Currently, blueberry plant production is mainly limited to the cultivation of 'just' container plants. In order not only to shift the actual plant market but also to expand it, it would be a good opportunity to think about alternative product forms. Occasionally, such new product forms have already been observed on the market in recent years, including standards or colourful pots.
In the following, we would like to present our thoughts on this topic to you. This should only serve as a thought-provoking impulse, which would be theoretically possible. Of course you are welcome to use our ideas as a basis for your own development projects.
Why should product development complement blueberry plant production?
Picture: different types of blueberry products
Naturally, it makes sense to optimise blueberry plant production as much as possible – ideally by simultaneously reducing production costs, simplifying production, making it more efficient and at the same time improving it. But this way of thinking also comes to an end somewhere; it is not unusual for this improvement process to end in the production of exaggerated qualities or – let's say – misguided qualities that no longer help the company and the product. We have already seen compact blueberries that have been cut back so often that there was hardly any space left for flowers and fruit because the plant had simply become too dense.
In addition to correctly understood product and production optimisation, new products should also be regularly developed in all categories, if necessary based on new varieties or other cultivation methods.
In principle, the development of new product forms should not serve to shift an existing market in another direction. The aim should always be to open up additional markets, as this is the only way to ensure that plant sales also increase.
Which product forms are possible – a short overview
Here are our thoughts on possible new product forms when producing blueberry plants. As already mentioned, these ideas should only be a thought impulse on which you can build upon with your own considerations or ideas that you can implement directly.
A new product form that has already been offered on the market is the blueberry standard. Basically, there would be two different ways to achieve this product form for blueberry plant production.
On the one hand, it is possible to work with an interstock, upon which a rather weak growing variety is grafted at the desired height, forming a compact crown on its own. We are testing Vaccinium arboreum as an interstock here, but so far we have no final results. The interstock should grow like a tree, form little or no basal shoots and at the same time be hardy or hardier than most of the Corymbosum varieties. On the other hand, it is also possible to use a fast growing variety that is grown as a single shoot. The crown is then formed at the desired height by cutting back the shoots.
The advantage of this product form is that it can be easily extended to any assortment of berry fruit standards. It is not so advantageous that blueberries lose their yield potential without regular rejuvenation and will age in the medium term. The current standards from root-true plants are also continuously caught up by their own basitone growth, which constantly forms new basal shoots. Overall, we are rather critical of this product form, although the blueberry standard works as a product for impulse purchases and later can grow well for two to three years on the terrace – and it can probably also be sold well.
Another possible new product form is selling blueberries in hanging baskets. Although the choice of variety is limited to compact growing varieties, such a product can be cultivated by the end customer in the same way as a container and is therefore a good opportunity to build up or expand a corresponding range. Although such cultivation is more area intensive than regular blueberry plant production, it hardly differs in any other way.
In our Lubera breeding programme, we are currently selecting varieties that could be suitable as hanging blueberries: the interesting candidate varieties are mainly hybrids between Vaccinium angustifolium and Vaccinium corymbosum.
Occasionally, colourful pots are already found in blueberry plant production and thus also in retail sales. Basically, there is no difference between this variant and regular blueberry plant production. Except that instead of a conventional black pot/container, a colourful or decorative pot/container is used.
Picture: strong blueberry plants in a decorative pot
One aspect that should not be underestimated is the ornamental value of the different blueberry plants. If varieties have a good ornamental value in addition to good fruit quality and a good yield, this can be an ideal marketing argument. For producing blueberry plants, we already have some varieties available under this aspect at the present time, but the next varieties will be available for the 2020 spring season.
Varieties for this assortment can be the following, among others:
- Blautropf® - with its irregular habit and special leaves
Picture: foliage of blueberry Blautropf® (Bluedrop®)
- Buddy Blue® (Powder Blue) - with its silvery grey, frosted foliage
- Yelloberry® Blue- with its intense yellow foliage
- Carbernet Splash® - with its dark red coloured foliage
It is also possible to use the autumn colouring of some blueberry varieties, e.g. the bright orange of the compact Lowberry Little Blue Wonder variety, in autumn ranges.
Picture: typical autumn coloring of blueberries
A trellis form is also conceivable. Just as various climbing plants or climbing strawberries are offered on a trellis, the same idea is possible for blueberries. To do this, the plants would have to be reduced to three main shoots during the blueberry production, on which the flower buds ultimately form. Later in the home garden or as a container plant this kind of plant training can be continued.
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