Vahejõe, K., Albert, T., Noormets, M., Karp, K., Paal, T., Starast, M. and Värnik, R. 2010. Berry Cultivation in Cutover Peatlands in Estonia: Agricultural and Economical Aspects.  Baltic Forestry 16 (2): 264 – 272

The aim of the study is to examine if lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) cultivation on cutover peatlands is as profitable as half-highbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium x Vaccinium cyrumbosum) and strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) cultivation on mineral soil. In addition it is examined if, due to land use changes, the abandoned peat excavation areas can be turned into a profitable land resource. Current experiments tested the suitability of a former pine bog area abandoned after peat mining for the cultivation of lowbush blueberry. Wild berry cultivation on those fields is rather a new agricultural branch and growers need efficient producing technologies. As data about the nutrient needs of blueberry on cutover peat fields are still lacking, a fertilizing trial was carried out. In the fertilization study the yield was used as an agrotechnical indicator to evaluate the viability of peat soils usage. A benefit-cost ratio analysis was used to assess the profitability of blueberry cultivation. A questionnaire survey was conducted to gather data on the costs for establishing a plantation, its maintenance, harvesting and marketing costs. It was found that on cutover peat land the fertilized blueberries produced 200 to 535 g berries per plant. The economic analysis showed that the benefit-cost ratio for lowbush blueberry on cutover peat areas was 227 %. The benefit-cost ratio for half-highbush blueberry and strawberry cultivation on the mineral soil was significantly lower at 116% and 43%, respectively. The highest profit came from lowbush blueberry and was 6299 EUR ha-1, whereas the lowest was for strawberry at 2117 EUR ha-1 from cultivation on mineral soil. The profit from half-highbush blueberry cultivation on mineral soil was 4855 EUR ha-1. Finally, it can be concluded that lowbush blueberry cultivation allows to put cutover peat lands into use, and lowbush blueberry production on those areas is economically profitable.

Key words: Vaccinium angustifolium, land use, land abandonment, peat mining, fertilization, yield, economic analyses, benefit-cost ratio.