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
Province boosts ag spending
It’s a draw!
Editorial: Vice grip
Back Forty: Snow days make good days for seed selection
Viewpoint: Farmers need to prepare for annual snow melt
Smooth start to season as foreign workers arrive
Sidebar: Province mulls piece rates
Late winter has some Okanagan growers on edge
Ag show attracts near-record attendance
Ag Briefs: Traceability funding available for producers
Ag Briefs: Cattlemen’s launches webinar series
Ag Briefs: Grant winner announced
Labour remains a priority for fruit growers
Dairy, aquaculture take home awards at gala
Farmers need to prepare for uncertainty
Ag critic listens to concerns at farmers’ institute
Growers are responsible for workers’ safety
Robotic milkers sized up during dairy tour
Safe, high-quality silage depends on preparation
Diversification makes orchard a landmark
Ranchers need to match forage with herd needs
Producers question new Indigenous rights law
Hosting TRU students a way to give back
Livestock co-op provides selling, buying options
Sidebar: Market set to stay steady
Research: Bluetongue outbreaks expected to increase
Filling a niche for gourmet mushrooms
Regulations, housing key issues in Langley
Sheep producers seeing value in genetic program
Above and beyond
Vegetation fundamental to farms, landscape
Studies continue on forage, corn crop pests
4-H BC leader singled out
Growers go with the grain of beer revival
Agri-tourism has plenty of room for growth
Rose stem girdler poses threat to cranberries
Site prep critical for healthy hazelnut orchards
Sidebar: BC renewal program opens up
Wannabe: Renewal comes with a new generation of farmers
Woodshed: Deborah and Doug McLeod turn up the heat
A good place to meet up
Jude’s Kitchen: Celebrate spring by eating outside