New resource available for Argentine blueberry industry

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New resource available for Argentine blueberry industry

Researchers are helping fill in the information gap for the relatively new Argentine blueberry industry.

With the aim of bringing Argentine producers, technicians and managers a practical tool to diagnose blueberry diseases, researchers from Universidad Nacional de Tucumán (UNT) have developed the Spanish-language book "Diseases in Blueberry Cultivation: A Manual for Recognition."

In a conversation with, author Silvia Hongn commented that the book is not intended to make up for a scientific void but to fill in the gap of practical tools identify blueberry diseases.

"The research is a result of practical application. The information from the book is based in that spirit," said Hongn from the UNT Department of Plant Pathology in the College of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

The book has over 200 photographs, representing the biotic and abiotic disorders studied by the working group in plantations from Tucumán, Salta, Entre Rios and Buenos Aires.

"Every disease is described with signs and symptoms, which will be useful to the producer or technician. There is also a description of the fungus because the idea was also to collaborate with those diagnostic laboratories," she said.

The researcher explained that blueberry diseases present with different characteristics depending on the area of ​​cultivation.

"We had a lot of information on diseases primarily from various U.S. states, but they were more for guidance. You could not apply that information directly to our problem," she said.

"The disease impact is different from the information we have from there (U.S.). We must bear in mind that development in Tucumán is sustained by incorporating new varieties developed in Georgia and Florida, which in North America were the last areas incorporated into blueberry production.

"We are working with such varieties, patented varieties that have been slowly replacing the varieties we started with in the late 90's. So we don't have many terms of comparison because the only literature that has some parallels is generated in Georgia and Florida.

"Here diseases have formed that are not described elsewhere in the world where blueberries are cultivated," the researcher explained.

This occurrence stems, in some cases, from the inability to access information relating to certain diseases and in other cases, correct interpretation is made difficult from using results generated under different production systems.

A book with history

Hongn detailed the book's long history. UNT began to study phytosanitary problems during the first Tucumán planting and has continued to comprehensively address the development of diseases.

"We got the first blueberry sample in '98-'99 and at that time, we knew nothing about blueberries or even what the fruit was like. It caught my attention and I paid a lot of attention to the diagnosis and that was received by the producer. So I was invited to run through the first farm in Tucuman," she said.

"There we began to take the first steps, getting involved with the crop. Beginning in 2002, we started to make systematic checks on all farms established in the province and I became enormously involved with the issue because there was so much to be done," she added.

Since then, Hongn has been consistently working on the issue and in that time, producers have shown great interest in the progress made.

"Thanks to the support of producers, we were able to form a collaborative team and work on the area," she said, a fact that added to the personal motivation of the researchers in the field.

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