Growers in southern Georgia and northern Florida will recall that freezing temperatures in 2015 caused severe damage to blueberry crops. Because blueberries bloom in late winter or early spring in the Southeast, the flowers and young fruit are highly susceptible to freeze and frost injury.
Cold damage is not always obvious. Following temperatures below the critical level, the complete flower/small fruit will develop a water-soaked appearance, shrivel and drop. However, a very brief time at the critical temperature may damage only the pistil. Ovules, can also be damaged without any exterior symptoms. If only a few ovules are damaged, fruit development usually continues, but the fruit will ripen later and be smaller than berries with a larger number of healthy seeds. In order to maximize yield potential, it’s important to be prepared for the uncontrollable.
Weather events are impossible to predict or control. The only way to combat damage from freezing temperatures and other events is to develop and implement measures and technologies that mitigate their impact, such as:
- Monitor temperature
- Avoid cultivation
- Maintain soil moisture
- Sprinkler irrigation – Overhead irrigation systems are the most widely used and practical method of reducing blueberry fruit losses to freezes in the Southeast
Following these precautionary measures can help mitigate adverse weather and increase yield potential.
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