West Central Michigan small fruit regional report – April 22, 2014

Growers need to inspect fields for winter damage, mow or prune fields, and prepare their integrated pest management program for the 2014 berry season.

In 2014, winter weather conditions were harsh in comparison to the last couple of years. Snow and extreme low temperatures that prevailed for most of the winter prevented growers from conducting some of the basic maintenance practices that take place at the end of winter in both blueberry and raspberry fields.

Currently, most blueberry varieties are at bud swell, and bud break is already in progress in Allegan County. In the last couple of weeks, pruning has been one of the main activities in most blueberry fields. North of Allegan County, growers are still pruning. This year, pruning has been delayed because of the weather conditions. The snow and cold did not allow growers to get into the fields at an early time.

It is important to stress the need for removing all winter-damaged canes to prevent outbreaks of shoot and twig cankers caused by opportunistic diseases like mummy berry and Phomopsis. So far, the most winter-damaged varieties are Jersey and Bluecrop. Also, fields that had a heavy crop in 2013 and had a poor nutrient management program are showing almost no flower buds. Because of the winter damage and poor bud set, many growers are pruning heavily this year to promote growth for the next season.

For raspberries, growers unable to mow fields early in the season are doing it at this time. However, raspberries that were renewed earlier are reporting frost damage on the early growth that resulted after temperatures started warming up in March and during the first week of April. The same situation has been reported regarding strawberries. After the snow melted away, strawberry plants were exposed for several days to single digit temperatures that cause some winter damage in early season varieties.

Regarding an integrated pest management (IPM) program for 2014, on Monday, April 21, Michigan State University Extension held its first spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) workshop of the year. Growers had the opportunity to get new information on the advances the MSU Extension small fruit team is making on SWD control, as well as learn how to select the best insecticides based on weather conditions, pest phenology and behavior of the insecticides.

The next workshop will be tomorrow, Wednesday, April 23, at the Trevor Nichols Research Center in Fennville, Mich. This workshop is now full, but we have a waiting list for growers that were not able to register for these two first workshops. If you want to participate in any other workshop that we may offer, depending on the number of requests, please contact Judy Hanson at hanson26@msu.edu or 616-994-4548.

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