Blueberries

Management of Blueberry Pests in Florida

     Blueberries are a highly profitable crop in Florida. According to the USDA, Florida blueberry growers produced 17.7 million lbs of fresh market blueberries on 3,500 acres in 2010. The average price was $2.94 per lb., higher than the national average of $1.86 per lb. The use of low chill varieties of Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium virgatum Aiton) and the development of southern highbush blueberries (V. corymbosum L. × V. darrowi Camp) allows Florida growers to take advantage of this highly profitable early season market. Florida growers can produce high quality berries as early as late-March when prices for fresh fruit are extremely high and other major blueberry producing states cannot compete for market shares.
     Rabbiteye blueberries are better suited for u-pick operations and local sales because they do not ripen early enough in the season to be highly profitable. Southern highbush blueberries ripen 4-6 weeks earlier than many of the early-season rabbiteye varieties. The Florida blueberry industry consists of southern highbush plantings grown for fresh fruit shipping within and from Florida.
     Growth and development of the Florida blueberry industry is threatened by key arthropod pests: blueberry gall midge, Dasineura oxycoccana (Johnson); flower thrips, Frankliniella spp.; and blueberry bud mite, Acalitus vaccinii (Keifer). Flower thrips are a perennial problem in southern highbush production. Blueberry gall midge has almost completely eliminated rabbiteye blueberry production. Blueberry bud mite is posing an increasing threat especially to well-established southern highbush plantings.
     The overall goal of this program is to develop a multifaceted approach for managing key pests in Florida blueberries.

Objectives

  1. Improve monitoring / sampling techniques for arthropod pests of blueberry
  2. Investigate potential for biological control of key pests
  3. Evaluate “reduced – risk” insecticides for control of blueberry gall midge, thrips and bud mite
  4. Disseminate results via on-farm demonstrations, grower meetings, publications (print and online), and other extension channels

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