Recent spring storms damage blueberry crop

by | May 18, 2021

Blueberry fields at harvest time.

North Carolina blueberry farmers in Pender, Bladen and Robeson counties are surveying their fields to assess crop damage from a recent spring storm with hail. Some strawberry growers also saw damage.

Today’s Topic
  • Spring is a great time of year, but it can also be a tricky time of year for farmers. Late freezes, hail and strong spring storms can quickly destroy a young, tender crop.
  • And, as anyone who lives in North Carolina knows we can see frost and near record temperatures within the same week.
  • All in all, I would say we are blessed with a temperate climate, but spring always brings risks for farmers.
  • Two Fridays ago/April 30, farmers in our “blueberry belt” counties of Bladen and Pender saw strong storms and hail move through the area. Some areas of Robeson also reported damaging storms.
  • The storm stretched over 70 miles with pea- to golf-ball-sized hail dropping for about 20 minutes. For perspective on the potential impact to the blueberry crop, about half of our state’s commercial blueberry farms are located in Bladen County.
  • We started to hear reports of damage to the blueberry crop last week. I have also heard of some damage to strawberries in that area, too. At this point, these reports are continuing to be assessed.
  • Often, these storms are hit and miss, but if you are the farmer with the crop that gets hit, it can be a devastating.
  • From what I have heard so far, we expect local blueberries will still be available, but some growers in these counties may have very significant and extensive damage, possibly even total losses.
  • It is possible to have blueberries on a plant and still experience significant damage. As part of the assessment, insurance adjustors will wait 7-10 days following the storm for damaged fruit to fall from the plant.
  • That will put them out in the field this week, checking on remaining blueberries.
  • They will be looking to see if the fruit remaining on the bushes have visible hail scars. That would make them unmarketable.
  • North Carolina ranks 7th in the nation in blueberry production, with around 48.8 million pounds grown annually.
  • It’s a crop that generates around $77 million in farm cash receipts, so it is an important crop.
  • We’ll continue to monitor the developments with the blueberry crop. I hope the news is not bad for our growers.