Master’s Thesis: Blueberry Growers

As consumers, many of us are now more conscious than ever about the food we buy. Was in grown locally? Organically? Can we afford it? I wrote my master’s thesis on the management practices of blueberry growers in Maine and compared four different categories: Organic, No-Spray, Conventional, and Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. My survey was sent to over 340 growers, with a response rate of about 30%. This study required me to combine knowledge of insect biology and behavior, human behavior, natural resource management, and pesticides.

Harvesting wild, low bush blueberries

My data showed very few factors to predict farm type. Despite my expectations, for example, organic growers are not necessarily younger in age or more concerned about the environment than the other groups. Through my research, I also came to see pesticide as a form of “medicine for your crops.” In this analogy, the type of “medicine” and the “dosage” determine the effects.  Some are extremely toxic even in very tiny doses, while others require a lot of application to have a minimal effect. As consumers, we need to understand that, while our concerns over pesticides are legitimate, not all pesticides are created equal.


I also looked at growers’ adoption of practices that promote native pollinators and parasitoids (insects that prey upon other insects).  Honeybee importation is costly and can contribute to the spread of disease, but there are a few strategies growers can use to preserve the beneficial insects on their land. I looked at adoption of these practices and related it to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory.

Burning with hay is one way to prune a blueberry field.


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