Wild Blueberries—The Maine Event | National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Do you like the juicy flavor of wild blueberries? Thank you Maine growers. Maine is the leading producer of lowbush or wild blueberries. Lowbush blueberries are native to northern New England and Atlantic Canada. Nearly 500 farmers manage 36,000 acres of commercial wild blueberry land in Maine.

According to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, wild blueberry production for Maine in 2021 totaled 105 million pounds, up significantly from 2020. Yield per acre also increased significantly. In 2021, the average yield was 5,000 pounds per acre, up 2,710 pounds from the previous year. The total value of the crop exceeded $80 million with an average price of 76.6 cents per pound.

Wild blueberries are physically different from other blueberries, which affects the handling of the fruit after harvest. Wild blueberries tend to be smaller with thinner skins than other species, and each pint of berries harvested will have a range of ripeness.

The University of Maine The Wild Blueberry Extension Program strives to reach organic and conventional wild blueberry growers with ways to improve the shelf life and quality of their crops. A grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE) supports Maine Extension’s efforts. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, SARE provides grants to farmers, ranchers, educators, researchers, graduate students and others for on-farm research, education and development professional and community.

The University of Maine Extension is conducting on-farm research to identify the ideal storage temperature for fresh wild blueberries on small farms where only one cooling step is possible. They found that managing relative humidity and air movement inside cold rooms is necessary to achieve high quality berries. Additionally, the researchers found that although cooling to lower temperatures (such as 34°F and 40°F) costs more than cooling to higher temperatures (such as 50°F), the duration of Improved keeping quality and the resulting high quality berries will likely justify the extra expense.

Farmers learned about the research at various events, including the 2021 UMaine Blueberry Hill Summer Farm Day and the 2021 UMaine Wild Blueberry Conference. Other resources, including fact sheets, webinars, and a monthly newsletter, as well as presentations at various farmer workshops and conferences, help ensure that farmers learn how to adapt their management practices to extend the shelf life of their berries.

Learn more about improving the shelf life of Fresh Pack Maine Wild Blueberries.

Photo: Left image of a farmer carrying a crate of freshly picked blueberries. Right image of blueberries in a basket. Both images courtesy of Adobe Stock.

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