Nova Scotia Wild Blueberry Best Management Practices

The Nova Scotia Wild Blueberry Best Management Practices directory was developed and designed through the Sustainability Committee of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia with help from Perennia. The purpose of this webpage is to highlight the BMPS from all aspects of wild blueberry production in Nova Scotia. It will help growers and other interested parties easily access resources on how to produce wild blueberries sustainably and in an economically viable manner. The intent of this page is to keep practices updated and relevant to modern wild blueberry production.

1.0 Whole Farm Management

Wild blueberry farms must comply with the Government of Nova Scotia OH&S regulations, regarding farm Health and Safety. http://www.gov.ns.ca/agri/thinkfarm/fsheets/12-farm-safety.pdf

Wild Blueberry producers are encouraged to become certified in an on-farm food safety program. Canadian Horticulture Council’s On-farm food safety program is called Canada Gap. http://www.canadagap.ca/

Wild Blueberry producers must maintain detailed records on all management practices.  This is important for end consumer traceability as well as strategic farm management practices.  A good example of a functional wild blueberry record keeping software program is Farm Credit Canada’s – Farm Manager Pro. http://www.fccsoftware.ca/en/index.asp

Wild Blueberry Producers must follow provincial transportation guidelines for farmers.  The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has put together a booklet that outlines all of these guidelines. http://nsfa-fane.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/transportation-booklet-2010.pdf

Wild Blueberry Farms should have a completed environmental farm plan that is reviewed every three years. This program is administered by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. http://nsfa-fane.ca/member-services/environmental-farm-plan/

Continuous learning is critical for a blueberry grower to maintain profitable yields in a changing environment and market place.  Growers are encouraged to attend information sessions and read new factsheets when they become available. The Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia (WBPANS) and Perennia post these sessions on their websites.
http://www.nswildblueberries.com/
https://perennia.ca/

All equipment should be maintained on a regular schedule.  (Including, but not limited to: flail mowers, bush hogs, burners, harvesters, boom sprayers, airblast sprayers, tractors, trailers, fertilizer spreaders, forklifts etc.)
  • Detailed maintenance schedule and log should be kept on each piece of equipment
  • Each piece of equipment should be checked before each use
  • Complete equipment overhauls should be done during winter months prior to use in spring.

Wild Blueberry producers if they have on-farm fuel storage must maintain it to current government regulations. The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has a factsheet on farm fuel storage. http://nsfa-fane.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/FARM-FUEL-STORAGE-Jan-30-2007.pdf

2.0 Pest Management

2.1.1 Applicator/vendor license

All wild blueberry producers who purchase and/or apply their own pesticides must have a Nova Scotia Department of Environment pesticide applicators license. http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/pests/applicatorcert.asp

Training manual: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/pests/docs/ApplicatorTraining_AgricultureManual.pdf

2.1.2 Equipment Maintenance and Calibration

Maintenance – All wild blueberry producers who apply their own pesticides or custom applicators who do work on wild blueberry fields are required to do regular maintenance at least once per year on all spraying equipment. Pumps nozzles, screens, hoses and valves should be checked and replaced if under-performing.

Calibration – Sprayers are to be calibrated a minimum of once per season, so that the overall output is known and the variance of output between individual nozzles is less than + or – 5%.

Perennia has a link to an Environmental Farm Plan Sprayer calibration factsheet on its website. https://perennia.ca/Fact%20Sheets/IPM/General/sprayercalibration.pdf

2.1.3 Pesticide Storage

If wild blueberry producers store pesticides on farm, the storage facility should meet Nova Scotia Department of Environment guidelines.
http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/pests/userstorageguide.asp

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has a factsheet on designing a pesticide storage facility.
http://nsfa-fane.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Pesticide-storage-_March-31-2006_.pdf

2.1.4 Drift Reduction and Spraying Conditions

Wild Blueberry producers should only apply pesticides when conditions permit according to sprayer specifications and pesticide label instructions.  Drift reduction technologies are encouraged in all situations.

