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Years of Research on Blueberry Sprayers Gives Growers Invaluable Insight

by MARY TOOTHMAN

It is very common practice for growers to spray blueberry crops with insecticides, but experts say if they are going to spray blueberries, they best do it right.

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Winter Freeze Checklist

Virtually all blueberry fields in Florida are subject to late winter or early spring freezes which can cause serious reductions in yield. Below is a list of activities for freeze preparation. The list was originally published by Mike Mainland in the North Carolina Blueberry News, Vol. 7, No. 1 and has been modified by IFAS faculty and FBGA board members.

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Recognizing Injury Symptoms from Blueberry Gall Midge

Blueberry growers throughout the state of Florida experienced what appears to be high blueberry gall midge (BGM) damage during the spring 2018 growing season. The damage appears to be more pronounced in the Central Florida counties of Sumter, Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Hillsborough, and Polk, as well as north-central counties of Alachua, Bradford, Putnam, and Marion.  Typically, gall midge will attack young developing floral and leaf buds and will cause floral buds to abort or fall off the bush resulting in poor flowering and ‘fruit set.’ With heavy gall midge damage to floral buds, there would typically be a lighter bloom since many of these buds will abort (e.g., only 1 or 2 florets may be seen instead of the usual 5 to 6, and therefore fruit clusters with only 1 or 2 fruit per cluster). It should be noted that damage to flower buds (browning, shriveling, and disintegration) can also be caused by freeze and application of hydrogen cyanamide. Poor fruit set and excessive dropping of undeveloped green fruit can be caused by poor pollination.

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Best Pollination Practices in Southern Highbush Blueberries in Florida

Southern highbush blueberry (SHB) is the primary blueberry species grown in Florida. It is dependent upon pollinating insects for adequate pollination and fruit set. Some Florida growers reported cases of low fruit set this past season, in particular on Meadowlark and Emerald, which may have been due in part to poor pollination. In most of these cases, growers observed a heavy bloom followed by poor fruit set, with undeveloped fruit dropping from the plants. Although there may be other causes for this scenario, including heavy flower thrips damage to blossoms, this description is generally indicative of poor pollination. Other symptoms of inadequate pollination include an extended period after flower opening before petal fall, petals turning brown while still on the bush, and a low number of seeds in fruit that does develop. This article will present current best practices to reduce the possibility of poor pollination of SHB.

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FBGA FALL 2018 MEETING & TRADE SHOW – Tuesday October 30th – REGISTRATION NOW AVAILABLE

We are EXCITED to announce the Florida Blueberry Growers Association Fall 2018 Meeting & Trade Show will be held on Tuesday October 30th at a NEW location, conveniently located off I-75 in Ocala, FL. This will be a day-long event of educational seminars as well as the opportunity to visit with 35+ vendors to the blueberry industry. Lunch is included in your paid registration.

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Grower 411: Watch for Algal Stem Blotch As Weather Gets Warmer and Wetter. Provided by: Doug Phillips UF Blueberry Extension Coordinator

Algal stem blotch is a disease caused by a plant-parasitic alga (Cephaleuros virescens) that can infect southern highbush blueberries and has been observed on various cultivars by Florida blueberry growers. The alga is thought to enter the plant through natural openings and wounds, which may include pruning cuts, and the disease appears to be more severe on stressed plants or plants greater than five years old.
Initial infections may take up to one year to produce symptoms. Reproductive spores are produced between May and September during wet conditions and are dispersed by wind and water. Overhead irrigation may contribute to conditions favorable for disease development and spread; where possible, drip irrigation should be used instead of overhead when this disease is present. Early symptoms include small red blotches or lesions on young stems that expand to form irregular patches and can encircle canes (Figure 1). When conditions become more humid, orange mats or tufts of algal growth appear from the lesions (Figure 2). In addition, canes with pale yellow to white leaves and stunted growth typically appear as the disease advances (Figure 3). The primary impact of this disease is a reduction in plant vigor, with a lack of regrowth in major canes following summer pruning in some cases. This damage can also leave the canes susceptible to Botryosphaeria, which can lead to cane dieback. Starting new plantings with disease free stock can help to avoid disease from the outset. When infection does occur, algal stem blotch can typically be managed (but not eradicated) through the use of copper hydroxide fungicides. These products should not be mixed with fertilizer, acidifying buffers, insecticides, or fungicides with EC formulations. Spray applications should be made beginning after harvest is completed, every four weeks at the label rate (or every two weeks at a lower label rate for severe infections) through September or October, making sure to have good canopy penetration and cane coverage. Applications on this schedule must be made consistently in order to be effective. Although this won’t have an impact on current symptoms, it will kill the reproductive structures to minimize the spread and infection of new plant tissue. Maintaining good management practices (irrigation, fertilization, disease, and pest control) can reduce plant stress, making them less susceptible to disease. In addition, removing and destroying infected canes and improving air circulation in the canopy through pruning may help minimize the spread of algal stem blotch.

Blueberry Pollination Webinar

To the membership of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association.

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Aiding growers in making irrigation and cold protection decisions

Recent enhancements to FAWN allow for easier navigation on station-specific pages, plus an app for smartphone access

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