies. Read More
Wish Farms mega strawberry donation
Berries
February 14, 2017
Wish Farms Shows Love With Super-Sized Strawberry Donation
More than 4,000 pounds of locally grown produce from Central Florida farming operation goes to help feed needy families in the Tampa area. Read More
Florida Beauty strawberries
Berries
February 10, 2017
New Florida Strawberry Shaping up to Be a Thing of Beauty
Unique variety, a collaboration between UF/IFAS and an Australian scientist, still in its early stages. Read More
raspberry closeup
Berries
February 6, 2017
Washington Berry Grower Accused Of Illegal Irrigation Appeals Fines
Gurjant “George” Sandhu says the fines were unjust, and the State Department of Ecology hadn’t provided adequate evidence. Read More
SWD On Raspberry
Berries
January 27, 2017
Spotted Wing Drosophila ‘Stars’ at National Berry Conference
Biocontrols, nutrition, and new varieties are also among the hot topics discussed at the annual berry meeting. Read More
Berries
January 4, 2017
Growers Say it’s the Best of Times or the Worst of Times for Berry Industry
Some say there’s an oversupply, some disagree, but despite challenges for the berry industry, most growers remain upbeat about the future. Read More
raspberry closeup
Berries
December 30, 2016
Berry Grower Hit with Fine for Water Use
Washington State Department of Ecology alleges grower supplied inaccurate water use figures, illegally irrigated two berry farms. Read More
A bunch of 'Sweet Sensation' strawberries lined up for photo purposes
Berries
December 20, 2016
Table Set for an Extra-Sweet Florida Strawberry Season
Conditions ideal for new, flavorful varieties. Marketing campaign aims to clue-in consumers. Read More
Vance Whitaker next to a bed of strawberries
Berries
December 15, 2016
Scientists: GMOs Not Part of Florida Strawberry Success
Misconceptions about what methods are used to breed new varieties spark need for public outreach. Read More
Action shot of an automated strawberry picker from Harvest CROO
Berries
December 13, 2016
Horsepower Mounting For Real-World Robotic Strawberry Harvesting
National Science Foundation awards grant for further development of potential industry game-changer. Read More
The Latest
Berries
March 26, 2017
Outsmarting SWD with Social Media
Entomologist in Kentucky uses social media for pest updates, trap catches. Read More
Berries
March 25, 2017
Florida Blueberry Crop Escapes Slap from…
Freeze protection tactics prove fruitful as local producers look to gain from Georgia’s loss. Read More
Berries
March 15, 2017
Arctic Blast Gives Southern Fruit Grower…
Peaches and berries in bloom most at risk from freezing temperatures. Read More
Berries
March 3, 2017
Specialty Crops Primed for Precision Agr…
Employing the latest horticultural technology tools could have substantial financial benefits for producers of hand-picked specialty crops, according to a new research paper. Read More
Berries
March 2, 2017
Pruning Pointers for Dormant Care of Ber…
If you haven’t started pruning your berries, it’s time you do. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush …
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry P…
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
Berries
February 22, 2017
Florida Strawberry Picking Contest a Big…
Fourth-annual fundraising event brings in more than $100,000 to benefit children of local farmworkers. Read More
Berries
February 17, 2017
Florida Blueberry Growers Counting on a …
With last season's disaster in the rear view, all eyes are searching for bluer skies. Read More
Berries
February 14, 2017
Wish Farms Shows Love With Super-Sized S…
More than 4,000 pounds of locally grown produce from Central Florida farming operation goes to help feed needy families in the Tampa area. Read More
Berries
February 10, 2017
New Florida Strawberry Shaping up to Be …
Unique variety, a collaboration between UF/IFAS and an Australian scientist, still in its early stages. Read More
Berries
February 6, 2017
Washington Berry Grower Accused Of Illeg…
Gurjant “George” Sandhu says the fines were unjust, and the State Department of Ecology hadn’t provided adequate evidence. Read More
Berries
January 27, 2017
Spotted Wing Drosophila ‘Stars’ at Natio…
Biocontrols, nutrition, and new varieties are also among the hot topics discussed at the annual berry meeting. Read More
Berries
January 4, 2017
Growers Say it’s the Best of Times…
Some say there’s an oversupply, some disagree, but despite challenges for the berry industry, most growers remain upbeat about the future. Read More
Berries
December 30, 2016
Berry Grower Hit with Fine for Water Use
Washington State Department of Ecology alleges grower supplied inaccurate water use figures, illegally irrigated two berry farms. Read More
Berries
December 20, 2016
Table Set for an Extra-Sweet Florida Str…
Conditions ideal for new, flavorful varieties. Marketing campaign aims to clue-in consumers. Read More
Berries
December 15, 2016
Scientists: GMOs Not Part of Florida Str…
Misconceptions about what methods are used to breed new varieties spark need for public outreach. Read More
Berries
December 13, 2016
Horsepower Mounting For Real-World Robot…
National Science Foundation awards grant for further development of potential industry game-changer. Read More