Blueberry Growers Watching Out For Overplanting

Singing The Blues

The problem is a familiar one to growers of all crops. The high prices of the past several years attracted more plantings — U.S. acreage is up 33% in just the past three years — and acreage is shooting up around the world (see chart). Because of the impending potential glut, Malensky and other U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council leaders are trying to pass an assessment this winter that will double their rate from $12 to $24 per ton. “There are a lot of blueberries in the ground that are just about to mature,” says Malensky. “We’re trying to raise money before those crops come on.”

Malensky believes the passage of the assessment is critical to the future of the U.S. industry, because they absolutely must have more money for promotion. “It’s the only way we’ll get increased prices,” says Malensky, dismissing the arguments of some of the large growers, who say they want to do their own marketing. “Good luck marketing on your own — somebody will just undercut you on the price.”

A Conundrum

Passing the assessment won’t be easy, Malensky concedes. Besides opposition from those who want to market on their own, the sharp decrease in prices — down to 20¢ a pound, in some cases — has growers looking to cut costs. “With prices low, they don’t want to pay (a higher assessment), but we need to promote to get rid of the low prices,” sighs Malensky. “It’s a conundrum.”

In the meantime, many leading growers aren’t just sitting idly by. They’ve worked hard to get blueberries onto school lunch menus, and had some success this year when USDA agreed to purchase up to $14.7 million worth of blueberries for federal nutrition assistance programs, the largest-ever purchase of blueberries. It’s a critical piece to their marketing strategy, Malensky says. “Many U.S. citizens have never had a blueberry, but when they try them, they like them,” he says. “If they grow up eating them, they’re customers for life.”

Another key part of the strategy is increasing exports. In October, the North American Blueberry Council made a decision to expand marketing to South Korea because a major U.S. retailer, Costco, would like to work with the council to get fresh berries into South Korea. Also, just a few months ago the first U.S. blueberries arrived in India, a market second only to China in size. “We really must get into promoting them in China,” says Malensky. “We need to get them eating blueberries.”

“Backwards” Marketing

After hearing of the acute oversupply problems, growers of other crops might not be considering blueberries. But if they’re not scared off, Malensky has a few words of advice. First, a lot of growers in recent years planted varieties that could only be used for processing. But if you lose a key buyer, such as the food company you sell to decides to go with a cheaper replacement fruit, you’re in trouble. “Plant only varieties that work for both the fresh market — those that have good eating quality — and the frozen market — those that can be machine-picked,” he says. “You’ll want that flexibility.”

Also, before you plant, Malensky advises that you talk to a lot of potential buyers to determine who exactly is going to buy your fruit. “Whatever market you’re going to sell it to, make sure it works,” he says. “Think backwards, start with the buyer, and then go back to the farm.”

Pest Spread Like Wildfire

Like a lot of growers, Malensky attends a weekly coffee shop meeting early in the morning to talk farming and solve the world’s problems. It’s not only good to shoot the breeze with buddies; it’s a great way of staying aware of what’s going on in your neck of the woods.

Additional Resources

To learn more about spotted wing drosophila (SWD), click on the links below.

Video explainationby Mark Bolda with the University of California Cooperative Extension and Kevin Hoffman, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s primary state entomologist:

Mark Bolda’s blog

Basic information on SWD from UC IPM Online:

Oregon State University has created a website devoted to disseminating the latest information on SWD, find it here.

Malensky relearned that lesson at his Friday breakfast meeting this past August. He heard that the spotted wing drosophila (SWD), which was formerly known as cherry vinegar fly, had made its way north from California into Oregon. That morning he learned growers in the south end of the Willamette Valley had found SWD in their fruit. Malensky was concerned, but not overly worried, as he farms in Hillsboro, which is located in the north end of the valley, near Portland.

So the following Friday morning the news came as quite a shock. “My supervisor called during that breakfast meeting and said ‘We’ve got soft fruit.’ (SWD) really makes the fruit go to mush,” explains Malensky. “But the worst part is, I’ve never seen anything spread so quickly — ever.”
In fact, the field of blueberries where Malensky’s crew found the SWD had already been picked three or four times. And the pest is so small and because the damage is all on the inside of the fruit, the pickers couldn’t detect it. It wasn’t until they brought the fruit back to the packinghouse that they realized there was something wrong with the load.

Malensky immediately began spraying malathion and zeta-Cypermethrin (Mustang, FMC Corp.) every five to seven days and ended up saving the end of the field. That seemed to help, though the flight may have been down by then.

A few weeks after Malensky was hit, he was still talking about how remarkable the pest is. The speed with which it infested the West Coast was just amazing. “You know, it’s all the way to BC (British Columbia) now,” he says. “That thing spreads faster than anything I’ve ever seen.”

The SWD infestation was so lightning fast that Malensky said the only good thing is that it hit late enough in the season that most growers avoided losing huge amounts of fruit. “If that hits us at the beginning of blueberry season,” he says, “a lot of growers would have lost the whole crop.”

