The LSU AgCenter and several other universities have used funds from a three-year USDA grant to develop a website for people interested or involved in blueberry production.
The information for the website came from universities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and New Jersey, according to LSU AgCenter entomologist Michael Ferro.
This information is designed to provide much-needed information for producers and consumers through the webpage All About Blueberries on the website eXtension.org.
“This specialty crop grant allowed us to bring together 431 articles and videos about blueberries that ranged from the importance of soil pH to how to prepare the soil and from selecting proper varieties to insect control,” Ferro said.
The grant was originally slated to end in 2012 but was extended for one year because of more information to add.
“What I like to tell people about the website is that it is essentially a 431-chapter book on blueberries for free,” Ferro said.
The site is useful for the backyard gardener on up to commercial producers. “There is information on the site that is beneficial to growers in any region of the country, however, most of the blueberry production is in the South and East,” Ferro said.
Videos show how to perform various activities, such as how to take soil samples and how to monitor insects.
In addition to Ferro, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Don Ferrin has been heavily involved with the project.
The initial goal of providing one place where people would find all the information about blueberries has been accomplished, Ferrin said. However, more remains to be done.
“The one-year extension to the grant gives us time to add some information about the nutritional benefits of blueberries and additional marketing information,” Ferrin said.
“If someone is looking for blueberry information, they don’t have to peck here and there,” Ferrin said. “They can come to this All About Blueberries website. If the information is not here, there probably is a link to it.”
As the information was put on the website, Ferro and his team focused on the use of social media to market the site.
“We knew that just having the information out there wouldn’t mean very much until people knew about it,” Ferro said. “So we used Facebook, Twitter and WordPress as vehicles to get the word out.”
For those without access to the internet, the county Extension agent is still available to provide information.
After the grant ends, new content can still be added to the site, Ferro said.
“I ran some numbers on the social media, and we have 1,400 people on Facebook and several hundred people following us on Twitter,” Ferro said. “We get a lot of feedback, and it seems to be a good way to keep people informed about what’s going on.”
“One of the coolest things that I’ve found on the site was an article about the use of blueberries as a hedge,” Ferro said. “You know blueberries are bushes, so you could use them as a hedge between your house and someone else’s and have fruit as well.”
Additional grants will be sought to continue growth and improvement to the site.
To view the All about Blueberries website, go to www.extension.org/blueberries.