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has a factsheet on drift reduction and nozzles usage in wild blueberry. http://nsfa-fane.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/BB_nozzle_1_JUN2008.pdf

2.1.5 Pesticide Record Keeping

Pesticide application records will be kept for each field and each product applied.  The records will include but will not be limited to:

  • Application date and time
  • Weather conditions at application (wind speed, direction, temp)
  • Product name and rate applied
  • Application spray volume
  • Equipment and nozzles used
  • Target pest and stage of pest

Using software programs like FCC’s Field Manager Pro is encouraged http://www.fccsoftware.ca/en/index.asp

2.1.6 Transportation of Pesticides

Wild Blueberry producers should only transport pesticides according to provincial transportation guidelines developed through the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. http://nsfa-fane.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/transportation-booklet-2010.pdf

2.1.7 Water Sources for Pesticide Applications

When sourcing water for pesticides applications wild blueberry producers should always do the following:

  • Test water for quality and pH before use
  • Adjust pH of water in tank with a buffering agent when water is above a pH of 7.
  • Use pumps that have safety systems that prevent spray water backflow
  • Mix pesticides away from the water source
  • Use nurse tanks where possible

2.1.8 Pesticide Safety and Handling

Wild Blueberry producers will follow all pesticide labels instructions with regard to pesticide safety and handling. In addition wild blueberry producers will have on hand during application:

  • all applicable safety equipment for the product being applied (ie. Nitrile gloves, rubber boots, respirator, goggles, spray suit etc.)
  • spare safety equipment
  • pesticide spill kit
  • poison control centre number
  • pesticide label including PCP number

2.1.9 Pesticide Applications

Wild blueberry producers will strictly follow all pesticide labels as well as local provincial and municipal regulations. Growers should consider using GPS and other technologies for increased precision of pesticide applications, including the following.

  • GPS tracking and Self steer technology
  • Variable rate flow monitors
  • Multiple GPS controlled zones on spray booms

Wild blueberry producers will only apply pesticides allowable by the markets to which those berries are being shipped to. All growers follow broker and processor guidelines with regard to products allowable for their markets.

Growers must follow PMRA guidelines regarding tank mixes https://perennia.ca/Fact%20Sheets/IPM/PRCP/Non-labeled%20tank%20mixes.pdf

Integrated Pest Management Principles are the corner stone of the industry. All growers will monitor fields for pests and use multiple management techniques to keep pest populations low and minimize pesticide applications.

2.2.1 Weed Management

2.2.1.1 Monitoring

Weed populations are regularly monitored and mapped in the spring of the sprout year, fall of the sprout year and prior to harvest.

2.2.1.2 Identification

Weed identification is critical to proper management.  Growers have quick access to available weed id sources. The Wild Blueberry Information Network through Dalhousie University, Agriculture Campus has many weed id factsheets. http://nsac.ca/wildblue/facts/weeds.asp

2.2.1.3 Physical Controls

Growers should physically remove certain weed species when they first appear or just prior to harvest.  Vetch, goatsbeard, braken fern, goldenrod are examples of weeds that are pulled or clipped when densities are low to prevent weed spread and improve harvest efficiency.

2.2.1.4 Cultural Controls (includes Equipment Sanitation and Fertility Optimization)

2.2.1.4.1 Equipment Sanitation

Harvesters, mowers and other equipment should be cleaned of weed seed prior to leaving a weedy field. This is done to prevent the spread of weeds from one field to another.

