By Clint Thompson
The current prolonged dry period affecting the majority of Florida is impacting fruit quality in the state’s blueberry crop. Most of the state is in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
That has had a positive effect on blueberries, which are beginning to be harvested in certain areas across Florida, said Ryan Atwood, who lives in Mount Dora, Florida and farms 56 acres of blueberries, manages another 350 acres and is part-owner of the largest packing house in the Southeast United States.
“The weather’s been good in terms of it’s been warm and dry. Fungal diseases haven’t been a big pressure for us and typically isn’t in the spring,” Atwood said. “Florida really does have ideal weather for harvesting, because we’re warm, not excessively hot, and dry. Our fruit quality benefits from that. We’re in a good weather pattern for fruit quality right now, there’s no doubt about that.
“It doesn’t increase your fungal pressure. California, why do they grow so many different things out in California? They just don’t get any rain. Your fungal pressure is really low when you have those conditions. That’s been a benefit to us.”
Atwood estimates it has been about four weeks since his blueberry farm had experienced rainfall.
“It’s been at least a month I say. When you’re driving around the farms and stuff, you’re kicking up dust. Everybody’s complaining about it. We could use some rain just to keep the dust down,” Atwood said.
Another positive from the current dry spell and warm temperatures is it has allowed blueberries catch up in their maturity. As a result, producers started ‘scrapping’ last week.
“For a while there, we thought we were like two weeks behind. But with this weather pattern that we’re in, we’re catching up pretty quick,” Atwood said.