Positive/Negative Weather Impacts on Florida Blueberries During Harvests

Jim Rogers Blueberries, Florida

By Clint Thompson

The current dry period persisting through Florida is impacting harvest season for the state’s blueberry producers.

Florida blueberries

Doug Phillips, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) blueberry Extension coordinator, believes extended periods of dry weather has had positive and negative impacts on growers attempting to harvest this year’s crop.

“It’s good news in that you don’t want a bunch of rain when you’re trying to harvest your berries. You’ve got to wait for your fields to dry out and the fruit to dry out. From that perspective it’s good. From a disease perspective it’s generally good, because you don’t have a lot of leaf wetness that sometimes leads to a fungal disease,” Phillips said. “I guess the flipside of it would be you’ve just got to irrigate a lot more. You’re running those irrigation pumps and burning diesel fuel a little bit more just to keep things well irrigated.”

The latest release of the U.S. Drought Monitor showed areas of Florida that are suffering through a lack of rainfall.

An extended stretch of counties along the west coast of Florida are in an extreme drought. These include Levy, Marion, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Most of the rest of Florida is either in a severe drought or moderate drought. The worst conditions extend from Hamilton, Columbia, Baker and Nassau counties in North Florida to Collier and Monroe counties in South Florida.

Additional rain events the past two weeks have provided moisture to parts of the state and should help alleviate some of the drought.

“I think over the last couple of weeks we’ve started to get a bit more rain,” Phillips said. “Especially in the central and southern parts of the state, they have been getting more rain than we’ve gotten in the last few months. That’s definitely helped out a lot. I would say it’s definitely helped keep things from getting too dry.”