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2012 Newsletters - Wild Blueberry Newsletter – August 2012

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wild blueberry newsletter headerAugust 2012

Wild Blueberry Crop Prospects

Maine Crop – Dave Yarborough, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

The blueberry plants in Maine had a mild winter but there was some winter injury, especially in protected areas that warmed up early and lost their dormancy and then were injured by the cold weather following the early warming. We had an early spring, initially plant growth was about a week or two earlier than average. We had good conditions at the beginning of pollination, so most fields had adequate to good pollination. Pollination weather deteriorated at the end of May and early June so set was not very good in the coastal Downeast fields.  Tony Jadzack has not got the hives tallied yet but indicated there were “lots”, so I expect it to be at or exceeding last year’s 65 thousand hives. We did have a number of infection periods for mummy berry disease but there was time for fungicide applications to prevent the disease. There was extensive mummy berry infection if plants were not protected by fungicide and this year we also observed many fields with botrytis blossom blight, which is not normally seen in Maine. In Jonesboro, we received 4.32 and 6.09 inches of rain in April and May respectively and had 4.32 inches in June, so moisture has been adequate which has provided for both good blueberry and weed growth.  The weather has been cool so there is little stress on the plants and with a good fruit set if we get adequate moisture for the remainder of the summer, the crop in Maine could be above average at 90 to 95 million pounds.

Nova Scotia Crop Peter Burgess, Perennia

Nova Scotia had a warm winter, with not a lot of snow cover, but little winter damage was noted.  Plant development was very early this year, with a very dry period to start the season.  Growers who had hoped to burn this year were challenged in mid-April when the Department of Natural Resources put a halt on burning permits due to the dry conditions.  There were a limited number of infection periods for Monilinia this year, but because of the warm temperatures, infection risk was elevated.  As a result, there were pockets of heavy infection even with producers who had one well timed application.  At the end of April there were 3-4 consecutive days across the province where temperatures were well below zero through the early morning hours.  Although no flowers were open, the floral and vegetative buds were opening.  As a result the low areas, in early fields, were hit hard with cold damage.  This either killed buds or greatly delayed opening.  There was a significant yield reduction in many of these areas. There have been patches of spanworm and flea beetle damage in sprout fields throughout the province.  Given the early development stage of the crop however, it is likely there is enough time for these fields to recover and form adequate fruit buds.  There was a significant frost event on or around May 30th in the north eastern end of the province.  Some fields had minor damage while others had significant yield reductions.  Bloom looked very good to exceptional from one end of the province to the other. Demand for bee colonies has been high, given the large amount of bloom and optimism around price for 2012.  The other challenge this year was that many fields developed bloom quickly and at the same time.  Highland fields and lowland fields were in bloom at the same time, this put extra pressure on the pollinators and beekeepers. However, the weather for early to mid-season fields was excellent with many very good flying days at high temperatures.  Botrytis does appear to have had a significant effect on yields in certain areas. We are also continuing to see botrytis affect non-traditional botrytis areas in a larger way.  Fruit set appears to be good at this point and even with some of the isolated challenges we have seen this year there is a very good yield potential in Nova Scotia.

Quebec Crop – Various sources

Quebec expects that there may be a poor crop in the forest so not much picking is expected from these areas. At least two frosts have reduced the crop in the managed fields. So, overall, a 55 million pound crop is expected in Quebec.

NB Crop – Mike Melanson, New Brunswick DAAF

Very little winter injury was observed in most blueberry fields throughout the province.  The plants began growing very early this spring, likely due to a warm week during mid-March.  Most fields throughout the province were generally 7-10 days earlier than in previous years.  A number of Monilinia blight infections periods were recorded, however with proper timing growers achieved adequate control with two fungicide applications.  Blight damage is obvious in fields that were not sprayed or received one application.  Weather during bloom was adequate, and some rain during mid-bloom in the southern region.  Northern regions had more favorable weather.  Although not verified, it is estimated that some 20,000 colonies were used for pollination, and more bumble bee quads were used in conjunction with honey bees in many fields.  Since bloom, the weather had been dry and the rain at the end of the month was needed.  Bloom was done very early this year compared to other years where flowers are present to the end of June. A number of fields had severe branching caused by the blueberry gall midge.  The production on those fields is very difficult to assess overall.  In the crop fields, there seems to a lot of vegetative growth with long lateral branches.  However, in other fields, the potential production seems to be very good.  There are still many questions on how to manage this insect. The increase in total production is derived from fields develop a few years ago and productivity on those fields is increasing. Although a number of fields are very difficult to assess, if adequate moisture is available for the next few weeks, and the high number of honey bees and bumble bees used for pollination, the provincial crop should be better than the provincial average, which is 29 million pounds.

