Berry Yearbook 2016 - page 10

I
t was possibly anticipated that ‘early
adopter’ growers of blueberrieswould
experience some ‘turbulence’ inpioneering
the best growingmethods required to
optimise the commercial results of a new
berry cropgrown in theUK. Thiswas
certainly the experience of Sean Figgis,
ManagingDirector of EdwardVinson Ltd at
Faversham, who, by trial and error, has
brought his blueberry crop to amuch
improvedposition than it was a few years
ago.
A visit by the East Kent Fruit Society a few
years ago revealed the new cropgrowing
well and looking comfortable growingwithin
ameshednet environment (to counter bird
crop loss). However today, some 7 years after
the initial planting, some important lessons
have been learned, contributing to amore
successful investment in this new ‘super-fruit’.
TheUKmarket for blueberries has grown
expotentially in the recent decade, withhigh
consumer acceptance andglobal supplies
keeping the berry in front of consumers 12
months of the year. There are substantial
opportunities for import substitution. It has
been the challenge of home grown
blueberry growers tobring their product into
the supply chainwhenprices favour the
home-supply best, to take advantage of the
UK’s unique growing conditions.
“The site here at Faversham (Sandbanks) is
an early growing site, being close to the sea,
andby adaptingour growing environment
we have optimised the temperature lift by
moving from amesh screen crop cover to
conventional plastic tunnel covers togain
extrawarmth and earliness for the crop,”
explained Sean Figgis.
“This decisionwas acceleratedby stability
problemswe experiencedwith the original
tunnel design inwindy conditions, along
with recognisingblueberries prosper best in a
warmgrowing environment, ideal for
nurturingoptimal annual growth”.
Whenplanted7 years ago two varieties
were chosen, Duke andBlueCrop, mostly
propagated fromhardwood cuttings from
non-UK sources. A very highproportionof
one variety revealed itself tobemade upof
at least sevendifferent cultivars. “Inhindsight
decisions onplantmaterial weremade too
hastily”, he added.
Sean Figgis has also learned that plants
sourced from tissue culture performmuch
better, so as the original plants ‘declined’ they
were replacedwith this superiormaterial,
gaining extra growth and yield.
Theywere all grown in25 litre ‘Barcham’
bags (large-container tree suppliers in
Cambridgeshire), and stoodupon covered
raisedbeds andheldupright by two lines of
Daltexwire heldonmetal brackets above
ground level. Eachpot was filledwith a
proprietary blueberry low-pH coir substrate
mix for optimum root development andbush
growth.
BLUEBERRY
DEVELOPMENTS
10
Positive bush vigour optimises
blueberry results
Warmth created by covered tunnels suits early
pot-grown blueberry production for EdwardVinson
Ltd’sManagingDirector, Sean Figgis.
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