Wild Blueberry Newsletter September 2022
Dear Growers, Processors, and Stakeholders,
Well, there was a very short harvest window, small berries, berries dropping from heat and drought, deer damage in spots, fine leaf sheep fescue spreading… I could go on. There’s always next year, right? Here are a few things that could make years to come a little better.
1. Manage Fine Leaf Sheep Fescue, Festuca filiformis
This is a grass species that has been present in Maine since 2012. Now we have fields that have been completely overtaken in Washington county. It is important that we try to manage this grass to reduce its spread. Personally, I have not seen it in any Mid-coast fields yet.
Pictures A-D. Festuca filiformis in A) June field taken over, B) June dark blades, bunching habit, C) August dried down bunch habit, D) August closeup of seeds. More pictures can be found (https://extension.umaine.edu/blueberries/weed-images/grasses-sedges-rushes/fineleaf-sheep-fescue/)
Weed seed spreads on harvesters and other equipment but because this grass has gone to seed before and during harvest, it will certainly jump to clean fields on harvesting equipment. Power washing harvesters can reduce weed seed spread.
Boom sprayers are much more effective than Jacto or airblast sprayers.
FALL: Kerb was found to be an effective control in 2011 by Dr. Yarborough but as the label indicates, the application should be when the air temperature is below 55F but before the ground freezes. This product is only labeled for fall/winter use in either prune or crop fields, results can be spotty, and this is an expensive product.
PRUNE: Yarborough’s research in 2011 also indicated that Matrix was an effective pre-emergent control and some growers have had good luck with Diuron as a pre-emergent product. For either of these to work, they must be applied as a true pre-emergent in the spring before ANY blueberry or weed growth appears. A follow-up post-emergent application of clethodim may also be required as a properly timed post-emergent just after weeds green up and begin to grow in the spring.
CROP: In severe cases where entire fields are completely overtaken, Clethodim can be applied at the right time in crop fields. This timing is either early before any blueberry growth has occurred or as a last resort during pin head stage after bloom to burn the seed heads, reducing spread. Do not spray during bloom. Keep an eye on the PHI. Clethodim has a 45-day PHI making the first week of June your last chance when harvest begins in mid-July. Read the label. Give a call to talk this over.
If you just have a few, pull them out! For organic producers, this grass is drought tolerant, grows well in low nutrient soils, can handle close mowing, and prefers a soil pH of 5.5 or greater making soil pH management and pulling your best tools.
2. Take Advantage of this Weather Station Discount
KestralMet is offering a 20% discount on the KestrelMet AG weather stations. You can use the code AGMET20 at checkout on KestrelMet.com through the end of the year.
As you know weather stations are critical tools to aid in timely pest and crop management. The NEWA-recommended KestrelMet station can be found here, KestrelMet.
They know that many people have a Rainwise weather station. When Rainwise station owners are ready to upgrade to the new KestrelMet weather station, they can also use this code. The Kestrelmet AG weather station is an improved version of the existing Rainwise NEWA-compatible stations and will be the replacement going forward.
Questions? Contact Monica Devlin at email@example.com
3. Make Improvements to your Fresh Pack Line
Zane Emerson, owner of Maine Wild Blueberry Equipment Company has retired which brings up a few questions.
Where can new fresh pack lines be purchased?
There are two types of lines being used in Nova Scotia, both of which have good reviews from growers and Hugh Lyu at Perennia.
Where can replacement parts for the lines Zane made be purchased?
You can call Zane anytime at 207.483.4156. Electric motors can be purchased from WW Granger in Portland and belts can be purchased from PRC Industrial Supply in Bangor.
What improvements are being made to fresh pack lines?
In both 2021 and 2022 UMaine Extension hosted grower conversations about improvements made to fresh pack lines. Check out the recorded sessions.
4. Contact NRCS
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is a USDA program with offices in Maine and cost-share programs specifically for wild blueberry growers. Ask your local office about mulching and irrigation cost-share programs.