Midwestern heat wave endangers Michigan's small fruit crops

07/18/2012 03:18:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

The prolonged Midwestern heat wave has hastened ripening for blueberry and raspberry growers and brought on a host of other problems, such as birds, insect pests and drought for non-irrigated blocks.

In fact, about 25 percent of Michigan's blueberry acreage is not irrigated, according to a grower newsletter written by Carlos García-Salazar, a Michigan State University integrated pest management specialist.

Those fields are the most affected by the severe drought that's been plaguing the nation's mid-section.

For raspberry growers, high temperatures are causing the fruit to ripen very rapidly and over a short period of time.

Instead of having a raspberry crop over several weeks, it's being concentrated over a few days.

Raspberries are delicate fruit and need refrigeration almost immediately to maintain what short shelf life they have.

Growers are having to have refrigeration units during harvest to prevent substantial losses.

Because of the limited number of products available, organic growers have experienced significant losses after harvest from fruit rots.

Blueberry growers, on the other hand, have fared better, especially if they have irrigation.

Blueberries can withstand the springtime freezes that hit Michigan's other major fruit crops, including apples, cherries and peaches.

Because of that, blueberry growers with irrigation are seeing decent yields of high-quality fruit.

Earlier this spring, the crop was estimated at about 81 million pounds.

In light of the drought, a substantial portion of the bluleberry crop without irrigation is at risk for loss if it doesn't rain soon.

Large flocks of birds have descended on some small fruit blocks since other food is scarce.

Growers have few options to control birds, according to the newsletter.



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