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Where can I find certified organic blueberry plants?


The National Organic Program defines planting stock as “any plant or plant tissue other than annual seedlings, but including rhizomes, shoots, leaf or stem cuttings, roots, or tubers, used in plant production or propagation.” The NOP regulation applies to the details of the growing methods of the plants. Certified farms must use organic planting stock, bulbs, roots and cuttings except when these are not commercially available. If you cannot find your preferred blueberry variety, or can’t get sufficient quality or quantities for the scale of your operation, you can use non-organic planting stock.

As with all seed and planting stock searches, you have to provide your certifier with good documentation of your search. And of course, price cannot be a consideration for determination of commercial availability.

Each year, the availability of certified organic planting stock grows. More varieties, better quality and bigger quantities become available. It’s the age-old high school economics supply-and-demand lesson in action.

To find planting stock, you can Google “certified organic planting stock” for your area, or “certified organic blueberry plants,” using the specific variety you‘re looking for. This will help you find local plant nurseries that carry certified organic plant stock. Another great resource may be the organic growers in your area. Networking with the other certified organic growers in your area can be a great benefit in many ways to everyone involved.

If you’ve exhausted all your options for finding the variety, quality and quantity that you need, and you’ve kept really good records of your search, you can begin to explore other options. NOP regulation states that you can purchase a non-organic plant and sell its fruit the next day as certified organic fruit with some exceptions—the regulation is in the details. If the purchased non-organic plant has been grown in planting media containing any synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, wetting agents or other prohibited materials or has been treated with prohibited fungicides or insecticides, these are prohibited substances, and so the fruit cannot be certified organic. Not only that, if you introduce these prohibited substances to your certified organic soil, you may risk needing to re-transition your soil for another 36 months.

Buying non-organic bare-root plants rather than potted plants is the best way to avoid these unwanted materials. If you can verify and document that your bare-root planting stock hasn’t been treated with any prohibited materials, you can plant the new planting stock in your organic soil and sell the fruit as certified organic.

Only the fruit can be sold as organic. The planting stock, crowns or bulbs off the newly purchased non-organic plant must be in your certified organic ground, grown according to NOP regulation for 12 months before the plants can be sold as organic. Since most perennial fruit-stock will not produce a commercial crop the first year of planting, this probably would not be an issue.

For example, after failing to find commercially available organic plants, you can plant non-organic blueberry plants and harvest an organic crop that same year after planting. However, you cannot sell any excess planting stock as organic blueberry plants for 12 months.

Ultimately, the search for certified organic planting stock is similar to the search for seeds. You have to keep good records of your steps. And while it’s best to find and support certified organic suppliers, you have other options if you’re unable to find what you need. As with all certification questions, call your certifying agency to be sure of what you’re bringing into your certified organic farm operation.

Posted: May 2015
Answer By: Jennifer Nelson