Registration for February FBGA Growers Meeting and Trade Show

Save the Date!

Please join us for the Spring FBGA Meeting and Tradeshow on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at the Hillsborough Community College – Plant City Campus John R. Trinkle Center located at 1206 North Park Rd. Plant City, FL 33563.

Click here to download the preliminary meeting agenda


President’s Letter – Winter 2015

What’s Happening Now and How Your FBGA is Working for You dudley_calfee

We are in our winter growing season now and most of us are seeing the beginning of bloom show up on our bushes. Most growers I have talked to have reported significantly more chill this year than the past two seasons. This sounds good for bloom set and fruit production this season. We’ll see…

Supplemental pollinators should be in your fields now: Honey bees or bumbles, or both. Most of us are lucky enough to have an abundant supply of native pollinators, but it doesn’t hurt to give them a hand with the huge volume of bloom in our fields at this time of year.

Freeze protection— if you use it, are you ready? We have had crop damaging freezes as late as April 1 in past years. Check pumps, valves that have not been operated in a while; they may be stuck, so move them now. Get your thermometers in the field, calibrate and throw away or replace any that do not read 32˚ F when placed in ice water. There is an excellent article in this issue on freeze protection by Dr. Jeff Williamson and extension agent Gary England.

It’s also not too early to think about harvest activities:

  • Check your stock of harvest supplies— lugs, buckets and other items. If your acreage has increased or your plants are maturing this year, you may need more supplies.
  • Reserve your Reefer truck now, if you use one. The rental agencies I talked to tell me that they are bringing in all the units they can from surrounding states for our harvest season, but the best ones go fast.
  • Labor— start to think now about how you are going to recruit harvest workers and/or crew leaders. Some marketers offer labor services too, although their performance in a lean year last season left many growers with good quality fruit unharvested in their fields. It makes no sense to grow a crop that you can’t harvest.
  • Food safety— are you on a program? If not, get on one now. Have you thought about when to schedule your third party inspection? Sometimes an early inspection is easier.
  • Marketers— have you switched? Communication and trust are the keys to this relationship. Find out now about harvest forecasts, what will be done with your culls and payment policies so there will be fewer surprises once the fog of harvest time hits.
  • The harvest forecast for this season— who really knows what we will get this year. While additional chill bodes well, we have a long way to go until the end of our season. I would discourage anyone from making any large predications, especially when talking to the media. Last year was a good example of high forecasts causing some lower than market prices as brokers tried to prepare and pre-sell fruit that never materialized. A little cold snap or pathogen and we could be set back significantly.

Our survey of growers throughout the state is moving along well. We should soon have some more accurate numbers on our acreage, varieties, and plant density. We all owe a big thanks to the hard working folks at UF/IFAS for taking the lead in getting this important information for our industry.

In the past, all we used to talk about was the birds going after our crops. Now it seems that a new pathogen comes at us every few months. The current critter after our berry plants is our cover story for this issue— a “flathead borer” insect that is killing our plants at the crown. Read more about this new, mystery pest in this issue’s excellent article by FBGA Board member Michael Hill and UF Entomologist Dr. Oscar Liburd.

The new parasitic algae continue to be a problem and have made the viability of some promising new cultivars doubtful as they try to survive the attack of this pathogen. We are fighting it with copper and “Phite” type sprays, but more research is needed into this new threat.

Speaking of pathogens, we have been trying to get the word out to growers quickly about new pests and other urgent information in timely email blasts. If you are not receiving this information, please make sure we have your correct contact info. Grower feedback about these notifications has been universally positive and the FBGA Board of Directors and Executive Committee thinks it is important to keep you, the grower, informed about these new threats in a timely manner.

Our new office, located in the City of Brooksville in Hernando County, and our new administrative assistant have both allowed us to be much more responsive to growers’ needs. The City of Brooksville continues to charge ahead in cooperation with our organization and The Florida Blueberry Festival to be the “home of Blueberries” in our state.

Some good news: The pine bark shortage seems to have become less of an issue this year. Most growers report an ample supply at good prices.

There is a lot of useful information in this issue:

  • Freeze protection update with timely thoughts on ice loads and wet conditions
  • COVER STORY: Flathead borer on Florida blueberry bushes
  • Immigration reform and labor issue pitfalls to avoid
  • FDACS BMP Program Overview— Part I
  • Update on bud mites, blueberry gall midge, and chilli thrips
  • Grower 411: Important links and WFRP information
  • Plans and predictions for this year’s Florida Blueberry Festival

Our next general membership meeting and trade show is scheduled for Tuesday, February 17 at the Trinkle Center in Plant City. I hope to see you all there. I wish everyone a safe and profitable season.

