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
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
Berries
November 28, 2016
Researchers Develop Lower-Cost Options For Blueberry Harvest Assist Systems
Research team seeks alternatives to over-the-row harvest systems. Read More
Bacterial wilt symptoms in Florida blueberries
Berries
November 16, 2016
Florida Blueberry Growers Warned To Watch For New Deadly Disease
Pathogen has been confirmed on three farms so far. Read More
sun setting amid the clouds
Berries
November 1, 2016
Worker Awarded $700K Following Collapse In Field
Maine man awarded damages following heat stroke, says blueberry grower was negligent in training him for work. Read More
Berries
October 29, 2016
Pest And Disease Diagnosis 101 In Berries
Using some of the experts and information available can help you avoid problems in the berry patch. Read More
The Latest
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
January 4, 2017
Input Needed from Strawberry Growers, In…
National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative moves into new phase as growers, managers, nursery operators, consultants, and Extension educators are asked to take an online survey. 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
Berries
November 28, 2016
Researchers Develop Lower-Cost Options F…
Research team seeks alternatives to over-the-row harvest systems. Read More
Berries
November 16, 2016
Florida Blueberry Growers Warned To Watc…
Pathogen has been confirmed on three farms so far. Read More
Berries
November 1, 2016
Worker Awarded $700K Following Collapse …
Maine man awarded damages following heat stroke, says blueberry grower was negligent in training him for work. Read More
Berries
October 29, 2016
Pest And Disease Diagnosis 101 In Berrie…
Using some of the experts and information available can help you avoid problems in the berry patch. Read More
Berries
October 10, 2016
Wish Farms Going Bigger, Bolder With Bla…
Central Florida-based operation meeting consumer demand by extending its berry program. Read More
Berries
October 3, 2016
Florida Strawberry Growers Have A Sweet …
Study shows the latest variety from UF/IFAS berry breeders is not only heads and shoulders above others in flavor, but also shelflife and color. Read More
Berries
October 3, 2016
Forget Donald And Hillary – Vote Your Be…
California Giant trending on #BerriesforPresident; strawberries are leading blueberries. Read More
Berries
October 1, 2016
New Mechanical Strawberry Transplanter W…
New tool, developed in California, helps to alleviate labor needs during summer planting season. Read More
Berries
September 24, 2016
Time Is Now For Florida Blueberry Grower…
Coming off a challenging season, industry players must continue to adapt to curveballs thrown by Mother Nature and market forces. Read More
Berries
September 23, 2016
What U.S. Consumers Think About Florida …
For growers, the good news is that shoppers like what you are serving up. But more can be done to whet appetites. Read More
Berries
September 22, 2016
Investors Clamoring For Automated Strawb…
Naturipe joins growing list of backers in the labor-saving vision and mission of ag-tech startup. Read More
Berries
September 22, 2016
It Behooves Blueberry Growers To Protect…
Placing priority on bee care best practices will ensure sweet success for your crop. Read More