Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on June 8, 2007. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
South Mississippi blueberries producing a good crop
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Two weeks of harvests in the southern part of Mississippi indicate a very good year for blueberries, despite an Easter weekend freeze that decimated those in the northern part of the state.
John Braswell, Mississippi State University horticulture specialist at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, said the crop is in pretty good shape.
“Most of the acreage south of Interstate 20 has a good crop,” Braswell said. “There's a lot of fruit coming off right now.”
The freeze destroyed many blueberries in north Mississippi, and the blueberry gall midge caused some problems before bloom in south Mississippi.
“This little insect gets in the bud and reduces the number of flowers, thereby reducing the size of the crop,” Braswell said. “Our most common variety, Premier, is more susceptible than the other varieties to the blueberry gall midge.”
Mississippi produced 4 million pounds of blueberries in 2006, which was a reduced crop due to Hurricane Katrina's damage the previous fall. In 2005, the state had 6 million pounds of blueberries, and Braswell is estimating a 2007 crop of 7 million pounds.
Blueberry prices in early June were about $2 a pound for fresh berries. Last year's average price was $1.90 a pound, and Braswell estimated this year will average out the same.
Blueberry harvest in Mississippi began the last week of May and will run until mid-July.
Luis Monterde, owner of B&M Blueberry Farm in Purvis, said the state takes advantage of a one-month market window from mid-May to mid-June. He has 35 acres of blueberries and a packing house where he processes fruit for about 40 area growers.
“We are in the very peak of fresh production and will keep this pace until about June 15-20,” Monterde said. “Then when New Jersey's crop comes in, the price always drops because they have such a gigantic volume.”
Monterde said the state's first commercial blueberry shipment came in the mid-1980s with about 68,000 pounds.
“This year, it is very, very feasible that we may reach 8 million pounds,” Monterde said.
The only negative he saw now is a continuing housing shortage for migrant workers caused by Katrina's destruction.
“Besides that, we're picking and packing,” Monterde said.
Growers in North Mississippi are not nearly as optimistic. Gerald Holifield, owner of Pontotoc Blueberry Ridge, said he lost 80 percent to 90 percent of the blueberries on his 2.5 acre farm in the three-day, early April freeze.
“The temperature stayed at 31 degrees for nine hours,” Holifield said. “We stayed up all night spraying water on them, but it was too cold for too long.”
He said bushes protected by trees have some berries, as do scattered bushes across his field. While the berries were lost, the bushes will survive, although some were burned back by the freeze.