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Miserable, but not harmful


Cold winter and spring less of a worry than warm, early start to the season. By Judie Steeves


T


his year’s cold spring means berry crops will be delayed not only later than last year, but likely later than normal. However, the cold, snowy winter has not resulted in significant winter damage to plants, figures consulting horticulturist Mark Sweeney.


In fact, the very early season last year created more problems than it’s expected this year’s cooler spring will, he notes.


Marketing blueberries proved to be a real challenge in 2016, not only because it was another record- sized crop, but also because the earliness of the harvest meant marketers went head-to-head with berries from New Jersey and Oregon, instead of following those harvests. The first berries were being picked in early June last year. If the weather continues to be cooler than usual, he forecasts harvest won’t begin until the second week in July this year. Another record crop is also forecast for B.C. as more new plantings of blueberries come on- stream and hit the market. That doesn’t bode well for prices, which are already depressed due to the quantity available in storage after several big crop years, Sweeney adds.


Even though it was unusual to have weeks at a stretch with snow on the ground this past winter, Sweeney says he isn’t seeing much winter damage. This is likely because there wasn’t extreme cold, and plants were ready to go into winter hibernation when the weather turned cold in the fall. Although spring was cool, there wasn’t much spring frost once the plants began to wake up and


8 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2017


became susceptible to frost damage.


He has heard of some damage in the eastern part of the Fraser Valley, and some growers found that wind-blown snow around the edges of a field caused some broken branches because it was so deep. Particularly where there was an empty field adjacent to the berries on the windward side, snow drifts


over the bushes could get to four or five feet; then the freeze and thaw cycle caused problems. Those growers will need to do some pruning and will lose crops for a few years, but the bushes will grow back, he figures.


Damage such as that was patchy, with undamaged plants further into the field.


In some places there are now


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