By Clint Thompson
Florida’s blueberry crop is in good shape heading into the upcoming production season, all things considering.
“I would say in general, folks are back on their feet,” says Doug Phillips, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) blueberry Extension coordinator.
Phillips’ optimistic outlook comes on the heels of two named storms; Hurricane Ian in late September and Hurricane Nicole on Nov. 10.
“I reached out to a bunch of growers Friday morning after (Nicole), and there was very little damage. At most, there were folks who might have had a few plants blown over, and that was about it. I would say very little damage across the state,” Phillips said. “There was one farmer I talked with in central Florida that had a little bit of flooding, but I think it was in a wet area.
“From the growers I’ve talked to and the farms I’ve visited, most of the damage (from Ian) was in the southern counties. Some of them it was significant and others not as significant. What was encouraging, on some of the farms that had a good bit of defoliation from the winds, I saw some pretty quick reflush of foliage coming out on some of those. That is good. Especially with evergreen production system down there, you definitely want a good healthy canopy of foliage to support an early crop the following winter/spring. That was encouraging from that perspective. Folks went out pretty quickly and staked the plants that had blown over and pumped out the water that was still in the fields.”
Better Outlook Closer to Bloom
Phillips said farmers should have a better grasp of the extent of damage from Ian in the next couple of months.
“Once we get to bloom time and everything, we’ll get a better idea whether there was any impact to floral bud set from the defoliation or any impact of timing. We won’t know until we see the blooms,” Phillips said.