N.S. blueberry growers optimistic about harvest

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by Dan Woolley

Nova Scotia’s Wild blueberry producers should be optimistic about this year’s harvest. That was the message delivered to some 300 growers and processors at the annual field day at Slack Farms Ltd., in Debert. Wild Blueberry Producers Association of N.S. (WBPANS) General Manager, Peter Rideout, said the crop looked good and appeared to be near recent average harvest figures.

Given more rain and warmer temperatures, Maine’s crop could reach the state’s annual average of 90-100 million pounds, Dr. Dave Yarborough said. The University of Maine blueberry specialist noted that the crop faced some weather challenges earlier this year – a mild winter, followed by a cool spring – that put the plants under stress and caused some injury. Nevertheless, he said it was very good pollination weather.

The cool spring delayed the appearance of Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) in N.S. fields. Dr. Debra Moreau of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said that as of mid-July, SWD had not been found in her Annapolis Valley pest survey traps. But she warned that increasing heat units would encourage the pest’s eventual appearance.

MARKETS

Rideout said WBPANS was working to reduce the holdover of the 2015 harvest that was in inventory. He said there was increased demand in overseas markets and a more favourable exchange rate due to a lower Canadian dollar. Neri Vautour, Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA) Canada’s executive-director, told growers that its market promotional agency has increased activities in Europe and Asia. He urged industry representatives to encourage federal trade officials to work on foreign government tariffs to increase market access for Wild blueberry exports. Vautour observed that China imposes a 30 percent tariff plus a 17 percent surcharge on frozen Canadian Wild blueberries, whereas Chile has negotiated tariff-free access to the Chinese market for its highbush exports.

TECHNOLOGY

The WBPANS field day also showcased the latest technology for field management and harvesting. Dr. Qamar Zaman’s research team at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus recently completed a performance evaluation of Doug Bragg Enterprises’ redesigned, tractor-mounted, Wild blueberry harvester head. The team’s analysis found significantly less plant damage and defoliation during the harvest when the 12-bar, 69-teeth, 22-inch head was replaced by a 16-bar, 64-teeth, 26-inch head. The analysis was supported by Doug Bragg Enterprises Ltd., WBPANS, and the N.S. Department of Agriculture.

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