For centuries, blueberries maintained popularity in the USA, with a thriving commercial business in the Northeast USA and Canada. An important step in the development of the highbush blueberry industry came in the turn of the century.
Efforts in the early 1900's to domesticate the wild highbush blueberry resulted in today's cultivated highbush blueberry industry.
For decades "cultivated" or "highbush" blueberries have been improved through natural selection and plant breeding programs to produce an optimal blueberry with desirable flavor, texture and color for fresh and processed markets.
Cultivated varieties have been enhanced to offer magnificent plump berries with deep, rich color and a delicious fruity flavor. These plant breeding programs have resulted in the development of superior berries both for the consumer and the food processing industry.
Growing: North America is the world's leading blueberry producer, accounting for nearly 90% of world production at the present time. The North American harvest runs from mid-April through early October, with peak harvest in July which is also known as National Blueberry Month.
Highbush blueberries are perennial, long-lived, deciduous, woody shrubs. They belong to the family Ericaceae, which also includes such plants as cranberry, azalea, rhododendron, and heather. Blueberries thrive in acid soils and do best in soils with a pH between 4 and 5. Cultivars require from 120 to 160 growing degree days to ripen fruit.
Blueberry plants flower in spring, with flowers at the tip of canes and the tip of the cluster opening first. They are pollinated by bees. Fruit development occurs for about 2 to 3 months after bloom, depending on cultivar, weather, and plant vigor. Sugar content of fruit will increase during maturation to about 15 percent when fruit is ripe.
Yields can be as high as 20 tons per acre (T/A), although yields of 7 to 8 T/A are typical of mature plantings.