2.2.1.4.2 Fertilty Optimization

  • Growers should adjust fertility applications on weedy fields to reduce weed growth
  • Soil pH should be lowered, when possible, to reduce weed viability

2.2.1.5 Biological Controls

Biological organisms that feed on weeds are encouraged. (ie. Chrysolinia beetle for St. John’s Wort)

2.2.1.6 Herbicides and Use

The New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries has a very useful Wild Blueberry IPM Weed Management Guide
http://www.gnb.ca/0171/10/017110020-e.pdf

2.2.1.6.1

All methods are employed to minimize herbicide usage where possible (ie. Wiping with round-up should be used where appropriate)

2.2.1.6.2

Spot applications of herbicides are used at appropriate times for the targeted weeds in the sprout year.

2.2.1.6.3

Allowable products and rates are followed strictly.
Perennia has a constantly updated weed management guide

2.2.2 Insect Management

2.2.2.1 Monitoring

Insects are monitored for on a regular basis.

  • Spring leaf feeding insects are monitored using sweeping in May and early June (spanworm, flea beetle, sawfly etc.).  This is done in both sprout and crop fields. Leaf damage is also monitored.
  • Blueberry maggot fly traps are placed around field edges just prior to fruit ripening.
  • Spotted Wing Drosophila traps are placed on field borders in late July

2.2.2.2 Identification and Thresholds

Insect identification is critical to proper management.  Growers have quick access to available insect id sources and current application thresholds. The Wild Blueberry Information Network through Dalhousie University, Agriculture Campus has many insect id factsheets.
http://nsac.ca/wildblue/facts/insects.asp

2.2.2.3 Physical Controls

Growers use spot burning for specific insect challenges like blueberry thrips.

2.2.2.4 Cultural Controls

Burning as a pruning technique or alternative sanitation techniques are used as appropriate to reduce insect populations when they become problematic.

2.2.2.5 Biological Controls

Biological organisms that feed on insect pests are encouraged.

2.2.2.6 Insecticides

2.2.2.6.1

All methods are employed to minimize insecticide usage where possible
  • Border sprays and site specific sprays are used based on monitoring (ie. Blueberry maggot)
  • For spring feeding insects treatments are ideally done in the sprout year and applications in crop year are avoided if at all possible to reduce impact on beneficial insects and pollinators.

2.2.2.6.2

Allowable products and rates are followed strictly.
Perennia has a constantly updated Insect and Disease management guide.

2.2.3 Disease Management

2.2.3.1 Monitoring

Plant Pathogens are monitored for on a regular basis.

Monilina – bud stages are monitored and pesticides applications are timed based on blight line information and forecasted weather. The Wild Blueberry Information Network through Dalhousie University, Agriculture Campus has an excellent monilinia factsheet.
Click here for factsheet

Leaf diseases (Septoria and leaf rust)- fields are monitored regularly to see if leaf spot are increasing, this will influence management strategies the following year. Perennia has a link to a Septoria factsheet
Click here for factsheet

2.2.3.2 Identification and Thresholds

Disease identification is critical to proper management.  Growers have quick access to available disease id sources and current application thresholds. The Wild Blueberry Information Network through Dalhousie University, Agriculture Campus has many disease id factsheets. http://nsac.ca/wildblue/facts/disease.asp

2.2.3.3 Physical Controls

Growers use spot burning for specific plant pathogens challenges like Valdensinia. Perennia has a link to a Valdensinia factsheet.
Click here for factsheet

2.2.3.4 Cultural Controls

  • Pruning by burning is done when appropriate to reduce increasing disease pressures like (Monilinia, Septoria and Valdensinia)
  • Sanitation of field equipment is done before leaving fields to prevent spread of diseases like Valdensinia.
  • In field activities are strictly controlled when Valdensinia is present.

2.2.3.5 Biological Controls

Biological organisms that compete with or feed on plant pathogens are encouraged.

2.2.3.6 Fungicides

2.2.3.6.1

All methods are employed to minimize fungicide usage where possible

2.2.3.6.2

Allowable products and rates are followed strictly.
Perennia has a constantly updated Insect and Disease Management Guide.
Click here for the guide

2.2.4 Wildlife Management

All efforts are made to exclude deer, bear and birds from feeding on fruit and stems.

