President’s Letter -Overcoming Challenges in the Industry 

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 criticalfreeze protection temperatures and some great photos of blueberry fl ower buddevelopment phases. A must-read to get ready for the challenges we may facethis winter.
  • On the Grower 411 page, we feature Broker/marketer 101, “Do You KnowPACA?” by Dan Ebbecke, which is a great source of info for new and experiencedgrowers, and probably not a bad read for all the brokers out there too.• The Spray Guide Tables— updated and reformatted to be more readable anduseful to you as growers.
  • Two articles on blueberry diseases by Dr. Philip Harmon: Parasitic algae and anthracnosestem 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