West central Michigan small fruit update – June 22, 2021

West Michigan received a substantial amount of rain during the past five days, alleviating the spring drought that affected fruit crops for the past weeks.

The Michigan fruit industry has been under a stressful situation due to climate conditions that prevailed for the most part of the 2021 spring season. The extended period without a substantial rainfall left the region with an average water deficit of 5 inches. According Michigan State University Enviroweather, the five-year average of accumulated precipitations for this period is on average 11.6 inches. The series of thunderstorms and rain showers that occurred during the past five days mitigated the current drought conditions. However, rainfalls left a variable accumulation depending on the locations. For example, around West Olive, Michigan, the rainfall accumulations were only around 1.3 inches, but in Grand Junction, Michigan, the accumulated precipitation during the past five days reached 3.4 inches.

Blueberries are the most benefited small fruit crop by these precipitations. Currently, all blueberry varieties are in the final phase of fruit growth and development. This is a very sensitive growth stage where water availability is critical for maintaining fruit yield and quality. According to Bryla (2011) and Almutari et. al (2020), the period between the green fruit stage and the first harvest is the most critical blueberry growth stage where water stress may reduce fruit yield and quality by as much as 35%. Likewise, water deficits reduce berry weight by 10% to 15% when irrigation is withhold during early or late stages of fruit development.

Therefore, blueberry growers need to continue providing supplemental irrigation at those places where precipitations left an accumulation of 1 inch or less. This will ensure a good yield and fruit quality at harvest.

So far, blueberry harvest is one or two weeks behind depending on the location. Therefore, blueberry fields affected by the spring drought will be able to recover if the rains and supplemental irrigation continue providing enough water to maintain a healthy crop.

A new training: Preparing for the Michigan Pesticide Applicator Certification in Spanish

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Food and Farming Systems are inviting Spanish speaking berry growers and farm workers to attend a workshop in Spanish to prepare for the test to acquire the Michigan Private Pesticide Applicator Certification. This workshop will be offered on June 28 and June 29, 2021, at the Lake Michigan Collage in South Haven, Michigan. This event will be in person with instructors providing the training via Zoom technology. Online registration will be provided soon.

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