Lack of Pollination Impacting Maine’s Wild Blueberry Crop

Associated Press writer Patrick Whittle reported yesterday that, “Maine’s wild blueberry crop is likely to be much smaller this year than in recent summers because the industry is contending with troubles such as disease and a lack of pollination.

“The New England state is the wild blueberry capital of the U.S., and in recent years crop sizes have soared and prices have plummeted, bringing uncertainty to a key state industry. The crop grew a little less than one percent last year to almost 102 million pounds (46 million kilograms), while prices hit a 10-year low of 27 cents per pound to farmers.

“But it’s apparent as the summer harvest nears its end that that’s all changing this year, University of Maine horticulture professor David Yarborough said. He said ‘mummy berry’ disease, a crop-killing ailment caused by a fungal pathogen, and other factors could cut the crop as much as 36 percent this summer.”

The AP article stated that, “Yarborough said a shortage of pollinators like bees, a lack of rain and some localized frost issues have also held back the blueberry crop. Another factor influencing the crop size is that farming effort appears to be down this year, possibly influenced by the low prices to farmers, he said.

“The high crops of recent years have taken a toll on the industry due to oversupply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved up to $10 million to purchase surplus Maine blueberries last month in an effort to prop up prices. The USDA also made a similar move in 2016.

“One year of lower blueberry yield might not be enough to raise prices, Yarborough said, because so many surplus blueberries from past years remain in freezer storage. A rise in prices to farmers could eventually impact consumers in the form of higher prices, but it’s unclear yet if that will happen any time soon, he said.”

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