Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on September 29, 2000. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information.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.
Drought Helped State Blueberries
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi blueberries proved this year that a drought isn't a bad thing if you have irrigation.
The state had a good blueberry crop this year with about 4 million pounds sold. John Braswell, Extension horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University's South Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Poplarville, said about 80 percent of the state's 1,600 acres are located in the drought-stricken southeast part of the state. The drought actually was a benefit at harvest.
"Most growers have irrigation so they produced a good quality crop," Braswell said. "Since it was dry during the harvest, they didn't have the problems they normally have when you get rain during harvest."
Rain at the wrong time of the season causes berries to split, leak or go soft, reducing their market value.
This year's state blueberry season began earlier than usual, with blueberries being picked from the middle of May to the end of June. A typical season is the end of May to mid-July.
A slight freeze in early April damaged low-lying areas, and reduced the overall crop by an estimated 25 percent. Braswell said a dry harvest compensated for this loss.
"We may lose as much as 20 percent of our berries at harvest if it's rainy," he said.
Prices for blueberries were also good, averaging $16 for a flat, which is 10 pounds of fresh berries. Frozen berries sold in the high 80 cents a pound range. Braswell said the entire crop brought about $4 million to Mississippi growers.
Traditionally, Mississippi growers have planted the various varieties of Rabbiteye blueberries, but a new variety, Southern Highbush, is gaining in popularity.
"These plants bloom a little later, which gives them some protection from late frost, but they fruit earlier," Braswell said. "We should get fruit by the end of April instead of the first of May. This allows growers to market their berries sooner. And since these berries ripen earlier, they are harvested in May when it's cooler, rather than in June."
Mississippi blueberries leave the market around the middle of July and northern blueberries enter the market about the Fourth of July and continue through late August. Fresh blueberries available in the winter come from Chile.
Blueberry acreage in the state is increasing, with most new acreage being planted in the Southern Highbush varieties.