What is in this article?:
- North Carolina blueberries met 2013 consumer demand
- Spreads the risk
• Weather like 2013’s raises the possibility of quality problems that may affect the berries acceptance by the market.
THESE blueberries for sale at the farmers market at the North Hills Mall in Raleigh fairly flew into consumer hands.
The North Carolina blueberry crop was affected by the rainy spring, like most fruits and vegetables.
But the abundance of berries for sale at the North Carolina Farmers Market in Raleigh earlier this summer, showed that excessive rain or no, there were still plenty of berries to meet consumer demand.
This won’t, however, go down in history as a bumper crop. Four Oaks, N.C., farmer Scott Barefoot said the cold spring caused the loss of his first crop of blueberries. “Now some of our rabbiteye varieties are not sizing up due to lack of pollination,” Barefoot said at the Farmers Market.
It was hard to pick wet fruit, he said. And there was definitely a yield loss. “I would say we are looking at about a 70 percent crop so far,” said Barefoot, who grew 27 acres of blueberries this year. “But flavor and quality have been good.”
Much of the North Carolina crop had been harvested in less than ideal conditions, said Bill Cline, North Carolina Extension plant pathologist.
“In a perfect world, you would only harvest blueberries when they are dry,” said Cline. “But this season, we had to pick them when we could.”
But through the middle of June, it seemed that most of the crop was getting picked, he said. “I haven’t seen any fields abandoned. But it has been a struggle to get the berries out.”
It would have been a bigger challenge, except that a lot got picked ahead of the rain, he added.
Weather like 2013’s raises the possibility of quality problems that may affect the berries acceptance by the market, but Cline said he hadn’t heard of any blueberries getting rejected by buyers.
One practice that helped this year was planting multiple varieties with different maturity dates.
“Years ago, we planted almost entirely the Croatan variety,” said Cline. “It would all come off at one time, close to Memorial Day, and all would be subject to the same weather.”
Now farmers plant several varieties of differing maturity, and the harvest comes off in a series of small peaks.