  • Exclusion fencing is explored if financially viable
  • Noise makers are used where appropriate and allowable according to Nova Scotia Regulations (in development)
  • Avoidance by scent on field borders is used for deer, bear and coyotes where possible
  • Hunting permits are obtained through the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources http://novascotia.ca/natr/hunt/

Wildlife damage compensation through the provincial government is explored if damage cannot be controlled http://www.gov.ns.ca/agri/ci/reports/NSWildlifeCompPolicy_08.pdf

3.0 Nutrient Management

3.1.1 Soil Analysis

Growers should follow soil sampling guidelines.
The New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries has a useful factsheet on soil sampling.

3.1.2 Tissue Analysis

Tissue samples are taken at tip die-back in the sprouting year.
The New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries has a useful factsheet on tissue sampling.

3.1.3 Lab

Samples can be analysed at the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture – 176 College Rd., Harlow Institute

3.2.1 Application

Applications rates are made based on nutrient levels from leaf tissue analysis, field health, plant height, disease pressure and weed pressure.
Perennia has link to an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada factsheet on nutrient levels for blueberry leaves.
Click here for factsheet
Applications are made to optimize yield without causing excessive vegetative growth.

3.2.2 Granular Fertilizers

Applications should be made when conditions are dry when vegetative growth has begun. Split applications can be beneficial.
  • Growers must regularly calibrate fertilizer spreaders

3.2.3 Liquid Fertilizers

There are many types of liquid fertilizers and these can be applied to the plants at many times of the year.
  • Growers should ensure that the timing of application makes physiological sense for the plant to enhance production and allow for crop safety
  • Growers must ensure that any liquid fertilizer and any other tank mix partner is compatible

3.2.4 Alternative Amendments

There are many natural and alternative sources of nutrient amendments. Growers should ensure they know the nutrient content of those sources and that it is allowable as a nutrient amendment through the CFIA.
  • Amendments in the crop year of production should not be animal based.
  • Compost teas should be from plant based composts

4.0 Field Management

Growers regularly visit fields to observe crop development, pest levels and general plant vigour.
Pruning is a critical process, typically done in the mid to late fall after the harvest, or early spring the following year.  Pruning can be delayed by one year in fields that have good second crop potential.
The New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries has a useful factsheet on burning.

4.2.1 Mowing

Mowing is the least expensive way to prune a blueberry field.  Growers must maintain the mowers so that they operate optimally.  Flail mowers are the preferred mowing device.
The University of Maine, Cooperative Extension has a useful factsheet on pruning.
Click here for factsheet

4.2.2. Burning

Pruning by burning is an expensive yet valuable process that is done selectively by the grower.  Burn pruning will prune stems to the ground encouraging new shoots from the rhizome, release nutrients for the plant, and reduce certain pest pressures.  Excessive burning will result in the reduction of soil organic matter and the decrease of plant health in certain soils.  Burning also has liability concerns that must be realized by the grower.
Burning permits are obtained from Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources when required.
  • Firebreaks are used when burning, including a controlled burn break done in early morning or late evening. Perimeter roadways should also be used.
  • Mobile water tanks need to be at the ready when burning.
  • Burning is not done in excessive winds.

4.2.1.1 Oil/Propane Burning

This method uses a pull behind burner that uses either propane or home heating fuel to generate the flame and maintain heat.  This is often needed when conditions don’t allow the fire to spread on its own.
The University of Maine, Cooperative Extension has a useful factsheet on burning.

4.2.2.2 Straw Burning

Straw is used as the fuel in this method, and placed on the field in late fall or early spring.  When conditions are right in the spring, the field is lit.  Typically the field is not mowed prior to laying down the straw.