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Fruits
November 19, 2017
More Tools Available for Organic Growers
Pest management, fertility, and certification information all available in one place. Read More
sprayer nozzles
Fruits
November 18, 2017
Tips to Winterize Your Sprayers
Taking the steps to properly prepare your sprayer for the offseason will help to reduce costly problems in the spring, says engineer and spray technology expert. Read More
Biocontrols East 2017 tour stop in citrus country
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Alico Overhaul to Cut Citrus Production Expenditures
Company restructuring aims to integrate legacy businesses and reduce input costs significantly. Read More
Vegetable field irrigation in Florida
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Sustainable Farming Projects in Florida to Share the Wealth
St. Johns River Water Management District grants backing to 12 on-farm plans aimed at resource conservation and nutrient reduction. Read More
Jim Snively of Southern Gardens Citrus checks oranges in a grove
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Florida Citrus Tree Rehab in Full Swing After the Storm
With Hurricane Irma well in the rear view, growers and researchers hope to work groves back to a productive state as HLB rages on. Read More
closeup of turkey with another foul in the background
Farm Management
November 17, 2017
Consumers Forking out Less This Year for Classic Thanksgiving Meal
Annual American Farm Bureau average price report reveals you can host a fine Turkey Day feast for less than $50. Read More
Apples & Pears
November 16, 2017
USApple Seeking Nominations for Young Apple Leaders Program
Deadline to apply for program is Dec. 31. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 16, 2017
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Support Young Farmers
Act designed to help next generation access affordable land, crop insurance, and financial capital. Read More
CRISPR-Cas-9-illustration-by-Ernesto-del-Aguila-III-NHGRI
Crop Protection
November 15, 2017
Syngenta Secures CRISPR Cas-9 License
Other companies also have secured licenses, but few have announced plans to use the gene editing technology on vegetables. Read More
Crookham-Companys-Dustin-Batt-and-Mark-Jones-and-Sakatas-Bill-Jones
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Vegetable Breeding for Timing Is only Part of the Picture
Early and late season varieties give growers flexibility and allow them to sequence crops so harvest crews have steady work over a longer period. But those varieties also need other traits like disease resistance and taste. Read More
Pat-Mosely-and-Rakesh-Kumar
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Taste Is Back on the Front Burner for Vegetable Breeders
In the pursuit for solving some of the biggest problems for growers, breeders have sometimes ignored flavor. Here are two breeders who have made taste a top priority. Read More
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Practices
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Stone Fruit
November 14, 2017
Southeastern Peach Growers Hope for Winter
Chill hours being sought, but the possibility of a La Niña climate pattern could mean a drier and warmer winter. Read More
UC-Davis-trials-feature
Vegetables
November 13, 2017
Plant Breeding Is a Key Part of Precision Agriculture’s Future [Opinion]
One theme that stood out during the vegetable seed trials this past summer was how much breeders are keeping future automation in mind. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It Seeks Organization
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
The Latest
Fruits
November 19, 2017
More Tools Available for Organic Growers
Pest management, fertility, and certification information all available in one place. Read More
Fruits
November 18, 2017
Tips to Winterize Your Sprayers
Taking the steps to properly prepare your sprayer for the offseason will help to reduce costly problems in the spring, says engineer and spray technology expert. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Alico Overhaul to Cut Citrus Production …
Company restructuring aims to integrate legacy businesses and reduce input costs significantly. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Sustainable Farming Projects in Florida …
St. Johns River Water Management District grants backing to 12 on-farm plans aimed at resource conservation and nutrient reduction. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Florida Citrus Tree Rehab in Full Swing …
With Hurricane Irma well in the rear view, growers and researchers hope to work groves back to a productive state as HLB rages on. Read More
Farm Management
November 17, 2017
Consumers Forking out Less This Year for…
Annual American Farm Bureau average price report reveals you can host a fine Turkey Day feast for less than $50. Read More
Apples & Pears
November 16, 2017
USApple Seeking Nominations for Young Ap…
Deadline to apply for program is Dec. 31. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 16, 2017
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Support Yo…
Act designed to help next generation access affordable land, crop insurance, and financial capital. Read More
Crop Protection
November 15, 2017
Syngenta Secures CRISPR Cas-9 License
Other companies also have secured licenses, but few have announced plans to use the gene editing technology on vegetables. Read More
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Vegetable Breeding for Timing Is only Pa…
Early and late season varieties give growers flexibility and allow them to sequence crops so harvest crews have steady work over a longer period. But those varieties also need other traits like disease resistance and taste. Read More
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Taste Is Back on the Front Burner for Ve…
In the pursuit for solving some of the biggest problems for growers, breeders have sometimes ignored flavor. Here are two breeders who have made taste a top priority. Read More
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Pra…
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Stone Fruit
November 14, 2017
Southeastern Peach Growers Hope for Wint…
Chill hours being sought, but the possibility of a La Niña climate pattern could mean a drier and warmer winter. Read More
Vegetables
November 13, 2017
Plant Breeding Is a Key Part of Precisio…
One theme that stood out during the vegetable seed trials this past summer was how much breeders are keeping future automation in mind. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It S…
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
So What Exactly Are Biostimulants, Anywa…
Biostimulants are one of the hottest new topics in specialty crops, but most growers could use a little clarity on where they fit. Here are the basics you need to know. Read More
Florida Ag Expo
November 13, 2017
Florida Growers Explore New Solutions to…
Farm innovation and alternative approaches to production front and center at 2017 Florida Ag Expo. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Microbial-based Biostimulants: Big Poten…
There is no shortage of interest in or questions and opinions about biostimulants. Many are working to develop them as Read More