Lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium myrtilloides (Michaux) management on hydro-electric rights-of-way in northern Manitoba

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Barker, Jennifer E.
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This study examines the population ecology of V. myrtilloides at two experimental sites (a rock outcrop and a sandy jack pine area) in the Thompson region of northen Manitoba. Experimental management trials were conducted at these sites to stimulate vegetative and reproductive growth in order to create a crop with harvest potential. Germination and propagation requirements were studied in the laboratory. Environmental preferences were examined to determine the necessary conditions for creating a stable shrub community to aid in right-of-way vegetation management. The experimental management treatments were derived from the methods used in large scale management of V. angustifolium in eastern Canada i.e. spring burning, spring and fall clipping, fertilizer addition, and mulching. Changes in stem numbers and cover values were used to determine treatment effects. The management techniques that proved to be most useful in increasing vegetative reproduction (stem number) of V. myrtilloides on the rock outcrop were spring burning and fall clipping. The results for the sandy site were inconclusive due to a high variability in stem numbers within and between treatment groups. The sandy site exhibited a significant increase in cover values in response to fertilizer treatments and spring clipping with fertilizer. Other vegetation stimulated by the management treatments were Carex spp. (sedges) at the sandy site, which responded positively to fertilization. Seed germination was most successful in pots containing native soil, and resulted in vigorous seedlings. Vegetative reproduction in the form of stem cuttings was unsuccessful. Future studies should be directed toward determining the appropriate fire cycle, and the optimal burn intensity for Manitoba populations of lowbush blueberry, incorporating community-based research. The ability of V. myrtilloides to es ablish a productive stable shrub community must be monitored over a long time period.