Blueberry growers have bumper year despite fruit fly threat
Spotted wing drosophila did not target Nova Scotian crops as predicted
Blueberry growers in Nova Scotia are raking in the last of their harvest this week after one of the best harvests the province has seen in years.
This has been a record year for the blueberry industry in Nova Scotia. It's even more remarkable considering last year, growers were preparing to deal with an invasion of fruit flies that had been spreading across the country.
But that invasion never really developed.
"We've kind of dodged a bullet," said Peter Burgess, a horticulture specialist with the Crown agency Perennia.
Blueberry growers had been on guard for spotted wing drosophila — a type of fruit fly that targets blueberries during harvest.
The spotted wing drosophila is an invasive alien vinegar fly, native to Asia, and is closely related to what is commonly known as a fruit fly. The insect, which has previously turned up in all three Maritime provinces, inflicted $2.2 million in damage to the British Columbia cherry industry in 2010.
Growers have been setting traps, anticipating an uphill fight against the pest.
"We were pleasantly surprised that the pressure from this invasive pest hasn't been what we feared it might be," said Peter Rideout, with the Nova Scotia Wild Blueberry Producers Association.
Instead, a sunny, dry summer made for perfect pollinating weather, leaving berry bushes heavy with fruit.
"If it's not the best ever, it's very close to being the best ever crop in Nova Scotia. Very large crops across the province. It's been very positive for many growers. The one challenge, it's been so big, that it's been a struggle to get it harvested because the crops are coming off so heavy," said Burgess.
It's a good problem to have, growers say.
Blueberry growers may have dodged a bullet this year, but they're keeping their guard up.
"Of course we're not going to be complacent about it. We'll continue to monitor it, continue to do research because we don't want to have an unpleasant surprise next year, or the following years," said Rideout.
Growers still don't know why the fly problem didn't develop here, like it has in the rest of the country.
The spotted wing drosophila lays eggs in ripening fruit making it soft and unusable for market. It will attack fruit such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, plum, peaches, nectarines, and sometimes grapes.
The bugs were first discovered in Nova Scotia in 2011.