Goodness Grows In North Carolina
Blueberry Outline


Association Name Commodity History Regional Information Production
Packaging Shipping Buying Nutritional Information

I. Association Name: NC Blueberry Council, Inc.

A. Commodity Represented
Blueberries

B. Types of Commodity
There is no differentiation among varieties in the marketplace.
Major Highbush varieties are Croatan, Jersey and Murphy. These are early northern high chill varieties used primarily for the fresh market. Rabbiteye varieties include Premier, Tifblue and Powderblue. These are lower chill, late season southern types.

C. Is there a National Promotion Month for the Commodity? When?
July is National Blueberry Month
June is NC Blueberry Month

Return to Menu

II. Commodity History

A. North Carolina Background
1. Is the crop originally from NC or did it originate elsewhere? Where?
Blueberries are native to North America. Explorers made note of wild blueberries on their explorations. Samuel de Champlain in 1615 saw Native Americans along Lake Huron harvesting berries.

2. When was it brought to NC?
Blueberries were first planted in NC in 1936.

3. How was it brought to NC and by whom?
Blueberries were brought to NC by an entrepreneur from New Jersey looking to stretch his production season with blueberries that matured earlier in the year.

4. Was it brought to a specific region? Is this the same region in which it is now mainly grown?
Blueberries from NJ were brought to the farm of Harold Huntington of Cooperstown, NC. Mr. Huntington's 1000 acre farm was located between Atkinson, NC and Ivanhoe, NC. A second tract was purchased by Gale Harrison form New Jersey. Along with local farmers, these newcomers set berries and soon a business was born. They affiliated with a distributor in NJ and the crop was shipped by railroad from Atkinson.

B. Uses
1. How is the product used?
Approximately 58 percent of the total blueberry crop in North America is frozen, 24 percent is sold fresh and 18 percent is canned. In NC approximately 75 % is sold fresh and 25% is sold frozen.

2. Has today's use changed from its original use?
There was a time when blueberries were only available during harvest season. Due to advances made in storage, shipping and handling they are available frozen for use year round and also in 35 different products in the typical supermarket. Some examples of these are cereals, jellies, syrup, baked goods, yogurt, ice cream, juices and baby foods.

3. If yes, how was it originally used and why was there a shift in use?
Originally most berries were available fresh in-season. With the ability to freeze and transport berries this has changed.

C. Industry Changes
1. How has technology changed the industry? What are some of these improvements/changes?
Irrigation technology has changed the industry. Although acreage has decreased in the past 20 years, yields have doubled due to irrigation.

2. How have the uses for the product changed over the years?
Freezing technology has also changed. Blueberries used to be dried or canned and are now frozen. The majority of blueberries are still sold as fresh product.

3. Has consumption/use of the product increased/decreased? Why? Within the last decade blueberry per capita consumption has increased by about 50 percent. Industry experts expect that growers will increase the number of blueberry plants as a way to expand their yield to meet this growing demand.

D. Future Outlook
1. How is the industry changing currently?
There is a trend towards machine harvesting for fresh consumption, increased use of irrigation and development of new varieties.

2. Are there any future projects that would change how the industry is maintained?
There is a trend towards new and improved hybrid varieties for use in commercial production.

Return to Menu

III. Regional Information

A. Region
1. Where in the state is the commodity grown?
There are some plantings throughout the state, with the major commercial production area being the southeastern part of NC.

2. If more than one location, where is it the most abundant? The least abundant?
The greatest volume of commercial production is in Southeastern, NC. Bladen County is the largest producer. The least abundant area is the Piedmont.

3. Why can't it be grown in another section of the state? Or why the difference in production from area to area?
All areas do not have the proper soil type. Blueberries require an acid soil.

4. When is the growing season?
Mid May through August.

B. Climate
1. What kind of weather does the commodity like?
Blueberries have to have some cold weather to leaf and fruit normally. A temperate climate is required.

2. Is there a specific condition the commodity needs (full sun, shade, etc.)?
Areas of full sun are best for blueberry production.

3. Are there ideal temperatures the commodity needs?
Blueberries need 600 - 1200 hours of temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit in order to leaf and fruit normally.

C. Soil
1. What type of soil works best with this commodity? Why? Is it rich in a specific nutrient, etc.?
Blueberries need acidic soils with an ideal pH of 4.5.

2. Is there an ideal temperature for the soil?
N/A Blueberries are woody perennials. They are in the field year round. They do need a certain amount of cold temperatures and explained above.

3. Do certain soil conditions increase crop production? If yes, what are they?
They need a water table within 36 inches of the surface, low pH and high organic soil.

D. Weather Conditions
1. In emergency weather conditions what precautions are taken? Are precautions usually preventative (advance) or reactive (as it occurs)?
Irrigation is used for frost protection. This is a preventive action to stop damage from frost to plants. Irrigation is started at temperatures of 34-36 degrees. Water when changing from water to ice (liquid to solid) releases heat. Forming ice and this release of heat helps to keep the plants above 32 degrees.

Return to Menu

IV. Production

A. Production Steps
1. When are seeds planted?
Blueberries are not produced from seeds. They are propagated from hardwood cuttings.

2. What is the estimated time before sprouts appear?
Cuttings are started outdoors in a rooting bed in winter or summer. Summer cuttings root in 6 weeks and winter cuttings root in 6 months. Rooted cuttings are transplanted to the field in the winter when they are dormant to prevent damage to the plants.

3. How long generally before the crop is ready to be harvested?
Once the rooted cuttings are in the field some production can be expected in the third year. The peak production will occur in about 8 years. Plants can continue in production for decades.

