Time Is Now For Florida Blueberry Growers To Dig In

Another challenging Florida blueberry season is behind us. While official crop estimates will not be available for some time, I would guess that we will come in somewhere between 10 million and 13 million pounds for the 2015-2016 season, down about 50% from last season’s 25 million pound harvest.

What happened?

Blueberries first need chill hours to set bloom and then heat units to ripen.

A much warmer than normal November and December gave us little to no chill hours throughout the state, resulting in poor bloom set and difficulty in correctly timing hydrogen cyanamide applications.

We also were faced with much cooler than normal late winter and spring weather, causing our smaller crop to ripen much later than our normal harvest window.

The timing of our harvest meant that most of our labor went north before the bulk of the harvest could be completed, leaving a lot of fruit on the bush. The fruit that was left could not be harvested due to lack of labor or the economic reality of the price of the fruit falling below the level that is profitable to harvest.

Most growers I have talked to have put their harvest at 30% to 50% of what they got last season.

They say adversity breeds character; I also think it breeds innovation. We saw a lot of growers trying machine harvesting for the first time this season. Commissioner Adam Putnam and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services mounted a multimedia campaign to promote U-Pick operations throughout the state, helping growers get some of the late fruit off the bush and put some money in their pockets. As a result of this promotion, a lot of Floridians got to experience the fun of a day on the farm picking our tasty and healthy blueberries with their friends and families.

Crop insurance is now available in most blueberry producing counties in the state at this time and more growers are investigating how this income protection will work with their operations.

Fine Forecast Ahead

We also are moving ahead with our blueberry crop forecast project. Commissioner Putnam has directed his staff to move this to the top of the list of things to be completed under his watch. Our first grower survey has been done so we have a better idea of the scope of blueberry growing operations in the state.

More work on the crop forecast system is still to be done by the scientists at UF/IFAS and the Florida Automated Weather Network. We are pulling together the blueberry plant breeders, climatologists, as well as computer and mathematics specialists to design, test, and fine-tune a forecasting model that should be in place in the next two years.

