Why Are Blueberries Struggling This Season? OSU Extension Expert Explains Why

Blueberries. They’re delectable and they’re used in a litany of recipes, but they haven’t been doing so well this season, and some people are wondering why. 

Well, if you would like to know, simply go to the OSU Extension website, where you can ask any question related to Oregon you would like, and by God, an expert will do their best to solve it for you.

The same goes for the blueberry problem. A very detailed question was entered asking why berry production might be down specifically in Washington County, discussing how her eight blueberry bushes were struggling that year, and how the berry production was down to 30% of the usual harvest, with three of the plants not even producing berries. She does add context, as you should with every extension inquiry.

“We try to prune them each year just before the blooms,” she claims, “but the plants are smaller and thinner than usual.”

She also added that the blueberry leaves had a rust coloring to them, that the new growth at the base was flimsy, and that this is unnatural given they’d been producing for several years. “Can you tell me if this is a disease or fertilizer or some other issue.”

Rhonda Frick-Wright is a Master Gardener, a title that comes with many years of horticultural study and a certification. She was more than happy to answer, pouring her knowledge and even relating to the problem herself.

“I have been telling my husband that our production is down this year,” Frick-Wright said, “and he has been disagreeing, so thank you for echoing my observations.” She then went on to describe what could be wrong, starting off with stress, which is a big killer for plants. “Stress to the plants is the biggest cause,” she continued, “and goodness knows they have had lots of stress this year.”

Of course, by stress, she means the rapid changes in the Oregon weather. Dry summer months, large temperature swings, and hail in June. Her advice in this case: wait until next year. That’s all you can really do in this case.

As for other problems, she readily lists what they could be, as well as their solutions:

  • Soil pH. Blueberries specifically need 4.5-5.5 soil and get stressed when it’s higher than 6.0.
  • It’s been hot in Oregon lately, and blueberry roots are shallow, so more water in the summer may be necessary.
  • Blueberries should be pruned when dormant or else they open up to diseases. That’s usually January through March.
  • Generally just keeping an eye out for aphids and the like. Stressed plants can be particularly appetizing to creatures such as they.
  • Diseased stems. Cutting diseased stems is very important as well, as fungal and bacterial infections can spread if they’re not taken care of.

“Keep the weeds down and the debris picked up,” Frick-Wright ended with, “and we’ll hope for better blueberry weather next year.”


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