Blueberries and blackcurrants – for desserts and preserves. Learn more about production of blue berries in Europe.

World’s production of blueberries and black currants

Blueberries

Blueberries

 

 

Production of blueberries was increased almost 30-times during last 20 years[1]

In 1995, the world’s production of highbush blueberry (also called American blueberry) was 23,000 tons. In 2016, it was increased to 650,000 tons. North America is the largest supplier of those fruits – 53.4% of the world’s production. South America is right behind – 23.9% of the world’s production, and Europe – 12.4% of the world’s production. On our continent, Spain (24,000 tons), Poland (14,000 tons) and Germany (11,000 tons) are the largest producers of blueberries.

Blueberries

Four types of blueberries

Due to the required period of cooling, blueberries can be divided into four groups:

  1. Northern type (cultivated in the northern regions of the world, including Poland) – adjusted to the temperate climate, deciduous during winter (e.g. “Bluecrop”, “Duke”);
  2. Southern type – vegetation period is longer, plants are not deciduous during winter and they are less resistant to frost. Their fruits are hard, adjusted to hot countries, such as Spain, Italy, North Africa countries (e.g. “Star”, “O’Neal”);
  3. Species of moderate requirements for cool period – not suitable for planting in places with severe winters
  4. There are also species whose development period can be reached in warm climate conditions. They can be called as species repeating fruit bearing, because they are covered with leaves the whole year long and they do not have a winter dormancy period. They are recommended for cultivation in tunnels in the south of Spain and tropical regions“Biloxi”).

Blueberries can be produced throughout the year in different regions of the world. In Colombia, Mexico and Peru, harvesting takes place from September to November – when harvesting in the northern hemisphere is finished, and already started in the southern hemisphere. In Middle and North Europe, species of long dormancy period are most popular. They start to bear fruits in June (e.g. early species of “Duke”). High picking in Poland and Germany is in July and August. “Bluecrop” of average period of ripening is mostly cultivated there.

Blueberries

Long-lived blueberries

Blueberry is a long-lived plant. It may live even for 30 years, but it has to have well prepared stations and appropriate care (such as cutting and fertilization). They are planted in soil of pH 4.5 – 5.5, for example within the areas of forests that used to grow there, or areas specially prepared by exchanging the soil to acidic peat. Their roots go into soil shallowly, therefore they require bedding, in order to protect them from humidity loss. Organic beddings in the form of coniferous wood sawdust or agro woven fabric of different color (green or black) are used. Moreover, in order to obtain the high quality of fruits, precise irrigation and fertilization is important. On no-cover plantations, ground frost protection systems are used, such as sprinkles or wind power installations that remove cold air.

In North Europe, to ensure the continuity of dessert fruits supply to the market, species of different period of ripening are cultivated. Cultivation of very early varieties (e.g. “Chantecleer”, “Duke”) and late varieties (“Chandler”, “Draper”, ‘Liberty”, “Aurora”) is the most profitable. What is more, they can be stored in coolers (for example, “Elliott”, “Liberty”, “Aurora” can be stored till the end of October). Cultivation in tunnels and greenhouses allows changing ripening period (quicker or later), and covers of roofs help get fruits of good quality.

Dessert and preserved fruits

Blueberry is mostly known as a dessert fruit, however some part of its production is also intended for food processing. Usually, two first pickings are made manually, when many fruits are not ripe enough yet. Then, picking is made mechanically by a combine. After sorting, some fruits can be sent to dessert fruits market. However, there are countries that have higher demands (England or the Nordic countries) and they do not accept such fruits. To pick fruits by combine, shrubberies must have the shape of V letter and they cannot be too congested. It is very important to chill the fruits right after picking, to ensure good quality and life.

Black currants

blackcurrant

Almost all currants come from Europe[2]

Up to 94% of the world’s production of currants takes place in Europe. The largest average picking of blackcurrant in our continent between 2013 – 2016 was in Poland (105,000 tons), Ukraine (significantly less than in Poland – 34,000 tons) and the United Kingdom (12,000 tons).

BLACK CURRANTS

Currant preserves

Blackcurrant is mainly cultivated for preserve purposes. They are planted in a simple, cheap technology, in soil, with no covers, with no irrigation, for machine picking (3.5 – 4 m between rows). They are characterized by high fruitfulness and content of anthocyans and Brix extract (“Tiben”, “Tisel”).

Manufacturers constantly search for the methods improving production. Now, it is common to reduce the number of conventional crops. Cultivation contracts are getting more popular. The following can serve as an example. Manufacturers and processors of the United Kingdom cooperate, 95% of production is contracted by the processing company, ensuring product quality and prices of a manufacturer. The sector of eco currant production is also getting developed. This can also increase the profitability – the price of “bio” currants is several times higher.

Dessert fruits produced on a small scale

Dessert black currant is produced on a small scale in the countries of Western Europe. Blackcurrant shrubberies need special treatment – sprouts must be renewed, cultivated in soil or pots, under roofs, for high quality of fruits. Species should be characterized by large, tasty fruits of high content of Brix extract, little currant taste and high fruitfulness (e.g. “Bona”, “Big Ben”, “Gofert”).

Other uses of currants

The other idea for better profitability of blackcurrant cultivation is the production of fruits for special purposes, such as food for children – the so called “premium fruits”. Those kinds of cultivation are contracted, and production is under strict control according to Global G.A.P. and IPO certificates. Fruits of high quality are directed to the recipients for example in Korea, Japan, China, Canada and Australia.

The International Blackcurrant Association is responsible for promotion of blackcurrants and blackcurrant products, such as pro-health drinks. The purpose of the Association is to increase the demand for this valuable fruit.


[1] Material developed in cooperation with Niwa Hodowla Roślin Jagodowych Sp. z o.o.
[2] Ibidem
Blueberries blackcurrant