The North Carolina blueberry industry is primarily in the southeastern counties, although small pick-your-own and home plantings exist throughout. Total acreage was estimated at 4,483 in 2001, up about 500 acres from the 1996 survey (NCDA). Seventy-five percent of commercial acres are planted with highbush or southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) with the remaining twenty-five percent in later-ripening rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei). Trends include increased planting of mechanically harvestable cultivars, and increased use of irrigation for drought relief and frost protection. North Carolina growers enjoy higher prices than more northern states due to our earlier crop. Prices have also increased in recent years with favorable publicity about the health benefits of eating blueberries and other fruits and vegetables high in antioxidant activity. In 2003, the state produced 22.5 million pounds of blueberries valued at $34.8 million (USDA/NASS).
Diseases caused by fungi (stem canker, stem blight, leaf spots and fruit rots) are of primary concern. A wide range of other pathogen types can also cause economic loss, ranging from the virus-like blueberry stunt phytoplasma to dodder (Cuscuta sp.), a parasitic higher plant. NCSU and USDA scientists have developed disease-resistant, climate-adapted cultivars that account for most of the acreage in the state.
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