Blueberry Mechanization Pt 2

Blueberry Mechanization Pt 2

Bob Larson
Bob Larson
With today's Fruit Grower Report, I'm Bob Larson. As blueberry producers prepare for another growing season in Western Washington, successful harvests are expected to continue as the industry in our state continues to expand.

Washington Blueberry Commission Executive Director, Dr. Alan Schreiber says the popularity of our berries, both processed and fresh, doesn't appear to be slowing down ...

SCHREIBER ... "Something that is remarkable is not how much Washington blueberries are produced, but rather the demand for Washington blueberries keeps going up every year."

So, Dr. Schreiber says growers are currently testing out creative ways to keep up with the increasing demand ...

SCHREIBER ... "An area of great interest is mechanizing fresh harvest of blueberries and we're seeing some growers try to figure out how to machine harvest blueberries for the fresh market."

And with the labor shortage what it is, he says fresh market growers are hoping to figure out ways to machine harvest the delicate fruit ...

SCHREIBER ... "Right now, all processed blueberries are machine picked and almost all fresh blueberries are hand-picked. But, there's a combination of not enough workers and the cost of labor is just too high. We can't afford as much labor and so growers are figuring out how to fresh harvest blueberries and this year there will be millions of pounds of fresh blueberries that are picked by machines."

As part of a project funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative, a new system is being tested to efficiently harvest fruit with quality good enough for fresh-market pack-out.

Tune in tomorrow for more on mechanizing the harvest of

fresh market blueberries.


BL: Welcome back to another "Fruit Bites" brought to you by Valent U.S.A. With us again is Valent's Allison Walston. And this week Allison, tell me what are PGRs?

AW: PGRs are plant growth regulators or plant hormones. In agriculture, we can apply these plant hormones to manipulate the plant to grow or not grow specific ways.

BL: Oh yes, something like rooting hormone!

AW: Yes, another example is 6-benzyladenine, or 6-BA, a product called MaxCel. When growers plant whips, or small trees, they might not want to make scoring or notch marks to induce branching.

BL: Yes, early season, those wounds could lead to fungal infections.

AW: And some types of trees just like to grow straight up without branching. So we can use a PGR to encourage the tree to push out new shoots, which then leads to fruiting wood and fruit. We have been researching new ways to use 6-BA and other PGRs to increase feathers (what the tree nursery people call branches).

BL: Well, thanks Allison. Join us again next time for Fruit Bites, brought to you by Valent. Until then, I'm Bob Larson.

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