By Clint Thompson
There’s a fine line for how much rainfall blueberries can receive during the growing season and still maximize yields come harvest season. Too much rain can lead to disease, or the berries will split. Not enough rain and the berries start to shrivel, becoming unmarketable.
Georgia blueberries received rainfall at just the right time this season, which could continue for at least another month.
“We did get a half-inch rain about two days ago which helped because some of the berries were starting to shrivel up a little bit. It’s just amazing what a half-inch of rain can do,” said blueberry producer Mike Thomas in Blackshear, Georgia. “We’re picking strong right now and should have a few weeks left.
“When we start picking, a little bit of rain along is good to keep the fruit moving and keep it good and healthy, but if you don’t have any rain at all, after so long they just start shriveling up. They don’t want to turn loose on the bush because that bush is wanting to hang on to all the moisture it can, which includes the berries that are on there ready to come off.”
It’s been a much different growing season for producers like Thomas, especially compared to last season. The hot and dry weather for the last month or so kept disease pressure light. It was nothing like last season.
“Towards the end of the crop (last year), our rabbiteye crop, we started getting some disease problems, anthracnose, yeast mold. We left a lot in the field on our rabbiteye crop,” Thomas said. “We still had some anthracnose here and there (this year) but we have stayed on a spray program like we never have before. What the University of Georgia said to do, we did.”
Thomas estimates there is between three and four weeks of harvest is left this year.
Georgia’s crop season could be extended if there was significant hail damage to North Carolina’s crop from earlier this year.