Notes From the Field

Learn More About the Presentations Featured at FBGA’s Fall Meeting

There were several presentations by UF/IFAS at the FBGA fall meeting in October. These included discussions of the blueberry breeding program, algal stem blotch, gall midge and chilli thrips, machine harvesting, and results of a grower survey on the 2019 season. A brief summary of these presentations follows, along with QR codes to the slides from each.


Blueberry Breeding Update


Patricio Munoz, UF blueberry breeder professor, presented information on the growth of global blueberry production, as well as updates on various research projects being conducted by his lab. These projects include substrate production trials, fruit set and machine harvestability research, the possibility of a fall production system, and research to include favorable traits from native wild blueberries. In addition, information was presented regarding “Colossus,” the newest release from the UF blueberry breeding program.

Algal Stem Blotch


Phil Harmon, UF plant pathology professor, discussed algal stem blotch, a significant disease on blueberries in Florida. It is caused by a parasitic alga, Cephaleuros virescens, and can result in paling or bleaching of foliage, stunted growth, and can make the weakened plant more susceptible to other diseases such as Botryosphaeria stem blight. The only effective control currently known is copper sprays, which will not eradicate the disease in the plant but will kill the reproductive structures to help prevent further spread.


Blueberry Gall Midge and Chilli Thrips


Oscar Liburd, UF entomology professor, discussed two significant blueberry pests in Florida, blueberry gall midge and chilli thrips. Recent gall midge research conducted by Oscar’s lab found a higher density of gall midge at the edges and mid field on blueberry farms, with a lower density in deep field areas. These trials also found that Delegate, Exirel, Malathion, and Movento provided the most consistent control of the tested insecticide products for adult gall midge. In a recent trial of insecticide controls on adult chilli thrips, the products with the most consistent control were Delegate and Apta. Assail performed well against chilli thrips larvae, but not adults.

Preparing New Blueberry Fields for Mechanical Harvesting


Jeff Williamson, UF horticultural sciences professor, described how to prepare blueberry fields for effective mechanical harvesting. This is a high-interest topic, with growers looking for ways to decrease production costs. The areas discussed included cultivar characteristics best suited to machine harvesting; examples of traits in existing cultivars; plant spacing and row clearance; bed configuration, and training and pruning plant crowns to minimize ground loss.



2019 Season Grower Survey


Doug Phillips, UF blueberry extension coordinator, presented the results of a survey of 47 blueberry growers from farms across the state regarding their observations during the 2019 season. The areas covered included highest and lowest yielding cultivars, most profitable cultivars, disease and insect issues, and honey bee and bumble bee hive densities. This information was shared with UF blueberry researchers so they are aware of cultivar performance and other issues, and can focus their research where it will be most beneficial. This survey will be repeated annually. In addition, a new Florida blueberry scouting app was previewed; the app will be available early next year.

by DOUG PHILLIPS, blueberry extension coordinator, University of Florida IFAS

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