SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A farm in southwestern Idaho is attempting to grow blueberries on a commercial scale, making it one of the first producers in the state if the project proves successful.
A major hop grower and a University of Idaho researcher are coordinating efforts on figuring out how to make blueberries grow in the region, the Capital Press reported on Monday.
Brock and Phillip Obendorf Farms in Parma has been growing blueberries on 18 acres for a couple of years, but the results have been mixed. Phil Obendorf said the yield has not been enough to make the endeavor profitable.
The problem is with the soil’s level of acidity, Obendorf said. Acidity is measured on the pH scale with lower numbers indicating higher acidity. High pH levels can prevent plants from absorbing some micronutrients, he said.
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Essie Fallahi, a researcher of fruit cultivation at the university, has been looking for how to alter the soil to support the growth of blueberries.
“We are trying to grow blueberries but we are fighting with high pH problems,” Fallahi said. “It’s a major problem and causes damage to production.”
Fallahi has been testing a solution that injects acid when watering the plants. The process brings the pH level down and makes the micronutrients available, but he said this process is expensive.
Obendorf said it takes up to five years for the plants to reach full production, and his plants are currently yielding about 10 percent of where they need to be in order to reach profitability.
Despite the pH issues, Obendorf said blueberries are in demand and could be another emerging crop to hit the local market.
“I think it’s very promising,” Obendorf said. “We’re definitely hoping for a bigger crop next year. We’re planning to keep expanding.”
Information from: Capital Press, http://www.capitalpress.com/washington