MEMBERS OF THE Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the FBGA recently met with UF Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Jack Payne, and Nick Place, Dean and Director for UF/IFAS. We asked them to consider creating a statewide Blueberry position within UF/IFAS, someone who could be a conduit for information from the breeders and scientists at UF to the growers, and also facilitate communication from the growers back to UF.

UF Chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Kevin Folta, announced at the FBGA Fall Meeting a few weeks ago that the position had been approved. “Jack and Nick said they wanted it done, so the Horticultural Sciences faculty identified the resources and got it done,” Kevin told me.

The Blueberry Specialist position will be based at the UF Research Center in Balm. This will move some of the focus of blueberry research and education to a more central location in the state and closer to more growers in the southern region too.

I see this position developing into a statewide “Blueberry Guru” job: A senior scientist who can help growers with challenges as they arise, and also direct new, grower assisted research efforts to help our industry continue to thrive. Perhaps we will see a dedicated “Blueberry Team” grow around this new position in Balm consisting of researchers, pathologists, Extension specialists and agents, grad students, and other smart folks.

By creating this new position, the leadership at UF continues to show its support for Florida blueberry growers. We have to face significant challenges almost daily on our farms. The “Blueberry Guru in Balm” can help us meet those challenges in a timely manner.

In addition, UF has decided to replace our single breeder position with two breeder positions: One doing the more traditional breeding work with laboratory crosses, the other using modern “genomic selection” techniques. These complementary strategies will speed variety improvement. The team will work together to bring us better varieties for our Florida blueberry program.

The commitment shown by the leadership at the University of Florida to our industry is greatly appreciated. We cannot grow without knowledge and that can best be created from the beneficial partnership created between UF scientists and participating growers.
Inside this issue, you’ll find lots of great information:

• Learn more about the most effective methods for irrigation on a Florida blueberry farm.

• The Grower 411 department page offers growers a Winter Freeze Checklist for the farm.

• Also, Gary England and Jeff Williamson provide a climate outlook, as well as outline freeze protection resources.

• In the Grower’s Thoughts feature, Florida grower Ken Patterson shares a memorial on the passing of longtime friend to us all.

• Plus, Dr. Oscar Liburd shares with us the latest research update on flathead borers and Chilli thrips.

As always, I wish everyone a safe and profitable season.

Dudley Calfee, President
Florida Blueberry Growers Association
flbbga@gmail.com