Fraser Valley berries flourish under “ideal” conditions
by Sean Hitrec
DELTA – With memories of the difficult spring of 2017 still fresh in their minds, farmers say strawberries are flourishing while while early predictions show blueberry and raspberry crops should match those of with previous years in the Lower Mainland.
“The size [this year] is as big as I’ve seen for strawberries,” says Kevin Husband of Emma Lea Farms on Westham Island, calling it the best crop he’s seen in 10 years.
Spring rains stopped at an ideal time for Husband’s 30 acres of strawberries to establish the proper root structure to support a large and delicious crop. Healthy fresh-market sales combined with warm sunny weekends for Husband’s u-pick operation were the pay-off for what he considers an ideal crop.
This is especially good news after last year, when yields were 30% down from average. A wet spring oversaturated his plants with water, which led to poor root systems.
“They didn’t form any roots because they didn’t have to,” he says, explaining that smaller roots mean reduced yields. “They just had a few berries and then the season was over.”
Blueberries suffered similarly low yields last year, and while this year is better, they didn’t come out of the winter unscathed.
BC Blueberry Council chair Jack Bates says his 90 acres of blueberries in Ladner are looking good so far. He isn’t the type of person to count his blueberries before they’re picked but he says the crop seems to be back on track after last year.
However, late winter brought hiccups. An unusual cold snap in February killed some young blueberry buds, seemingly at random, in some fields in the Lower Mainland.
“The [affected] buds, when they started opening, were all brown. And then they just kind of opened and fell off,” Bates says.
“On the positive side, weather conditions have been excellent,” he adds, noting that pollination was “great” this year. “Another small rain would not hurt us at all, but most guys are irrigating and getting water on.”
Blueberries in the Lower Mainland suffered from moisture and untimely rainfalls when their buds opened in 2017, preventing adequate pollination and reducing the crop to just 135.6 million pounds.
“Last year was a real downer year; the whole province was down 30-something million pounds. So hopefully we’ll be back up to our traditional production, but it’s too early to tell,” he says.
Bates says he’ll know more once harvest begins, and the impact of a late and untimely June frost on the low-bush blueberry crop in the Maritimes is clear. In some cases, 80% of blueberry crops have been lost. Bates hopes that will mean better prices for BC berries.
Raspberries were later than normal due to the wet spring last year, but like other fruit they’re expected to be on par with previous years, says Henry Mutz of Berry Haven Farm Ltd. in Abbotsford.
“At the moment, it looks like we are only about five days ahead of last year. We were expecting it to be like the strawberries, 10 days ahead,” he says.
Vol. 104 Issue 7
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
What on earth?
Opposition slams ALC bill
Sidebar: Protection & pushback
Editorial: Truth in labelling
Back Forty: So you don’t believe in climate change
Viewpoint: Don’t blame the cows for global warming
Ag council’s lobbying efforts produce results
Learning a new skill
Foundation’s nest egg for funding projects increases
Province will hold the line on piece rates
New CEO aims to kindle team spirit at co-op
FIRB decision prompts rethink of pricing scheme
Beekeepers see potential in technology transfer
AgSafe markes quarter century
Raspberries hit hard by harsh February
Blueberry growers anxious for new varieties
Biological controls for pests in demand
Sidebar: Pesticides in play
Growers urged to focus on fresh
Westgen celebrates 75 years of excellence
Top seller was no-show at Holstein sale
Spring show attracts exhibitors from Quebec
Cheesemakers unite to grow niche market
Range use permits under greater scrutiny
Sidebar: Range use plans go digital
Market Musings: Top bulls sell for top dollar at spring sales
Grapegrowers share sustainability objectives
Grape specialist honoured for dedication
Hazelnut production expands across BC
Sidebar: Pest pressures
Supporters take to AITC’s Sips & Sprouts
Research: Cultured meat fails to impress researchers
UAVs undergo testing for pesticide delivery
Sustainability goes beyond saving farmland
Father and daughter roll with the last of the steel wheels
Woodshed: Susan Henderson is warming to country life
Wannabe: Farming is more than just a job
Surplus, cull fruit finds new purpose as tasty snacks
Jude’s Kitchen: Special food for special moms