4.2.2.3 Sickle Bar/Burning

This method of burning is only done effectively on flat fields with good stem density and plant height.
Perennia has a useful factsheet on sickle bar mowing/burning.
Click here for factsheet

The soil is the medium in which the blueberry plants are grown. Maintaining soil stability and soil structure is critical for long-term viability. Since wild blueberries are a long-term perennial crop, there are few options to repair soil damage once it has occurred, therefore conservation is critical.

The soil is the medium in which the blueberry plants are grown. Maintaining soil stability and soil structure is critical for long-term viability. Since wild blueberries are a long-term perennial crop, there are few options to repair soil damage once it has occurred, therefore conservation is critical.

4.3.1 Erosion Prevention

Soil conservation is a high priority in wild blueberry production
  • Ground cover is maintained on slopes and soils with low levels of organic matter
  • Broad spectrum herbicides are used sparingly on steep slopes or slopes that are prone to erosion.
  • Mulches like sawdust, bark mulch and wood chips are used to stabilize bare areas
The New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries has a useful factsheet on the use of mulches

4.3.2. Soil Compaction Prevention

Minimizing soil compaction is a major focus for blueberry growers
  • Traffic across fields is limited to essential treatments
  • Tramlines are used where practical (travelling on the same wheel tracks each pass)
  • On fine textured soils that have high levels of clay and silt, driving tractors when soils are wet should be avoided.
  • Driving should be avoided on saturated soils

4.4.1 Buffer Zones

Buffer zones are maintained around waterways

  • All pesticide labels are followed with respect to set-backs from waterways
  • Drift reduction technology is used when spraying around waterways
  • Vegetated strips are maintained between all fields and permanent waterways.

Great care is taken around sensitive areas

  • All pesticide labels are followed with respect to set-backs from sensitive areas.
  • Drift reduction technology is used when spraying around sensitive areas
  • A good neighbor policy regarding communication and consultation is encouraged when dealing with sensitive areas.

Areas are left around field edges and in non-productive to grow naturally and encourage native pollinators and other beneficial insects.

  • Old rock fences and piles, old slash piles and native plants can encourage native pollinators.
  • Hedge-rows will allow for a wind reduction and snow build-up on fields which will help with winter protection. This is critical in some locations. Hedge row height needs to be kept relatively low in order to keep shading impacts limited.

5.0 Pollination

Pollination is critical to forming the fruit, therefore adequate pollinating units and how they are managed is critical to ensuring adequate yields.

The University of Maine, Cooperative Extension has a useful factsheet on Pollination http://umaine.edu/blueberries/factsheets/bees/629-honey-bees-and-blueberry-pollination/

Many disease and insect problems can occur near or during bloom.  Pesticide applications should always be treated as a last resort, but this is critically true before and during bloom.

  • Insecticide applications during bloom should be avoided unless crop loss is expected.
  • Fungicide applications during bloom are not ideal and should be avoided if possible. This is not always possible in fields that are prone to botrytis
  • If making any pesticide applications during bloom, they should be made in the evening or when pollinators are not active.

Dalhousie University, Agriculture Campus through the Wild Blueberry Information Network and the University of Maine, Cooperative Extension have factsheets related to using managed pollinators.

http://nsac.ca/wildblue/facts/pollination/honeybee_colonies.pdf

http://umaine.edu/blueberries/factsheets/bees/302-commercial-bumble-bee-bombus-impatiens-management-for-wild-blueberry-pollination/

http://nsac.ca/wildblue/facts/pollination/alfalfa_bees.pdf

Native pollinators are encouraged in wild blueberry fields

  • Native plants and a diverse habitat around a blueberry field will allow for more native pollinators.
  • Fields with large treeline perimeters tend to have more native pollinators.
  • Larger fields can have a reduced diversity and number of native pollinators.

