Pollination of Blueberry Bushes

Overview

Any experienced blueberry grower will tell you that the key to producing a good crop is pollination. Understanding the basics of blueberry bush pollination and how it occurs can help growers select the right cultivars and increase their yields.

Insects and Pollination

Insects don't visit flowers for pollen but for nectar. When they enter the flower, pollen is released through a pair of pores at the tip of each anther. The insect then carries the pollen to the next flower it visits. When the insect brushes against the stigma of the next flower, the pollen is removed and pollination occurs. Because blueberry pollen is heavy and sticky, it cannot be carried by the wind like other pollens. It must be transported by insects.

Importance of Bees

Bees are almost essential to the pollination of blueberry bushes. Bees tend to remove more pollen from blueberries because they vibrate the flower during their visit, called "sonication." However, some bees remove nectar by drilling holes into the flowers. Because they do not go into the flower, they are ineffective pollinators.

Self- vs Cross-Pollination

Depending on the type, blueberries may or may not require cross-pollination. Cross-pollination means that more than one cultivar of blueberry is required for the bush to produce berries. Most rabbiteye, lowbush and half-high blueberries require cross pollination. They are often described as self-unfruitful, self-incompatible, or not self-fertile. Northern and southern highbush blueberry bushes do not and may be described as self-fertile, self-compatible or self-fruitful.

Cross-Pollination and Production

Although highbush blueberries do not require cross-pollination, studies show that it will increase yields and produce larger berries. According to a University of Georgia study, blueberry production doubled on bushes that were cross-pollinated as opposed to those that were not.

Choosing Cultivars

It is fairly easy to choose cultivars for cross-pollination. First, you must have two bushes of the same type (rabbiteye, lowbush, etc.). Then, select two varieties that bloom at the same time. This will give the greatest window of opportunity for the bushes to be pollinated by insects. The two cultivars should be planted next to each other or in alternating rows. For example, choosing "Duke" and "Bluetta" is a good choice because both are early season blueberries. However, choosing "Duke" and "Elliott," a late-season berry, is not.

Keywords: blueberry pollination, pollinating blueberries, blueberry pollination troubleshooting

About this Author

Darcy Logan has been a full-time writer since 2004. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Arts in special education from Middle Tennessee State University. Before writing, she worked for several years as an English and special education teacher. Logan published first book, "The Secret of Success is Not a Secret," and several education workbooks under the name Darcy Andries.