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US: Southern states blueberries half last year's volume

Would be blueberry pickers in the Southern states are being advised to call the farm of their choice prior to turning up this year. 

The crop this year is nowhere near as good as that in 2012.

Some growers are reporting the worst yield in over 20 years and some have already announced they will not be opening their gates for pick your own services this season.

"Some of our farms did lose a lot of the crop," said Donna Marshall, horticulturist with the USDA Southern Horticulture Lab in Poplarville. "After plants had bloomed and set the little bitty fruit, they had a late spring freeze."

"Most of the commercial growers have frost protection, wind machines. Some flew helicopters over their fields to save their crops. Most big commercial growers are doing OK; they lost probably 10 to 20 percent of fruit, but will still have a good crop."

However, Eric Stafne, assistant extension professor of the Mississippi State University Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said he wouldn't discourage people from picking their own.

"Some places had more damage than others," Stafne said. "There are still blueberries out there. It just depends on the varieties growing, and the location. From what I've seen, there's plenty to come and pick.

"It was a really devastating freeze event. It's been a tough year. But you know, that's farming."

John Braswell is executive secretary of the Gulf South Blueberry Growers Association, a group that represents about 140 farms with roughly 2,000 acres of berries, most of which are sold commercially. Braswell said the crop is roughly half of last year's.

"Last year we marketed about 6 million pounds of fruit, worth about $11 million," Braswell said. This year, "it's way off. There's not a lot of fruit on the bushes."

Source: nola.com

Publication date: 5/27/2013


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