Researchers Drs. Danny Barney and Kim Hummer conducted variety trials on on-native Alaska blueberries in cooperation with Alaska Berries of Kenai. It has been difficult to find any non-native blueberry that is consistently hardy in Alaska to make it worth growing commercially. Their abstract is below. The full article is available at the Journal of the American Pomological Society 66(3):145-152. 2012. Research at UAF also conducted hardiness trials of these cultivars in Fairbanks. In fact, many species and cultivars have been tested over the years since Gold Rush Days. None survived above the snow line. You can get a handful of berries on the stems protected y snow, but all branches were killed above the snow line. It does hint that heavy mulching or microclimate manipulation might improve survival, but when our wild blueberries are so abundant and delicious, why bother?
Abstract: Home and commercial cultivation of small fruits is popular in Alaska and blueberries of several species, such as V. corymbosum and V. angustifolium, have potential as cultivated crops for local production. In June 2009, we established blueberry plantings in two locations on the Kenai Peninsula, approximately 106 kilometers southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Our objectives were to compare effects of location and cultivar for three northern highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) and six half-high (V. corymbosum Å~ V. angustifolium) blueberry cultivars on plant survival, fall tip dieback, winter injury, yield and fruit weight. Severe winter injury and some mortality were observed by June 2011. At both locations, highbush cultivars ‘Duke’, ‘Earliblue’, and ‘Patriot’, and the half-high cultivars ‘Chippewa’ and ‘Northland’ had severe fall tip dieback and winter injury. These five cultivars are not recommended for Southcentral Alaska, although ‘Patriot’ produced a few large ripe fruit in 2011. The remaining half-high cultivars survived well and produced yields in 2011. ‘Northblue’ and ‘Northsky’ ripened first, followed by ‘Northcountry’ and ‘Polaris’. Fruit was harvested three times in September 2011. ‘Northblue’ yield was 0.25 kg·plant-1 (2-years post-establishment) and mean berry size was 1.98 g·berry-1. Yields for ‘Northcountry’, ‘Northsky’, ‘Polaris’, and ‘Patriot’ were 0.09, 0.18, 0.05, and 0.02 kg·plant-1, respectively. Berry weights were 0.66, 0.88, and 1.50 g·berry-1 for ‘Northcountry’, ‘Northsky’, and Polaris’, respectively. Berry weights were not determined for ‘Patriot’. Based on our initial observations, given appropriate cultivar selection and plant management, half-high blueberry production on the Kenai Peninsula appears feasible for home and small-acreages. Snow-catch strategies for winter protection and tunnels for season extension are recommended.