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Canada: Cool temps slows bees and blueberries

The cool spring in Prince Edward Island could put a dent in the blueberry crop. While blueberry farmers seem to have dodged repeated frost warnings, the same can’t be said for pollination. Simply put, bees don’t like working in cooler than normal weather.

“We’re more concerned with poor pollination. With the cold, damp weather, most of the bees weren’t out doing anything,’’ said John Handrahan, president of the P.E.I. Wild Blueberry Growers Association, who also happens to farm about 95 acres himself just outside Tignish.

“We’ve only got three days of decent pollination weather in the last 2.5 weeks.’’

The weather has certainly turned the corner over the past few days, but blueberry growers The Guardian spoke to this week say it’s coming two to three weeks too late.

Handrahan said it won’t spell disaster for the 2016 crop, but it is going to have an impact.

“I would think our crop will be diminished. By what degree right now is pretty hard to say. The blueberry flower, we’re told, is only fertile for seven to nine days, and during the seven to nine days of peak fertility, if you miss the peak fertility window you’ll get some degree of pollination but not full pollination.’’

Even with poor pollination, small berries can form but with too few seeds in the pollinated berry they won’t fatten up. Blueberry growers call those ones pinheads.

“Part of the crop that did get pollinated got pollinated very well so we ended up with very few pinheads. We’re sort of hoping for that. The crop may be down, but the part of the crop that did get pollinated got pollinated very well.’’

Handrahan said the average crop in western P.E.I. is about 2,300 pounds per acre, which is lower than the provincial average. He thinks the cool spring could see numbers dip to around 2,000 pounds per acre.


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