Growing blueberries in Western Australia

Page last updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2016 - 8:16am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Handling blueberries

Harvesting

Blueberries turn a solid blue colour when mature and ready to harvest. If they still have a reddish tinge, they are slightly immature and will not be as sweet.

Berries do not sweeten further after harvest so it is important for consumer satisfaction that they are harvested when mature. The berries do not all ripen on the bush at the same time, therefore they require multiple harvests, usually three to four picks at five to seven day intervals over a three to four week period.

Blueberries for the fresh market are mostly hand-harvested. This is done by gently picking with your thumb and forefinger, keeping your other hand cupped under to prevent dropping and then placed into a small field bucket. Avoid excessive handling to try and maintain the ‘bloom’ (white, dusty coating).

Keep all harvested fruit out of the sun to prevent heating and rapid deterioration. Avoid harvesting wet fruit as this is susceptible to rapid fungal decay.

Harvesting can be sped up by use of a special rake, tree shaker, or even a mechanical harvester, but these are less selective and rougher on the fruit. As a result, these are usually restricted to large plantings and fruit destined for processing.

Storage

Fruit should be forced-air cooled to below 10°C within four hours from harvest, then quickly sorted, packed and held in a coolroom at between 0 and 2°C for maximum quality and shelf life.

For extended storage, blueberries should be stored at -0.5 to 0°C and 90–95% relative humidity. Highbush blueberries can be held for up to two weeks, Rabbiteye blueberries for up to four weeks.

Marketing

Blueberries are most commonly marketed in 125g plastic punnets with a lid to prevent moisture loss. They are normally distributed in trays containing 12 punnets. At retail outlets, blueberries should be held and displayed as close to 0°C as possible.

Blueberries may also be frozen without any pre-treatment and used later.

Current research

Many of the blueberry management practices recommended here are based on experiences from locations other than Western Australia.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is working with a supplier of blueberries to Perth retail markets, with the possibility of establishing trials to determine best practices of plant production under local conditions.

Further information