4. Once the crop is taken from the ground where does it go? Is it stored somewhere before it is ready for use? Or does it get packaged right away? If stored, what is it stored in and why?
Blueberries are hand or machine harvested and are immediately taken to a packing shed where they are packaged in plastic pint containers called clamshells. The product is refrigerated or frozen as quickly as possible of the same day it is harvested.

B. Production Materials
1. Is there any special equipment used during the whole production process? What are they?
There are machine harvesters, automated packaging equipment and modern cold storage facilities.

2. How was the production process handled before technological developments? What types of machines, if any, were used in the process?
All packaging used to be by hand in wooden cups covered in cellophane. Now commercial product is packaged by machine into plastic containers called clamshells.

3. Are pesticides used in crop production? What are the most common types?
Yes. Fungicides, insecticides and herbicides.

C. Grading
1. Is there an inspection that the product must go through before being packaged/sold?
Yes, blueberries are cleaned and inspected in the packing process.

2. Is the inspection conducted by county, state, or national officials?
Growers often use USDA inspectors to examine their product for quality.

3. What agency is responsible for the grading/testing and setting the standards?
USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)

4. How is the grading done? Is it for each individual piece, or per field, per farm, etc.?
Random samples of the finished product are examined to assure that quality standards are met.

5. Give a basic breakdown of the scale used and what it means.
There is one US Grade for blueberries - "U.S. No. 1.
US No. 1 consist of blueberries which meet the following requirements:
(a)Basic requirements:
        1. Similar varietal characteristics
        2. Clean
        3. Well colored
        4. Not overripe
        5. Not crushed, split or leaking; and
        6. Not wet
(b)Free From:
        1. Attached stems
        2. Mold
        3. Decay
        4. Insects or when there is visible evidence of the presence of insects.
        5. Mummified berries; and
        6. Clusters
(c)Free from Damage Caused By
        1. Shriveling
        2. Broken skins
        3. Scars
        4. Green berries; and,
        5. Other means.

Return to Menu Topics

V. Packaging

A. Is the product usually sold fresh, frozen, dried, etc.?
About 75% of the product harvested in NC is sold fresh. The remaining 25% is used for processing, mostly frozen.

B. If product is sold in a variety of ways what is the most common in NC?
Fresh sales are most common.

C. Is the product packaged? If yes, how? (bags, boxes, bottles, etc)
Fresh berries are packaged most commonly in 1 pint plastic clamshell containers. They are packaged in cardboard packages called flats, which contain 12 pints. Frozen berries are packaged in 30 lb. boxes.

D. Why is it done this way? Is it economical, prevents bruising, industry standard or for shipping purposes, etc.?
This is the industry standard.

Return to Menu

VI. Shipping

A. Distribution
1. What is the most common method of distribution in your industry?
Most product is shipped in refrigerated trucks.

2. Is the product sold mainly to retail, food service, wholesale, specialty outlets or a variety of outlets? What is the most common?
Most fresh product from NC is shipped to retail stores.

3. Does the product go to one place, then another before ending up on a grocery store shelf or restaurant? If yes, where does it go?
Most blueberries in NC are handled through marketing organizations who collect berries from several growers and ship them to warehouses for distribution to retail stores.

4. Is the commodity exported? Domestically, internationally?
Most fresh NC berries are sold in the Northeast in major metropolitan areas. Some are sent to Canada and Europe and occasionally to Japan.

B. Transporting
1. How is the commodity normally transported (from farm to retail outlet)?
By refrigerated truck

2. Does the transportation vehicle require special features? (Refrigeration, etc.)
Must be refrigerated to maintain quality.

3. Have methods of transportation changed over the years? (Before automobiles, etc. how was it transported?) Or has method of transportation stayed the same? And if so, how is it done?
In the early days of production in NC, blueberries were shipped by rail to the Northern markets. Now for domestic shipments, refrigerated trucks are used and for export, transportation is by air and by sea.

Return to Menu Topics

VII. Buying

A. Product
1. What is the product used for? Are there different uses?
Blueberries can be used fresh, for baking, in salads, jellies and jams, as a topping for cereal, ice cream and yogurt. There are many main dish recipes that use blueberries also.

2. When purchasing/inspecting the commodity (at the store) how do you know it is fresh?
Fresh blueberries should be plump, firm and relatively free from leaves and stems.

3. Is there a trick to buying and finding ripe/fresh product? (Smell, thumping, shaking, color etc.)
See above question

B. Labels
1. Is your product required to carry a label?
Berries must be labeled with product identity, volume, producers or distributors name and address. Some labels are also in French for the Canadian market.

2. Is there an industry standard for the label, or is it individualized for each company/producer/grower?
The barcode used on packages is a standard code for the industry. This is a code placed on packaging that identifies products when scanned in the retail store. Labels may be individualized by using the producer's logo.

Return to Menu Topics

VIII. Nutritional Information

A. Food Pyramid
1. What group of the food pyramid does the commodity fall into?
Fruits

2. Is there a recommended daily allowance of this?
Two to Four

B. What nutrients are found in the commodity? How is this helpful?
Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C and they also contain vitamin A, iron, potassium and magnesium. Blueberries are a good source of carbohydrates and fiber. They are fat free and contain no cholestorol. Blueberries only contain 42 calories or a 1/2 cup serving.

Return to Menu

Back to Teacher Commodity Page
AG's COOL Homepage


Other Links:
Official NCDA&CS Markets Blueberries Page