Record blueberry produce expected this season despite significant lack of rain in May

From Fox 17 West Michigan | 31 May 2023

Overview of blueberries from Michigan in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on May 26, 2023. 

HOLLAND, Mich. — Blueberry fields are inching closer and closer to peak blueberry season. Farms throughout West Michigan have had no easy feat battling Mother Nature, but this season, the largest projected crop is in store.

“We’re looking at potentially one of the largest crops that we’ve seen in eight-to-ten years,” Andrew VanTil, co-owner of Bowerman Blueberries, told FOX 17.

Bowerman Blueberries has around 100 acres to tend to.

“Each one of these white blossoms is potentially a blueberry and we see more blossoms this year than we’ve seen in a really long time,” said VanTil.

While the abundance of bloom makes him happy, he says it hasn’t come easy.

“Oh we’re feeling it on the farm,” said VanTil. “This May we’ve irrigated four times more than we have in the last previous couple years.”

According to the National Weather Service, West Michigan has been moisture starved this month. With a whopping 0.84 inches, which is less than one inch of rain. This year marks the second driest May on record.

blueberry volumes by his 6

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

“With this amount of a fruit load, we’re going to need the additional water,” said VanTil.

VanTil says, on average for irrigation, they pump about 500,000 gallons in the month of May, but this year they’ve exceeded well above two million gallons already, and could break three million by next week.

The farm also uses irrigation to protect the bushes from cold air.

“This spring, we noticed a lot more frost events than normal,” said VanTil. “So while we’re in bloom it’s the most critical time of the year for us and if it drops below 32 degrees for us, we’re going to see damage.”

At this point in the season, there are only a few factors that could leave Bowerman’s with a less than ideal season, they include more frost damage, extreme temperatures and hail. Despite these threats, VanTil is optimistic.

“It’s going to be a great season for U-Pick. It’s going to be a great year for blueberries. I hear the cherry crop and apple crop are doing well. I think overall it’s going to be an amazing year for fruit this summer,” VanTil added.

And, according to Michigan State University, Michigan blueberry producers grow about 100 million pounds of blueberries every year, which makes Michigan a leader in that crop.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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