By the time you hold this in your hands, by God’s grace our harvest will be well underway. On our family blueberry farm in Medulla, Kirkland Farms, we experienced more chill hours in the latter part of 2016 than we did in 2015. This season, we measured 80 chill hours, compared to the season before, which counted for a mere two. There’s no question, when you look at the historical data, our cultivars perform better when there is at least something close to 100 hours of chill.
Speaking of historical data, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) records the numbers from each season. The numbers from last year are not available yet, but the data from 2003 to 2015 really shows our industry’s growth through the years. University of Florida Department of Plant Pathology Professor Philip F. Harmon put together some reader-friendly graphs with the available data from USDA NASS. You can view them on page 30 of this edition.
This year, we also dodged a bullet by not experiencing any freeze damage in February or early March. Unfortunately for our northern states and neighbors, the inclement weather of March 15-16 resulted in what experts are claiming as damage to 80 percent of the Georgia crop. This speaks to the importance of not just having an adequate number of chill accumulation at the critical dormancy stage, but also the absence of damaging freezes during the critical bud and blooming phases and, not to mention for Florida farmers especially, having adequate freeze protection measures in place and ready to go.
As we bring in the harvest, I wish you much reward for your hard work . . . and a little luck never hurts either.
Nelson Kirkland, Publisher