Dalhousie University, Agriculture Campus through the Wild Blueberry Information Network has factsheets related to managing native pollinators.
http://nsac.ca/wildblue/facts/pollination/indigenous.pdf

6.0 Harvesting

6.1.1 Tractor-mounted

6.1.1.1 General Maintenance

Harvester are kept in good working order

  • Harvesters are overhauled every season, with worn and damaged parts replaced
  • During Harvest, machines are checked for damage and wear at the start of every day, with appropriate adjustments made
  • Bent teeth, loose bolts, hydraulic leaks, skipping belts and worn brushes etc. are fixed or replaced immediately when they are noticed during harvest.

6.1.1.2 Harvesting

Great care is taken when driving a mechanical harvester

  • The driver should constantly monitor the head and the pick line to make sure berries are not missed or lost out the front or back of the head. Adjustments should be made in real time.
  • Drivers should not take sharp corners while harvesting without lifting the head.

6.1.2 Alternative Harvesting Machines (ie. walk behind, sit on harvesters, etc.)

Great care is taken when operating harvesting machines

Hand harvesting is typically used on hilly lands or for fresh fruit production, using a traditional hand rake.

  • When raking, it is important the rake is slid into the plants below the lowest fruit and pulled up at an angle through the plant.
  • Multiple sweeps through plants without dumping should be avoided.
  • Buckets or pails should not be overfilled.
  • Fields should be divided by rows when harvesting to ensure the whole area is picked.

6.3.1 Harvesting Conditions

Harvesting conditions greatly affect fruit quality.  Harvesting is done when conditions are close to optimal, whenever possible.

  • Harvesting during rain should be avoided, especially when fields are wet
  • Harvesting in extreme heat and humidity reduces berry quality and should be avoided if at all possible.
  • Dry conditions below 20 degrees celcius are ideal for blueberry harvest.

6.3.2. Limiting Foreign Material in Harvested Crop

  • Foreign material in harvested crop is avoided wherever possible
  • Harvester heads are not run too low in developing fields or fields with course soils.
  • Weeds are kept under control (ie. Huckleberry, bunchberry, sedges, etc.)
  • Insects are kept under control (ie. Stem gall, caterpillars, etc.)
  • Picking is avoided early in the morning when fields are wet
  • Picking is not done in the rain
  • Fans are operational and well maintained
  • Brushes are adjusted properly to keep picking head clean
  • Sticks and rocks are removed off of fields in non-bearing years

6.3.3 Personal Hygiene of Workers During Harvest

Workers are trained on personal hygiene requirements around wild blueberry harvest.

  • Access to toilet facilities should be provided for workers during harvest.
  • A hand washing station should be provided during harvest for cleaning hands after maintenance and for personal hygiene.

6.3.4 Handling and Shipping of Berries

Berries are harvested and shipped in a way to minimize damage to the fruit.

  • Berries should be shipped to the receiver or processors as soon after harvest as possible. (This becomes more critical as temperature and humidity increases)
  • Shaking and vibration of full boxes or bins should be minimized during harvest and transport
  • Bins and boxes should be inspected so they are free of debris and fully intact before being filled. (Damaged boxes lead to damaged fruit)
  • Boxes or bins should be strapped, wrapped or contained during transport so they do not slide or shift

7.0 Business Risk

All blueberry growers should consider Crop Insurance through The Nova Scotia Crop and Livestock Commission
http://www.gov.ns.ca/agri/ci/

All blueberry growers should enroll in the Agri-Invest program
http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1291828779399&lang=eng

8.0 Useful Links

WBPANS – http://www.nswildblueberries.com/

WBANA – http://www.wildblueberries.com/

Perennia – https://perennia.ca/

Wild Blueberry Information Network (Dalhousie University AC) – http://nsac.ca/wildblue/

University of Maine Cooperative Extension – http://extension.umaine.edu/blueberries/

NB Department of Agriculture Aquaculture and Fisheries – http://www.gnb.ca/0027/Agr/0006/index-e.asp

Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture –
http://www.gov.ns.ca/agri/prm/

http://www.gov.ns.ca/agri/ci/

Visit the Wild Blueberry Association of Nova Scotia Website