SOUTH HAVEN, Mich.-- It's been a soggy few days across West Michigan and blueberry farmers are concerned about disease.
"This weather is really conducive for fungus growth on plants, for the blooms and shoots," explains blueberry farmer Joe DeGrandchamp, "This warm -- what is it about 60 degrees out right now? -- it's been wet this morning, and it was foggy. So things stay wet, and the inoculum can grow."
Inoculum are pathogens; in a sense, anything that can produce disease. Blossom blight is the flavor of the month for disease in blueberry fields.
"The blossoms just turn brown and die, or the shoots will turn brown and die off," says DeGrandchamp, "So when your blossoms are brown and die off, you don't get anymore. It's a one-shot deal."
Bud damage is especially a concern this year, because West Michigan saw a particularly bitter cold winter.
DeGrandchamp points to a damaged blueberry bush. "This had some winter damage, because you can see that it is dead from the tip down to this point here. And that's a fruit bud that has probably been damaged because it isn't developed like the other buds. So there's probably some damage in this cane until about where the good leaf tissue is. So the [plant] is functionally shot."
Blueberry farmers especially need healthy buds, because they yield about five to seven blooms each.
"A blossom per berry," says DeGrandchamp, "So one blossom, one potential berry."