PEI Crop – Chris Jordan, PEI DAF

The weather conditions during the winter of 2011/2012 were relatively mild with very little winter injury resulting on the crop.  Spring arrived early so crop development was 10-14 days earlier than normal.  Conditions for Monilinia blight infections also arrived earlier than normal with several infection periods recorded.  Despite growers’ best efforts, a small amount of crop damage did result from Monilinia.  Importing honey bees from Nova Scotia posed challenging this year with the recent find of tracheal mites in that province.  In total, 1300 colonies from Nova Scotia contributed to the estimated 7,357 colonies which were available for pollinating PEI’s blueberry crop.  Conditions were relatively good for pollination this year with the exception of the week beginning May 29 when a heavy frost and cool/wet temperatures hit PEI.  Temperatures as low as 23°F were recorded which damaged bloom in fields which were prone to frost i.e. low-lying and inland areas.  Overall, the heavy blossom noted on fields shows promise for a good crop potential in PEI.  Fruit set also looks good and no significant insect damage has been noted. A 12 million pound crop is expected.

Cultivated Crop Prospects

Michigan also had 6 frosts that affected their early season varieties, so production will be reduced to 75 to 80 million compared to a 100 million pound average. The south is expecting good production and the Pacific Northwest will have a large crop that will more than make up for the reduction in Michigan, so a crop similar to or exceeding last year’s production of 540 million pounds is expected.

Improving Your Wild Blueberry Yields – Irrigation

Wild blueberries in Maine are grown on a biennial cycle, in which the prune year following harvest results in vegetative growth and development of floral buds on upright stems.  In the following crop year, these buds flower and develop into fruit which is harvested in late summer.  Many studies over the years have indicated that irrigation of wild blueberries during dry periods of both years, two-year cycle, can reduce crop failure and increase profitability by significantly improving both berry yield and quality. Small gun irrigation systems can also provide frost protection if there is a history of frost in the field.

A discussion of different irrigation systems may be found in MAFES Technical Bulletin #183 Investment, Ownership and Operating Costs of Supplemental Irrigation Systems for Maine Wild Blueberries found at http://umaine.edu/blueberries/files/2011/05/tb183.pdf

Details on managing irrigation may be found in Wild Blueberry Fact Sheet #631, A Guide to Efficient Irrigation of the Wild Blueberry at: http://umaine.edu/blueberries/factsheets/irrigation/guide-to-efficient-irrigation-of-the-wild-blueberry/

Guidelines of how and when to protect from frost may be found in Wild Blueberry Fact Sheet #216, Flower Primordia Development Stage found at: http://umaine.edu/blueberries/factsheets/irrigation/flower-primordia-development-stage/

Like most crops wild blueberries require at least one inch per week of water and if not supplied by rainfall then irrigation systems are needed as insurance to make up the difference and will be the limiting factor in obtaining yields that exceed 10,000 pounds per acre. Many growers have made this investment and wild blueberry production in Maine has been increasing as a result of it.

Blueberry Survey Request

Blueberry East Food Ventures (BEFV) is a collaborative effort of Maine organic and conventional wild blueberry growers facilitated by Melissa Lee of Maine Coast Heritage Trust that is continuing to explore the feasibility of starting a business that would benefit small to mid-size wild blueberry growers in eastern Maine by offering a competitive wholesale price for berries and the possibility of an ownership share in the enterprise. The focus on the business will be on producing and marketing a 100% Maine grown wild blueberry juice along with wild blueberry puree, concentrate, and pulp for wholesale markets. We are considering an organic and a non-organic line of products.  As part of this feasibility study, we are implementing a wild blueberry grower survey.  To complete the survey, please visit the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BEFVGrowerSurvey

Even if you are not interested in Blueberry East Food Ventures, it would help us if you would answer the portions of this survey that are applicable to you. This will give us the most realistic idea of our prospects. Thank you for your time.

Wild Blueberry Newsletters Reminder

Please remember to keep us informed about all mail and/or email address changes you may have during the year, so that you don’t miss out on timely wild blueberry information.  Failure to do so may result in your name inadvertently being removed from our mailing list – something we do not want to see happen.

Currently we are receiving numerous rejected emails for incorrect and/or outdated email addresses, overloaded mail boxes and servers categorizing the newsletter as spam. Many newsletters sent out by mail have been returned because people are temporarily out-of-state. Growers with seasonal addresses need to keep us informed about all address changes. You can help us by calling or dropping us an email with your address change just before you get ready to leave Maine and just prior to returning to Maine.  This is the easiest and most efficient way for the wild blueberry office to track seasonal addresses.

To make changes to your mail, email, or phone numbers, you can go online to our website, www.wildblueberries.maine.edu, and click on Newsletters and then select the newsletter request form link. You can also contact Phoebe Nylund at phoebe.nylund@maine.edu or 207-581-2892 or Dave Yarborough at davidy@maine.edu or 1-800-897-0757 with changes.

Thanks for helping us keep you informed about current wild blueberry news and/or updates!

Sincerely,

Dave
David E. Yarborough
Extension Blueberry Specialist

Wild blueberry fact sheets, past newsletters, contacts, resource links, calendar of events, and more can be found at the wild blueberry website: www.wildblueberries.maine.edu

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

©2012

Published and distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Land Grant University of the state of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the U.S.D.A. provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Call 800-287-0274 or TDD 800-287-8957 (in Maine), or 207-581-3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.


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