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US (WA): Larger blueberry crop projected



As Washington's blueberry crop reaches peak volumes this month, the state's growers are anticipating a larger haul this season. The expanded growth is due to the continuing maturation of the state's blueberry bushes.

Washington's blueberry harvest started last month with picking in the eastern part of the state. Most of the berries picked in that region come from Duke blueberry bushes, which tend to produce large berries. This month is when the rest of the state's blueberry growers begin harvesting their crops, and July should see most of the state's blueberries harvested.

“We're at peak volumes,” said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Rainier Fruit Company. “July is our peak month.” She estimated that Ranier's production this year will be 25 percent more than last year's, and she credited an increase in maturing bushes for the bump in volume. Likewise, many of the state's other growers are reporting a similar effect.

“The big reason there will be more production this year is because we've had a lot of plantings that are now maturing,” said Washington Blueberry Commission's Alan Schreiber. “We had 70 million pounds of blueberries last year in Washington, and this year it's projected to reach 80 million pounds, which would be a new high.” He mentioned good growing conditions as another factor contributing to this year's large volume of berries. In fact, while rain earlier in the year caused problems for the state's cherry growers, the state's blueberry crop has fared well.

“We had a wet May and wet June,” said Wolter. “That was challenging when it came to cherries, but our blueberries have handled the weather well.”



Growers have dodged other potential pitfalls this year. While labor scarcity was expected to be a problem, Schreiber noted that, although the worker turnover rate has has been higher than in previous years, there's been an adequate number of workers for the first part of the season. Similarly, while Spotted Wing Drosophila has been a problem for growers during the last four seasons, its presence has been minimal for the first half of the season. But with supplies expected to last into October, there's still a significant portion of the season left to manage, and there's plenty of time for things to go wrong.

“We had a mild winter, so we expected to see more Spotted Wing Drosophila,” said Schreiber. “But this is a pest that gets worse as the season progresses.”

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