As summer heats up, Michigan looks forward to its blueberry season kicking off, with the Michigan Blueberry Commission expecting a promising harvest.
The commission's executive director Kevin Robson explains: "Last year, we produced around 68 million pounds, so comparatively we’re looking at a more sizeable crop this year."
While he expects the volume to be up from last year, he comments that it would still likely be lower than a typical season.
"In an average year, Michigan blueberry farmers produce around 100 million pounds of blueberries, with some destined for both the fresh and processing markets. This year we’re looking to have a bit less than average crop, but still, the season will tell."
He adds that the lower-than-average figure is partly due to difficult growing conditions.
"This year, we’ve had abnormally cooler temperatures, and excessive rain events. This is both a blessing and a curse; the berries are sizing up well, but with the excessive rain, it’s difficult to time protective measures, and navigate the fields."
Still, he points out that growers hadn’t encountered any major frost events and that overall pollination was good.
Growing conditions have been tough this year, with the amount of rainfall, standing water, and cool temperatures.
Blueberry market conditions
Market conditions continue to be difficult for specialty crop producers, including blueberry growers, says Robson.
"The market is now global, with competition coming from all over the world. There are strong growing markets in the Southern Hemisphere that can produce fruit cheaper, and during our season, which makes it tough for our growers to remain competitive.
"It’s imperative that we focus on getting optimum tonnage on every acre, to make up for the lost markets."
As for which varieties are likely to do this best, he points to new "winter-hardy and higher yielding" categories. He also notes that these are being "heavily researched".
Additionally, he says: "The Michigan Blueberry Commission has a robust research funding program that helps propel and position our state’s industry for success."
As one of the top blueberry producers in the country, he points out that the state's growers are "steadfastly committed to producing quality berries for our communities."