Our Florida blueberry industry continues to move ahead, expanding our acreage each year and meeting and overcoming challenges. Agriculture in any form is not an easy business, and blueberry plantings in large numbers are now a reality. But we are blessed with a lot of very hard-working and intelligent folks in the blueberry business. I am confident we will continue to find solutions to our problems and adapt with resilient determination and innovation to whatever Mother Nature and market forces put in our way.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Berries Stories
Berries
April 26, 2017
Tips To Manage Winter-Damaged Blueberries
While low-chill varieties in Southern states may have experienced freeze damage for the second year in a row, giving those plants extra care will help ensure a good start to the 2018 growing season. Read More
The Hill family of Southern Hill Farms in Florida
Berries
April 13, 2017
Florida Farming Family Staying on Top of the Blueberry Game
The Hill family of Southern Hill Farms continues to up their efforts to diversify business and stay out ahead of a competitive market. Read More
Berries
April 10, 2017
North Carolina Blueberry Crop Still Kicking
Thanks to pruning cuts and a diverse mix of cultivars, the majority of the crop survived a series of March freezes. Read More
Closeup of Florida blueberries
Berries
April 6, 2017
Study Shows Bumblebees Can Boost Blueberry Yield Big Time
UF/IFAS researchers find placing hives of the distinct pollinator in the field pumps up output by 70%. Read More
Berries
March 30, 2017
Chateau Herbicide SW Now Registered for Use in Citrus, Caneberries
Broad spectrum preemergent herbicide to control broadleaf and grasses. Read More
SWD On Raspberry
Berries
March 26, 2017
Outsmarting SWD with Social Media
Entomologist in Kentucky uses social media for pest updates, trap catches. Read More
Freeze protected blueberry bushes in Florida
Berries
March 25, 2017
Florida Blueberry Crop Escapes Slap from Late-Season Cold Snap
Freeze protection tactics prove fruitful as local producers look to gain from Georgia’s loss. Read More
Frozen blueberries
Berries
March 15, 2017
Arctic Blast Gives Southern Fruit Growers the Chills
Peaches and berries in bloom most at risk from freezing temperatures. Read More
Growers boot up drone technology on the farm
Berries
March 3, 2017
Specialty Crops Primed for Precision Agriculture
Employing the latest horticultural technology tools could have substantial financial benefits for producers of hand-picked specialty crops, according to a new research paper. Read More
Berries
March 2, 2017
Pruning Pointers for Dormant Care of Berries
If you haven’t started pruning your berries, it’s time you do. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush Blueberries
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry Production
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
2017 Florida Strawberry Picking Challenge winners
Berries
February 22, 2017
Florida Strawberry Picking Contest a Big Winner for Charity
Fourth-annual fundraising event brings in more than $100,000 to benefit children of local farmworkers. Read More
Registration area at the 2017 Florida Blueberry Growers Association Spring Meeting
Berries
February 17, 2017
Florida Blueberry Growers Counting on a Comeback
With last season's disaster in the rear view, all eyes are searching for bluer skies. Read More
Wish Farms mega strawberry donation
Berries
February 14, 2017
Wish Farms Shows Love With Super-Sized Strawberry Donation
More than 4,000 pounds of locally grown produce from Central Florida farming operation goes to help feed needy families in the Tampa area. Read More
The Latest
Berries
May 15, 2017
Grower Comments on Pyrethroids Being Sou…
Comment period on popular class of insecticides opens today. Read More
Berries
May 4, 2017
Florida Farming Pioneer Still Making the…
Alto Straughn presented with University of Florida’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. Read More
Berries
May 2, 2017
Southeastern Strawberry Growers Advised …
Recent rain is conducive to the main strawberry fruit rot diseases, according to the chief of the Southern Region IPM Center. Read More
Berries
April 26, 2017
Tips To Manage Winter-Damaged Blueberrie…
While low-chill varieties in Southern states may have experienced freeze damage for the second year in a row, giving those plants extra care will help ensure a good start to the 2018 growing season. Read More
Berries
April 13, 2017
Florida Farming Family Staying on Top of…
The Hill family of Southern Hill Farms continues to up their efforts to diversify business and stay out ahead of a competitive market. Read More
Berries
April 10, 2017
North Carolina Blueberry Crop Still Kick…
Thanks to pruning cuts and a diverse mix of cultivars, the majority of the crop survived a series of March freezes. Read More
Berries
April 6, 2017
Study Shows Bumblebees Can Boost Blueber…
UF/IFAS researchers find placing hives of the distinct pollinator in the field pumps up output by 70%. Read More
Berries
March 30, 2017
Chateau Herbicide SW Now Registered for …
Broad spectrum preemergent herbicide to control broadleaf and grasses. Read More
Berries
March 26, 2017
Outsmarting SWD with Social Media
Entomologist in Kentucky uses social media for pest updates, trap catches. Read More
Berries
March 25, 2017
Florida Blueberry Crop Escapes Slap from…
Freeze protection tactics prove fruitful as local producers look to gain from Georgia’s loss. Read More
Berries
March 15, 2017
Arctic Blast Gives Southern Fruit Grower…
Peaches and berries in bloom most at risk from freezing temperatures. Read More
Berries
March 3, 2017
Specialty Crops Primed for Precision Agr…
Employing the latest horticultural technology tools could have substantial financial benefits for producers of hand-picked specialty crops, according to a new research paper. Read More
Berries
March 2, 2017
Pruning Pointers for Dormant Care of Ber…
If you haven’t started pruning your berries, it’s time you do. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush …
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry P…
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
Berries
February 22, 2017
Florida Strawberry Picking Contest a Big…
Fourth-annual fundraising event brings in more than $100,000 to benefit children of local farmworkers. Read More
Berries
February 17, 2017
Florida Blueberry Growers Counting on a …
With last season's disaster in the rear view, all eyes are searching for bluer skies. Read More
Berries
February 14, 2017
Wish Farms Shows Love With Super-Sized S…
More than 4,000 pounds of locally grown produce from Central Florida farming operation goes to help feed needy families in the Tampa area. Read More