Climate change impacts Michigan blueberry industry — Climate change has been impacting earth and the news for several years with people providing opinions on the causes behind the global warming phenomenon. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, climate change is here and we need to deal with it.
Blueberries early growth stages that normally occur during April and early May are all over the place. With the hot temperatures we have had, advancement in the growing season has increased by more than three weeks effecting major fruit crops, blueberries, apples and cherries. For blueberries, the “tight cluster” growth stage occurred in 2010 around April 28 in the variety bluecrop. As of March 22, the same stage in the same variety is all over the fields in west Michigan. That is one month in advance.
This unusual phenomenon brought a series of challenges for the fruit industry and for all the technical personnel directly associated with fruit production. Major challenges that they will be dealing with include spring freeze and frost events, lack of pollinators, and early arrival of insect and disease problems.
All major fruit crops in Michigan rely on honey bees for good pollination and fruit quality. But with such unusual spring, most commercial beekeepers that provide pollination services for Michigan growers are not ready to move their colonies from their overwintering site, Florida and California. This create big problems for all fruit growers.
Blueberry growers risking freeze and frost damage or lack of pollinators may benefit from the application of gibberellic acid to supplement the lack of natural pollinators and get an additional protection against freeze and frost damage at bloom time. Eric Hanson, MSU Extension small fruit horticulturist, has shown that application of GA may decrease the impact of low pollination. GA can be applied in a single spray during bloom or two 40 g sprays, one during bloom and the second 10 to 14 days later. The formulation of this product is marketed under different names, Several GA productsare labeled for highbush blueberries. GA typically results in greater retention of some seedless fruit that would have dropped and also increases the size of berries without a full complement of seeds.
Although global warming has effected many fruits and is a major problem for the industry, people are trying to combat it.
- Andrew Urban