Michigan leads the nation in the production of blueberries and tart cherries

In the heat of the summer, Michigan grown fruit is hard to beat.

Recent statistics show that Michigan ranks second, only to California, in agricultural diversity. Why does Michigan perform so well compared to other states that are more sunshine and temperature fortunate? Michigan ranks first in the nation in the production of 18 commodities including: 12 different floriculture crops, three varieties of dry beans, pickling cucumbers and fruit crops of tart cherries and blueberries.

Along the Lake Michigan “fruit belt,” twenty different varieties of blueberries and 77% of the nation’s tart cherries are grown. The lake functions as a moderating body, preventing temperatures from getting too cold in the fall and too hot in the summer. It also provides the frequent rainfall that fruit production requires. These climate conditions plus sandy and fertile soils give rise to favorable conditions for growing fruit.

Blueberry production requires low soil pH, cool temperatures and adequate moisture; Michigan soils and climate support all three conditions. Most of the acreage is located in Southwest Michigan near the Lake Michigan shore. The sandy glacial soils and high water tables result in excellent blueberry soils with soil pH in the acidic range of 4.5 to 5.5 on the pH scale. The harvest season normally runs from early July through October. The 2010 National Agriculture Statistics Service fruit production report indicates that 115 million pounds of cultivated blueberries were harvested from 18,800 acres. The farm level value for the crop was $139.4 million.

When it comes to cherry production, favorable soil and climate conditions are also the reason for Michigan’s first place finish. Land on the east side of Lake Michigan has a temperature moderating effect which results in long, frost free autumns and delayed spring bloom periods; both favoring cherry production. In Michigan, tart cherries are grown from Benton Harbor to Elk Rapids and the primary variety is the Montmorency cherry. Leelanau County in northwest Michigan accounts for 26% of Michigan’s tart cherry acreage, 48% of its sweet cherry acreage and 30% of all Michigan cherry trees. In the nation, Leelanau County leads in cherry acreage with 12,259 acres in production and 1,303,465 trees.

In addition to cherries and blueberries, Michigan growers produce other fruit crops such as apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, raspberries and strawberries. Michigan fruit is abundant, delicious, nutritious and hard to beat!

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