Dudley Calfee
President, Florida Blueberry Growers Association.


Risk Management

The following information and tools were recently released regarding Risk Management. Please find those links below. General links to the RMA website, cost calculators, & information regarding
Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Pilot Program (WFRP)

RMA (Risk Management Agency) website:

Cost Estimator/Main Menu:

Cost Estimator/Quick Estimate:

Cost Estimator/Detailed Estimate:

Whole Farm Revenue Protection Pilot Program (WFRP):

More on this subject will be upcoming in the January edition of The Blueberry News

Spring 2015 FBGA Meeting and Tradeshow

Spring 2015
Meeting and Tradeshow
February 17, 2015

Dear Members,

On behalf of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, I’d like to say a sincere thank you for your continued support of our organization and Florida agriculture.  Our spring meeting will be held Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 at the Hillsborough Community College Trinkle Center located at 1206 North Park Road in Plant City.

Should you have any questions or need further assistance, please feel free to contact our office at 352-754-4145 or via email at

Best regards,

Dudley Calfee
President, Florida Blueberry Growers Association


President’s Letter – Fall 2014

Overcoming Challenges in the Industry dudley_calfee
We are entering our fall season now, and most of us are looking forward to some additional chill hours, sunlight, and better spring growing conditions overall than last season gave us. I won’t recap the challenges that we faced last year, but suffice it to say that we are all happy to start a new season this year.

A lot of good things are happening at the Florida Blueberry Growers Association (FBGA). By the generous efforts and cooperation of Michael Heard of the Florida Blueberry Festival and the city of Brooksville, located in Hernando County, we now have a furnished and equipped office and a part-time administrative assistant. These new assets will help us to be more responsive in our communication and offer us the opportunity to be of better service to our members. The Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association are very grateful for all the time and effort put forth by the Blueberry Festival folks and the staff at the city of Brooksville to make these dreams a reality. Brooksville wants to be the “home of blueberries” in the state of Florida and they have truly stepped up to help us find a home where we can be more productive. We look forward to working together to continue to promote our “little blue dynamos” throughout the state and nation.

A couple of serious issues are facing us as growers this season: a pine bark shortage, and a new deadly pathogen attacking our plants— a type of parasitic algae. Pine bark is an essential ingredient in the recipe for growing blueberries in Florida. While the reasons for the limited availability of pine bark remain somewhat elusive, the fact remains that bark is in short supply and getting more expensive. A lot of growers have been unable to re-mulch existing fields and the construction of new acreage of blueberries has been restricted or halted. A lot of explanations have been offered for this situation; from a wet season which limited lumber harvest to the use of bark as “alternative fuel” in some facilities and factories. e Executive Committee of FBGA is continuing to investigate the shortage and try to come up with some answers as to why this is happening and perhaps a solution to loosen the tight supply of this commodity. We are also committed to encouraging research for possible alternatives to pine bark media.

The parasitic algae pathogen has the potential to be a real problem for many of us. It is presented as green lesions with orange reddish centers on the cane of the plant. The algae interfere with the vascular system of the plant, depriving it of nutrients. It seems to be variety specific. Some varieties, like Jewel, have it on the canes and don’t seem to mind. Others, such as Emerald, are severely stunted by the pathogen. Still others, like Farthing, are being killed outright. The experts at the University of Florida tell me the only thing that will help is a combination of copper sprays and some of the “Phite” products in the 2-40-16 range. An excellent article by Dr. Philip Harmon is included in this issue of e Blueberry News. I recommend that all growers read this carefully and be on the lookout for the algae in their fields.
Please take the time to read through this edition. I think you will find it very informative. I hope you all enjoyed the FBGA Fall Meeting, and I wish everyone a safe, successful, and profitable season.

We also have some other great information in this issue:

• Freeze protection info by Dr. Jeff Williamson. This article contains info on critical
freeze protection temperatures and some great photos of blueberry fl ower bud
development phases. A must-read to get ready for the challenges we may face
this winter.

• On the Grower 411 page, we feature Broker/marketer 101, “Do You Know
PACA?” by Dan Ebbecke, which is a great source of info for new and experienced
growers, and probably not a bad read for all the brokers out there too.
• The Spray Guide Tables— updated and reformatted to be more readable and
useful to you as growers.

• Two articles on blueberry diseases by Dr. Philip Harmon: Parasitic algae and anthracnose
stem canker.

• An excellent overview of the different cultivars by Dr. Jim Olmstead.

Please take the time to read through this edition. I think you will find it very informative.  I hope you all enjoyed the FBGA Fall Meeting, and I wish everyone a safe, successful, and profitable season.

Dudley Calfee
Dudley Calfee, President,
Florida Blueberry Growers Association


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