Cold Hardiness and Options for the Freeze Protection of Southern Highbush Blueberry

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Southern highbush blueberries (SHB; Vaccinium corymbosuminterspecific hybrid) are a low chill species of blueberry that are commercially grown in sub-tropical climates. Due to the nature of SHB, the flowering and fruit set occur in mid-winter to early spring and are susceptible to freeze damage. The most effective use of freeze protection is based on climatic conditions. Identification of advective or radiative freeze, intensity of the freeze event, and the equipment deployed are the key elements for deciding if the crop can be protected and justifying the expense to operate the system. Of the various methods used in frost protection, applying overhead irrigation water is the most promising. During a freeze event, an application of 6.3 mm ha−1 (0.10 in A−1) of water per hour is required to protect blueberries from −2.8 °C (27 °F) temperature with winds from 0 to 16 km h−1 (0 to 10 mph). This is 25.4 kL h−1ha−1 (2715 gal h−1 A−1) of water. Overhead irrigation freeze protection is dependent on large volumes of water. This paper will review methods of freeze/frost protection, importance of weather patterns, and critical temperatures based on phenology of flowering to fruit set.

Erick D. Smith