Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for blueberry production will vary depending on a grower’s operation size and marketing preferences. The following discussion describes basic machinery and equipment needs for establishing and growing blueberries, and it approximates costs incurred from operating machinery involved in the process. Depending on a grower’s operation size, expertise and previous machinery investments, the grower must determine whether to operate owned equipment or engage a custom service provider.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

A perennial crop, blueberries require several years to mature before they yield fruit. The equipment required to produce blueberries will evolve along with plant maturity. For example, while establishing blueberries, producers won’t need harvesting equipment because the bushes must mature before they produce fruit. After establishing a blueberry field, tillage and site preparation equipment have fewer blueberry-related applications.

The following table lists basic equipment and machinery requirements for establishing and producing blueberries. This list is a starting point. Growers may accomplish the necessary tasks with different machinery and implements than those listed. An operation’s equipment needs will depend on its scale and selected marketing model. For example, u-pick farms, which rely heavily on consumers visiting a farm to pick fresh berries, would have a reduced need for a mechanical harvester relative to wholesale marketers, which sell pre-picked berries to entities that market to consumers or institutional buyers. Blueberry producers also may choose between hiring harvest labor and operating a mechanical harvester. Hand labor may substitute for other equipment, too. For example, small-scale operators may prefer to create raised beds by hiring seasonal labor instead of using a bed shaper. As another example, producers could choose between hiring hand labor to apply mulch and using a row mulcher, or they could choose to apply fertilizer by hand or use a sidedresser implement. If producers don’t already own specific equipment needed for blueberry production and would prefer to do the work themselves, then they could consider renting the necessary equipment from a local rental store. Some USDA NRCS offices have also rental equipment available. Alternatively, some operators may choose to buy small-scale equipment, such as a bed shaper, and have it available to use.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Blueberry Production*

Wholesale Marketing U-Pick Marketing
Tractor X X
Fertilizer spreader X X
Disk harrow X X
Chain harrow X X
Sub-soiler X X
Disk bed X X
Rotary tiller X X
Utility sprayer X X
Broadcast seeder X X
Drill X X
Bed shaper X X
Trailer X X
Front end loader X X
Row mulcher X X
Rotary cutter X X
Irrigation system X X
Mechanical harvester X
Refrigeration system X X

* An “X” indicates machinery or equipment needed for a given production model.

Owned and Operated Equipment or Custom Hire Services

Machinery and equipment size and capacity needs will depend on operation scale and influence the related operating or custom hiring expenses. The following table compares projected costs for two scenarios. In the first, a grower owns and operates equipment. In the second, a grower hires a custom service provider to carry out equipment-related work. The machinery costs are meant to represent total costs incurred for operating equipment used in blueberry production. For some implements, the table assumes that they’re used more than once in a given year, and all equipment wouldn’t be used each year. The table breaks down basic equipment needed during the establishment and mature production time periods.

Estimated Machinery Costs and Custom Rates, Per Pass Per Acre Unless Noted





Fertilizer spreader $18.85 $5.34
Disk harrow $8.28 $12.74
Chain harrow $8.50 $8.83
Sub-soiler $14.56 $17.06
Disk bed $8.74 $12.99
Rotary tiller $32.07 $17.80
Utility sprayer $5.24 $14.00
Broadcast seeder $6.90 $23.00
Drill $12.80 $14.07
Bed shaper $27.87
Trailer* $13.64 $95.00
Front end loader* $21.88 $225.00
Rotary cutter $5.57 $16.38
Mechanical harvester $0.39/lb ** $0.18/lb

* Assumes daily rental cost for custom rate

** Processed market mechanical harvesting cost is $0.39 per pound.


Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. 2012. Machinery Cost Estimates: Summary . University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Urbana, IL 61801.

Department of Agricultural Economics. 2010. Blueberry 2010 Fruit and Nut Planning Budgets . Mississippi State University. Mississippi State, MS 39762.

Morgan, Kim, Jim Olmstead, Jeff Williamson, Gerard Krewer, Fumi Takeda, Dan MacLean, Rob Shewfelt, Charlie Li, Anish Malladi and Paul Lyrene. 2011. Economics of Hand and Mechanical Harvest of New “Crispy” Flesh Cultivars from Florida . 2011 Blueberry Educational Session. Savannah, GA.

Plain, Ronald L. and Joyce White. 2012. 2012 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri . University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO 65211.

Safley, Charles D., William O. Cline and Charles M. Mainland. n.d. Evaluating the Profitability of Blueberry Production . Raleigh, NC 27695.

Wilson, Roger K. 2014. 2014 Nebraska Farm Custom Rates – Part I . Lincoln, NE 68583.