This blog is for Polk County Florida small farms and pesticide applicators as a method of communication and sharing information. This blog is administered by the University of Florida IFAS Extension Polk County Extension Agent, Mary Beth Henry.
Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) are being trapped all over the state at this time. It is imperative growers understand the significance of this pest. It will most likely not show up until the fruit is in the packing house or even later. Rejected fruit is usually an expense for the grower. A good spray program is essential to avoid expensive problems in the future. The most recent newsletter listed three insecticides to use to prevent major SWD outbreaks. As picking frequency increases pay close attention to REI and PHI times.
In Polk County we are still not picking daily. Labor appears to be adequate as strawberry season has ended. So far spring high, spring wide, scintilla, flicker, and primmadonna have been the bulk of our harvest. Some jewels and a few emeralds but they are taking their sweet time. I have been very surprised at how slowly the crop is ripening especially as I look at the thermometer right now and it's 88 degreees. I had expected to be in full swing by now but we just aren't there, maybe next week. The other thing I am noticing here in central Florida is the lack of fruit. In some areas where we have picked over the jewels a couples of times the plants look very thin with fruit. I still believe the lack of chill and hydrogen cyanamide damage has played a significant role in reducing our voulme in this part of the state. Without a crop estimate starting point it is very difficult to make an accurate guess at how much and when.
The USDA AMS has begun tracking Florida production. I am asking all marketers to cooperate with the USDA and report voulmes, prices, and pack sizes so they can give us a clear picture of what we have produced and where the prices are trending. This information is confidential and compiled as a tool for marketing blueberries. It is my belief that the retail industry has become very good at playing our marketers against each other to the detriment of our farm income. Just look at the radical price fluctuations we experience every season. I would think that honest and accurate crop reporting to the USDA would help alleviate some of the huge price swings. I urge all growers to contact their marketers and ask them to please provide this information to the USDA. I know most marketers are very stingy with this information but I don't see it doing them any good. Every year it's the same thing marketer A tells his growers marketer B was the first to drop prices.
Speaking of prices I would be interested in hearing from farmers on what they are hearing about current sales prices and pack sizes. I've been told this past week most sales were in the $8 plus per pound range before packing and marketing expenses. Most packages were 125 gram and 150 grams. Fruit from Chile continues to come in adding downward pressure on our pricing and most Chilean fruit is being sold in the $4 per pound range. With the low volume of fruit coming off the bush I would expect prices to remain above $7 per pound. Even as volume increases we are going into Easter and consumtion should increase. The best thing we as farmers can do to help ourselves is to keep your marketer informed on you anticipated production. We need to avoid the "Chicken Little" effect.
Cedar waxwings seem to be everywhere. If you have an especially high number I would like to hear from you. The recently adopted Best Management Practices for Specialty Crops covers the proper techniques for using propane cannons.
The Florida Blueberry Festival is just around the corner, May 4,5,6. If you want to get involved please contact them through their website at www.floridablueberryfestival.org This is an excellent opportunity to sell end of the season fruit. Billboards, television and radio ads are beginnng in the next few days. I am expecting the event to be a big success. Over $300,000 has been raised for promotion and advertising.
That's it for this week. If you want to contact me please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Braswell President, Florida Blueberry Growers Association