By Frank Giles
The early blueberry season was highlighted during last weekend’s Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Georgia. One topic kept trending for growers in attendance, too many blooms, way too early.
Some growers are reporting up to 30% bloom in Georgia. That makes for a challenging winter for producers hoping to avoid hard freezes as the crop develops.
Ryan Atwood, a blueberry grower from Mt. Dora, Florida, said his and fellow Florida growers’ blueberries are experiencing early bloom, too.
“Some Georgia growers are saying they have 20% to 30% bloom on their plants, depending on who they are and where they are located,” Atwood said. “That obviously is extremely early.”
Atwood attributes the early blooms to the cool November. It was not a cold month for farmers.
“I think some of those low-chill varieties those guys (in Georgia) have moved to the last several years is a phenomenon we’ve seen in Florida with some of our low-chill varieties. You get a little cool weather (then warm weather), and your flower buds start opening. It is not too surprising to hear that. I think the surprising thing is the extremely warm weather we’ve had in the last four weeks,” Atwood said.
“We are definitely trending early in Florida and a few weeks ahead of where we would normally be. That is creating challenges for some farmers on things like spray programs. It is a La Niña year, warm and dry. I don’t know exactly what that will translate for South Georgia. In Florida, we’ve only been in the 40s for a low, so it has been relatively warm. We will just have to wait and see what Mother Nature throws at us.”