In 2003, after participating in a day-long blueberry conference where presenters reported on research results, Oregon State University Extension Berry Crops Specialist Bernadine Strik and other small fruits researchers couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.
“Considering that blueberry acreage doubled from 1990 to 2004, we felt there was a big need for a school that would address everything from site selection to markets, cultivars and how to develop and maintain good plantings,” Strik said.
Behind Strik’s leadership, a year later, the researchers launched the first OSU Blueberry School.
“It was a great success,” Strik said. Three years later, after Oregon acreage increased another 43 percent, the researchers put on a second blueberry school.
It, too, went over well, Strik said, and now, with harvested acreage up 83 percent since 2007, the researchers are back with a third school, scheduled for March 16 and 17 on the OSU campus.
Strik described the school’s main emphasis as an attempt “to help growers produce high-quality fruit with high yields while minimizing input costs as much as possible, and to help ensure that those who are getting in the business make the correct decisions.”
The school has morphed over the years to keep up with changes in the industry. This year, for example, instead of one presentation on organic blueberry production, information on organic production methods will be interspersed throughout the presentations.
Strik made the change both because acres in organic blueberry production have increased substantially since 2007, and because conventional growers often utilize organic production methods.
The school also will provide new information on use of organic amendments, Strik said, and new information on nutrient management in organic and conventional production systems, a presentation that will include information on leaf-tissue standards for various cultivars.
Also, she said, blueberry industry consultants will provide market information. And new this year, the school will include a section on blueberry plant physiology.
“This has gone over well in test runs,” Strik said. “It helps growers understand the why and not just the how.”
Strik described the workload involved in putting on the school as “tremendous. Not just from me,” she said, “but from all the speakers involved.”
Presenters, for example, are asked to provide articles on their presentations in advance of the school so the organizers can publish the articles in a proceedings book.
“The book is very useful during the meeting, and also serves as a great reference after the meeting,” Strik said. Presentations also will be available to attendees on a computer “thumb drive.”
“All of us are working extra hard to get these articles and presentations done in advance,” she said.
Asked why she and the other presenters take on the extra workload of putting on the school, she said: “Because we feel we have great information that will help all growers be successful. Growers will get more from this meeting than any other. These are extension talks, not research talks. We are pulling the latest information together on the best practices.”
Also, Strik said, when the school is done, she feels “a great satisfaction.
“This is why I love doing what I’m doing.
“I’m trying to focus on that right now during this stressful time,” she said, half joking.
OSU Blueberry School
Researchers from Oregon State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Washington State University will provide information on blueberry plant physiology, water requirements of plants to help irrigation scheduling, pruning, nutrient management, site preparation and other topics at the OSU Blueberry School.
The school will be held March 16-17 at the LaSells Stewart Center and CH2M Hill Alumni Center on the OSU campus.
An agenda and registration information can be accessed on line at http://osublueberryschool.org/.