Mar 20, 2018
Michigan Blueberry Commission gets $99K for research station

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Rural Development Fund Board on awarded Rural Development Fund Grants to projects in the state.

“When the goal is to expand existing businesses or attract new ones to the state, infrastructure must be at the center of that discussion,” said MDARD Director Gordon Wenk. “Things like broadband internet access, wastewater treatment, roads, technology, and modern utilities are essential for business today, and these grants help make it possible. We strongly encourage public input for our 2019 program priorities, as it helps direct funds to where it will have the greatest impact.”

The department received 85 proposals with requests totaling more than $6.4 million. Of those, MDARD awarded the following 11 projects totaling $891,905; leveraging a match of $828,805.

The Michigan Blueberry Commission (MBC) will receive $99,300 to double the blueberry research capacity at Michigan State University Extension’s Trevor Nichols Research Station in Fennville.

The commission will establish a new five-acre, state-of-the-art blueberry planting, with modern cultivars, fabric-covered mounded rows, overhead irrigation and chemigation-enabled trickle irrigation systems. The new acres will be used for the commission’s research priorities. It also will allow MSU scientists to deliver time-sensitive solutions to the many pest management challenges blueberry growers face.

Here are some of the specific goals of the project:

  1. Pesticide performance trials will lead to new recommendations in the Michigan Fruit Management Guide (MSUE-E154), including options for controlling new and invasive pests.  Testing for new solutions for control of the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) will be a priority.
  2. IR-4 field residue trials will provide essential Good Laboratory Practice-certified data to support new EPA registrations of reduced-risk pesticides and biopesticides for blueberries.
  3. Pollinator research will result in development of MSU’s recommendation of “Best Management Practices for Bees in Blueberries”.
  4. Monitoring of invasive pests, like the Spotted Lantern Fly, will give blueberry growers early warning and guidance on how to adjust crop protection programs, thus reducing the risk of infestations at harvest that may trigger loss of sales and profits.
  5. Pesticide resistance research (especially for SWD) will provide early detection of products to avoid and guidance on what programs will be optimal and sustainable, thus preventing spread and catastrophic losses.
  6. Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) study results will provide blueberry growers with residue profiles to identify risks for using certain pesticides when targeting key export markets. These data will help growers adjust spray timings to reduce the risk of exceeding export MRLs, thereby facilitating greater exports.

Two other fruit-related projects were among the recipients of MDARD’s awards:

  • Food for Thought, of Honor – $88,000. Procurement of new equipment for value-added manufacturing to build institutional packaging capacity at its new Traverse City facility.
  • Indian Summer Cooperative, of Ludington, $100,000. Conduct facility wastewater system upgrades to meet production needs for fruit juices and sauces.

The grant funds, Public Act 411 of 2012, are aimed to promote the sustainability of land-based industries (food and agriculture; forestry; mining, oil and gas production; and tourism) and support workforce training, rural capacity building, business development and infrastructure that benefits rural communities.

The proposals were evaluated through a competitive process. Those interested in additional information about this grant program or a complete list of eligible counties should visit www.michigan.gov/mdardgrants.

Public comments regarding program priorities for 2019 are now being accepted. Comments must be submitted to [email protected] by 5 p.m. on May 22, 2018.

Above: A blueberry planting at Michigan State University Extension’s Trevor Nichols Research Station in 2017. Photo: Stephen Kloosterman





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