Signs So Far Point to a Solid Blueberry Season

Farming is all about weathering the challenges and celebrating the wins of each season. As
Florida’s blueberry season comes to a close, there are plenty of growers doing just that —

Ideal weather, suspiciously few birds, high volumes, and no real substantial threat from
diseases are all key factors that growers are citing in their preliminary reports for an above-average season.

Leonard Park, president of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, said yield on his farm
was up about 20% percent over last season and he wouldn’t be surprised if other growers
reported the same.

The yield was high enough that not all growers were able to harvest their entire crop before the commodity price dropped to the point where it didn’t make sense.

No grower wants to leave any part of their crop in the field. This abundance of berries combined with a mid-season spiraling market left some growers scrambling to get fruit off the bush. Park said prices were strong until about the third week of April when Georgia’s berries hit the market. That drastic drop, coupled with the cost of labor, presented late-season challenges.

There was one quirk about the season that is a mystery at this point — the lack of birds. Park
and Doug Phillips, UF/IFAS Blueberry Extension coordinator, agreed that they didn’t have to deal with nearly as many birds in the fields as they usually do. For reference: Cedar waxwings
can take quite the toll on a crop, even eating as much as 15-20% in extreme cases.

Let’s hope that when official numbers are released, Florida growers can report solid gains and
sweet success. Either way, we’ll be here to report on it.

Be sure to pick up next month’s edition of Central Florida Ag News, where we’ll take a deep dive
into the blueberry season.

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