Wild Blueberry Newsletter, August 2017

Wild Blueberry Newsletter header graphic, text and a photo of blueberries and leaves

August 2017

Two New Management Tools Available on the Wild Blueberry Website

BeeMapper is an interactive web tool that displays land cover and predicted wild bee abundance throughout the Maine wild blueberry production landscape.

Information from BeeMapper can be used to:

  1. Determine placement of honey bee hives during blueberry pollination.
  2. Establish a pollinator conservation plan for particular crop fields.
  3. Understand wild bee communities in different types of land.

The BeeMapper Quick Guide (PDF), and the BeeMapper Users Guide (PDF) provide instructions on using the tool, interpreting its data and suggests wild bee conservation and management actions.

Dr. Travis Esau’s Wild Blueberry Management Tool – V1.1 Maine, was presented at our recent Wild Blueberry Field Day and is now available on our website. This tool is a cost-benefit analysis that growers can use to help estimate field costs.  It has been modified to have average costs for Maine growers but allows you to input your own costs to evaluate your fields.

You can download it as an Excel file from the Cooperative Extension’s Maine Wild Blueberries website on the Marketing and Business Management Fact Sheets page.

Wild Blueberry Crop Prospects 2017

David Yarborough, University of Maine

We had a mild fall and winter and so had a very large bloom, but the pollination weather was poor as it was cold, wet and windy.  These conditions also resulted in extensive damage from mummy berry disease as well because growers could not apply fungicides as the rain, wind and wet fields prevented it. There was also some scattered frost but it was not extensive. Jennifer Lund, State Apiculturist, reports that we only had only 27.7 thousand bee hives in Maine; this is down from 58 thousand last year and 77 thousand the year before.  Also, some of the fields will not be harvested because the companies are not accepting their fruit.  We have had ideal growing conditions with cool temperatures and ample rainfall.   In Jonesboro, we received 3.83, 7.01 and 3.22 inches of rain in April, May and June respectively and temperatures have been cooler than normal, so there is little stress on the plants.  The crop in Maine has been over 100 million pounds each of the last three years.  Because of the conditions stated, I expect the crop may be reduced by 25% or more, so it could be about 75 million pounds or less.

Pierre-Olivier Martel, Quebec Agriculture Ministry

In Quebec, we had a good snow cover on the entire wild blueberry production area, so we didn’t notice any winter damage. Some fields flooded for several weeks were reported in the spring. We had a nice bloom with some localized flower frost. The weather favored mummy berry infection in some fields. We haven’t had much flea beetle. Bloom period was generally good, but many producers used fewer beehives than normal for pollination. Fruit set seems to be good. Since May, we had plenty of rain so drought isn’t a problem in most of the production areas.  We expect the crop greater than average with more than 70 million pounds but less than the last year 125 million pounds.

Nova Scotia
Peter Burgess, Perennia

Nova Scotia had a relatively mild winter with snow leaving blueberry fields early.  Development started early but cool and dry conditions in April and May slowed blueberry development.  By early May, crop development was still slightly ahead of a normal year.  Very little winter damage was evident.  We had a significant year for Monilinia infections, with several infections periods. Because of different management strategies, significant infections were evident throughout the province.   There were three to four separate frost events in mid-bloom with some effect on the crop. There was also significant botrytis pressure during bloom and we are seeing evidence of infections, especially in dense canopy fields. Nova Scotia brought in 500 hives from New Brunswick through the import permit program.  Domestically Nova Scotia had low winter honey bee losses, but because of market challenges in the wild blueberry sector hive usage dropped significantly from past years.  Bumblebee quads were still used, but we did not see the growth in numbers like previous years. There were lots of native pollinators again throughout the province. The weather during bloom was relatively good with adequate flying days to allow for pollination, through most of Nova Scotia.  Late June and early July have been warm with periodic rainfall events, moisture is currently not an issue for fruit development.  We are currently ahead of the five year average for heat unit accumulation, so we could expect a slightly early start to harvest. Yields are expected to be down, with disease pressure, increased weed pressure and a reduction of inputs like pollinators.  Some growers have taken poorer or unprofitable land out of production.  I’m expecting a crop above 40 million pounds for Nova Scotia in 2017, however, it will be significantly down from the last three years, which were over 60 million pounds each year.

New Brunswick
Michel Melanson, NB Dept. Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries

The 2017 winter was mild, and minimal winter damage was observed.  As usual, a few fields had some injury along the edges, but overall fields looked good in the spring. The spring was cool and wet and made it a challenge for many growers to apply fungicides to protect against monilinia blight.  The cool and wet conditions prevail during the early bloom and bloom was prolonged.  Weather conditions improved in the Northeast NB at the end of the season.  The number of honey bee colonies has not been finalized yet, but fewer honey bee colonies were brought in for pollination.  It is also noted that a number of local beekeepers were asked to only provide single pollination, as compared to the previous year were colonies may be used in Southern NB and then transported to Northeastern NB.   A number will not be harvested this year, as growers revising their production practices and field potentials.  Generally, the plant health is good, but fruit set is variable due to fewer managed pollinators and poor weather during bloom.  I expect NB to be less than last year crop of 82 M lbs.  Although some fields have some very good fruit set, other fields are poor, making it difficult to assess the overall estimate.

Prince Edward Island
Chris Jordan, PEI Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Prince Edward Island experienced a relatively mild winter with less than ideal snow cover. Some winter damage resulted in exposed fields, particularly along the north shore where salt spray damage off the Gulf of St. Lawrence was also an issue for some growers. A wet spring provided conditions for several Monilinia blight infection periods. This, in combination with reduced fungicide sprays and wet fields preventing sprayers from driving, resulted in a higher than normal incidence of symptoms from Monilinia blight in 2017. Botrytis pressure was relatively low and only a small acreage of later maturing fields was protected in the eastern region of PEI. High winter losses were experienced by local beekeepers and there was less demand from growers to use commercial pollinators, including bumblebee quads. Approximately 1,632 colonies were imported from Ontario (non-small hive beetle areas) as well as 432 from New Brunswick via Nova Scotia. June provided good flying weather for bees and excellent fruit set has been achieved. A frost event did occur on May 29/30 and June 14/15, but no major impact on yield is expected. No major issues with insects were observed. Overall, growers have reduced their inputs for the 2017 and 2018 crop and marginal acreage has been either taken out of production or only minimal inputs have been applied. Overall, the fields look very good. PEI expects an estimated provincial yield of 30 million.

An early estimate of the North American wild blueberry crop is 295 million pounds, but this figure is very uncertain.


David E. Yarborough
Extension Blueberry Specialist

Wild blueberry fact sheets, past newsletters, contacts, resource links, calendar of events, and more can be found on the Cooperative Extension’s Maine Wild Blueberries website.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2017

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