A Chilling Tale of Three Blueberry Cultivars

The number of chill hours we received this year has been lower than usual (see Chill Hour link on right side of this page). I am in the process of accumulating chill hour data from the last 15 years or so to see how (or if) it has changed over that time period. At any rate, this year was somewhere between 500 and 600 hours here in Poplarville.  Enough for most blueberry cultivars, but not all. To this point, see the photo below.

From left to right: Springhigh, Jewel, and O'Neal southern highbush blueberries. Notice that O'Neal has no leaves compared to the other two.

From left to right: Springhigh, Jewel, and O’Neal southern highbush blueberries. Notice that O’Neal has no leaves compared to the other two.

Springhigh has a low chilling requirement of 200 hours. It is also very early blooming which causes problems in our location most years. This cultivar was released in 2005 out of Florida.  Jewel has a similar chilling requirement of about 250 hours. It too is from Florida. O’Neal is much different from the other two.  For flowering it requires about 400-500 hours of chilling; however the leaves have a higher requirement. Although I would not consider the flowering good on this bush it has some. Leaf development is known to be slow and sporadic on O’Neal anyway in the spring. This cultivar is from North Carolina.

I suspect that the amount of chilling we received fell in the area of enough for O’Neal flowers but not quite enough for O’Neal leaves. Leaves will continue to emerge but may take longer than normal. That delay in full leafing may affect the quantity and quality of the crop on O’Neal, whereas both look fine on Springhigh and Jewel.

This publication from Georgia has good information on these cultivars and chill hours.

Is Mummy Berry Starting Already?

I received the information below from University of Georgia Plant Pathologist Dr. Phil Brannen. It states that in Georgia, mummy berry infection is likely right now due to the warmer weather conditions.  We have also had these conditions in Mississippi, so it would be a good idea to keep mummy berry control in mind, especially for southern highbush blueberries.  Meanwhile, rabbiteyes are not far behind.

Dr. Harald Scherm ran the mummy berry model today, and it indicates that we are currently in a DANGER period for mummy berry disease initiation.  Harald stated that the temperature-driven model indicated that apothecium (spore-forming structure that develops from overwintered mummies on the ground and in debris) emergence should be well underway based on the balance of chill-hours and degree-days received. In fact, there could be a chance that the apothecia ejected spores earlier than normal, possibly allowing for infection of early-blooming southern highbush varieties. This assumes that soil moisture conditions have been favorable, which they likely have been.  Rabbiteyes will soon be showing green tip or early bloom, which should initiate the spray program for mummy berry management.  For additional information on fungicides which are available for management of mummy berry, refer to the blueberry IPM guide at www.smallfruits.org. “

First 2016 Issue of Mississippi Vaccinium Journal

Dear Faithful Readers:

Below is the link to the latest issue of the Mississippi Vaccinium Journal.  In this issue we cover new cultivars, diseases, presentations from the Mississippi Blueberry Education Workshop, and more.

Mississippi Vaccinium Journal Volume 5 Issue 1

As always, you can see past issues at this link: http://msucares.com/newsletters/vaccinium/index.html

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me.

Presentations from the 2016 Mississippi Blueberry Education Workshop

The 2016 Mississippi Blueberry Education Workshop was held on January 14 in Hattiesburg. There were 55 attendees that heard the following speakers.  To access a PDF copy of each talk (if available), click the linked title.

Speaker Line-Up and Schedule:

1:10-1:40 pm Dr. James Barnes (MSU-ES):

The Economics of Marketing Blueberries Using Facebook: Some Lessons Learned from the Mississippi Bricks to Clicks Extension Program

1:40-2:10 pm Chaille Clements (Mississippi Dept. of Agriculture and Commerce):

Farm to School Presentation (Market Ready)

2:10-2:40 pm Dr. Eric Stafne (MSU-ES):

Update on Harvest-aid Technologies to Improve Harvest Efficiency

 

2:40-3:00 pm Mechanical Harvest Survey and Break

 

3:00-3:30 pm Dr. Rebecca Melanson (MSU-ES):

Recognizing and Managing Blueberry Diseases

3:30-4:00 pm Dr. Donna Marshall-Shaw (USDA-ARS, Poplarville):

Blueberry Cultivars for Small and Local Markets

 

4:00-5:00 pm Questions/Discussion/Evaluation

 

What is Your Marketing Plan?

You might be surprised to find out that this is usually my first question when someone says they wish to put in a planting of fruiting crops.  Not soil types, not cultivars, not cultural management, and not diseases.  All of those things are critically important, and believe me, I would I could stick only to those things (because that is my knowledge arena).  However, the world of growing and selling fruit is not an easy one to navigate. Overproduction and excess supply of some fruit make selling it difficult.  Sure, you can be a great grower, but if you are not a good marketer then you might as well forget it.

I don’t know how many times I have talked about marketing to the many, many growers I have dealt with. It is so crucial to understand that growing the fruit is not enough. The thought is, “If you build it, they will come.”

Wrong.

It should be, “If you build it, you better hustle and work to make sure they can find you.” Upfront education and the willingness to develop a marketing plan that is adaptive to change is key, because doing the same thing year after year (also called stagnation) is also a losing proposition.

I’m not a marketer. It is not my area of expertise. But, if you are planning to get into fruit production you need to become an expert or have the help of one in order to survive.

2016 Mississippi Blueberry Workshop

The 2016 Mississippi Blueberry Educational Workshop will be held in Hattiesburg on January 14, 2016 from 1-5pm.  Several topics will be covered including mechanized harvest, Farm-to-School, Social Media marketing, blueberry cultivars, and disease control basics. Everyone with an interest in blueberries is invited to attend.  See the information below for details on the program.

BlueberryWorkshop2016

BlueberryWorkshop2016agenda

Winter is a Great Time for Education

Most of us are quite content to ignore our fruit plantings during the winter. At least I know I am guilty of that. Winter brings about other challenges for me — end of year reporting, conferences to attend, data to analyze, papers to write, etc. I know that everyone has their own stuff to deal with too making it difficult to keep your mind on something that isn’t growing (or at least appears that way). Of course there are a myriad of things that could be done to improve the planting, of which pruning and sanitation are some of the most important. However, I believe the most important thing to do during the time when it is too cold to get outside and you would rather bundle up in a blanket next to a warm fire is to learn. Education is a never-ending process. New things are discovered every year about fruiting crops. New pests, new varieties, new methods of management, etc. The great thing is that you no longer need to drive somewhere during sleet, snow, or icy drizzle to get to a meeting. Extension is starting to embrace online education techniques like webinars and blogs to keep clientele apprised of new discoveries. I would also encourage social media interaction. There are lots of Extension specialists and agents on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.  These are all platforms to interact with us. If you don’t know how, just ask and any of us would be happy to help you learn these new things.  The world is digital and not going back. If we can find common ground with our learning environments we can all be so much better informed. So, what to do during this winter? Try something new and learn, learn, learn.

Mississippi Vaccinium Journal Oct-Dec 2015

The latest issue of the Mississippi Vaccinium Journal is out. In it several topics are covered including some SWD research, red leaf color, government programs, revised publications, and more.  Check it out by downloading the PDF at the link below:

Mississippi Vaccinium Journal. 2015. Vol. 4 Issue 4