Aug 8, 2019
MSU Extension, media reports optimistic about Michigan blueberry harvest

Blueberry harvest continues in Michigan.

According to a July 30 report from Michigan State University Extension Fruit Educator , growers were still harvesting Bluecrop and other early midseason varieties. Harvest of Jersey has begun. Hand-harvest crews and machine harvesters are a common sight. Many fields have pockets of poor growth and discolored leaves from winter damage from the polar vortex in January.

The primary concern is controlling SWD.

“SWD numbers are now increasing rapidly,” Longstroth reported. “Almost all our SWD traps are catching lots of flies. Protect your fruit from SWD and apply sprays as soon as fruit starts to turn blue in the field. You should also be sampling your fruit. Unless you are using a microscope, you will only be able to see the larger larvae from eggs which were laid three or four days ago.

“We still see some shoot collapse due to phomopsis canker,” Longstroth reported. “Blueberries are using about 0.2 inches of water a day and many growers are irrigating. Balancing harvest and irrigation with the need to maintain good coverage with insecticides to reduce SWD can create a real scheduling problem.”

Growers upbeat

West Michigan media reports indicated the blueberry harvest is on track for a good production year.

According a report from WXMI Fox 17 in Grand Rapids, Shelly Hartmann loves a good blueberry, she said. She considers them to be nature’s perfect fruit considering it’s filled with antioxidants.

“Hey, they’re no waste,” Hartmann said while smiling. “You don’t have to peel. You don’t have to pit it. You rinse it off and put it in your mouth and eat it and enjoy it.”

She co-owns True Blue Farms in Grand Junction along with her husband. However, over the next few days she will be at the National Blueberry Festival in downtown South Haven, where there will be a parade, a pageant, a pie-eating contest and dozens of other activities.

“We’re gonna have plenty of blueberries at the Blueberry Festival being that we’re late in the season,” Hartmann said during an interview at her farms. “They’re going to have such good quality, good-tasting blueberries. It’s going to be such a fun festival.”

This year, attendees can expect “big, juicy blueberries that taste awesome” she said. The crop this year was good despite all the rain this spring and summer. The weather was wet but it kept the blueberry bushes cool which helped with pollination, she said.

“You gotta remember: blueberries love it wet,” Hartmann said. “They love moisture in the ground. Of course, they don’t like to get the roots wet and be wet too long. But they really like a moist soil. So it was really good.”

By the end of blueberry season, Hartmann predicts that Michigan will have produced 90,000,000 pounds of blueberries, she said. Forty-two million will go to the processor and 48,000,000 will go to the fresh market.

“As farmers we work so hard to bring in our crops and to produce a great quality good-tasting crop,” she said. “This is a way to kind of spread the bounty to all the other consumers.”

Hartmann said what she loves most about the Blueberry Festival is that it encourages people to buy locally. Michigan is known for its fruits, like cherries and blueberries. She hopes people will continue to buy their produce from local farms after the festival.

“They can buy them already picked. There’s going to be plenty of opportunity downtown South Haven,” she said. “If you’re not carrying around blueberries or eating blueberries then there’s going to be something wrong with you.”

WOOD-TV 8 in Grand Rapids reported growers preparing for the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven may have something else to celebrate this year: a potentially record-setting crop.

DeGrandchamp Farms is one of the suppliers for the event and is seeing a plentiful yield with just over half of its berries harvested.

Co-owner Joe DeGrandchamp told WOOD-TV better weather and pollination helped the blueberry crop thrive.

“I would expect that, if it’s not our best yield, it’s gonna rank right up there with No. 1,” DeGrandchamp said.

While the rain hurt other crops in West Michigan this spring, it benefited blueberries.

“This year we had a cool, wet, very wet spring, and so it delayed us enough that when the weather changed, the bees were ready to go and we had just an explosion of bloom,” said DeGrandchamp.

This year’s harvest is the exact opposite of what growers saw last year throughout the South Haven area.

“Last year was dismal. Rough was an understatement,” DeGrandchamp said. “We had the poorest pollination I think we’ve ever had.”

The farm is donating blueberries to several events at the festival and will also be selling freshly picked berries to spectators. Runners in the 5K will get to take home some DeGrandchamp berries and people attending the Rotary Club pancake breakfast at the airport Sunday morning will sample them right off the griddle.

“South Haven is very community-oriented and so we like to give back to the community because they support us as well,” DeGrandchamp said.

The National Blueberry Festival kicked off Aug. 8 in South Haven.

Photo at top: Many Michigan blueberries are harvested by machines. Most machine harvested berries are destined to be frozen, but more and more are sold as fresh blueberries. Photo: Mark Longstroth/MSU Extension.

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