Oct 13, 2017
Blueberry growers plan mechanical harvester seminar

The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) and the North American Blueberry Council (NABC) met Oct. 11-13 at Grand Rapids for their 2017 fall meetings.

The USHBC since 2000 has had responsibility for market development and research activities, with independent oversight from the USDA. The NABC is a paid membership group that has existed for more than 50 years and has assumed the role of acting as a voice for highbush blueberry industry.

NABC’s meetings for paying members included a farm tour, a formal dinner and a reception held by the New Holland Brewing Company.

USHBC meetings were open to the public. Here are some of the action items and reports discussed by the council:

  • Budget approved – Council members approved a $8.68 million budget for its 2018 programs.
  • Blueberry promotion – For 2018, USHBC approved a $3.3 million in promotions programs. A consumer/foodservice communication and promotion program with the theme “Positively Bluetiful” will be based on digital advertising, social media and email marketing, and include the recruitment of “influencers and spokespeople.” This promotion program is in addition to export and domestic food market promotion programs.
  • Blueberry maggot/SWD research – Michigan State University Post-doctorate researcher Philip Fanning reported on research into methods for killing blueberry maggot and SWD control. The research is aimed at opening up export markets in the southwest Pacific, especially Australia and New Zealand. Some of the techniques that they are researching include cold storage, hypobaric technology, and X-ray radiation. Fanning said the research is still a few years away from being finished. The research is being paid for by a USDA Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Grant.
  • Sustainability and Food safety – USHBC Secretary Patricia Goin is spearheading an effort to develop white papers that will describe the organization’s commitment to sustainability and food safety. An outline of good sustainability and food safety practices would be the “foundation” on which to build other initiatives, said good practices committee chairman Denny Doyle.
  • Mechanical harvesting – A USHBC subcommittee didn’t reach a consensus on a direction to pursue for a possible new mechanical harvest system. Rather than decide on a specific technology or hardware to pursue, the group decided to hold a seminar for growers proceeding its next meeting.
  • Next meeting – The next NABC and USHBC meetings will be held Feb. 28-March 2, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Stephen Kloosterman, Assistant Editor


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