The Happy Berry Newsletter 2022 issue 2
March 12-13, 2022. Frost damage is minimal.
Some background first. The stages of flower development are divided into 12 stages ranging from tight bud to petal fall. Stage 4, bud break, is damaged at 20 degrees F. Stage 8, early pink bud, is damaged by 24 degrees. Stage 10, early bloom, can tolerate temperatures 28 degrees. Stage 12, Petal fall, and beyond is damaged at 32 degrees. On March 12 the weather forecast was for 21 degrees. The flowers ranged from bud burst to full bloom.
We decided to run our wind machine which capitalizes on a warm air inversion off of 18,000 acre Lake Keowee. The cold air settles off the Blue Ridge escarpment to our Northwest on to the lake. The air that was on the lake that was warmed by the lake and picked up moisture from the lake is pushed up over the farm. As it rises the moisture condenses and contributes more heat to the air mass. Eventually the cold air builds to point under the warm air till it is above plants at the farm. The wind machine also prevents a boundary layer from forming around the flower that enables super cooling. We generally start the wind machine at 35 degrees.
So what happened? We got a late start, 10:30 PM when temperatures had already dropped to 27 degrees, because of a battery problem. The temperatures at The Happy Berry held 30 degrees F (it went up when we started the wind machine) from 10:30 PM March 12 till 4 AM on March 13. At 4 AM the inversion off of Lake Keowee appeared to give out, possibly due to the intensity of cold that got deeper than the wind machine could pull down from above. By 4:30 AM the temperature reached 24 degrees and remained there till the temperature started rise at 9AM. Neighboring weather stations in the Weather Underground network were reporting 21 degrees. The wind machine was shut down at 11AM March 13 at 35 degrees.
All flower stages from stage nine and up were killed. Stage 8 was a “mixed bag.” Some varieties such as Centurion were in stage 4 or below and had no injury. Many varieties had 10% plus or minus in stage 9 and up. The Climax variety had 35% of the flowers in stage 9 and up. To have a full crop of blueberries, assuming a full crop of flowers, you only need 80% of the flowers to set a full crop. We sprayed with a fungicide last fall to prevent leaf disease (flower bud formation occurs during 12 hour days) so that we had a full crop of flowers going into freeze events in the spring.
Bottom line at this point it looks like a full crop except on the Climax variety which will be down a little, 15%? We are seeing more buds that we did not count so maybe less. Sunday morning and Monday morning March 27 and 28 temperatures of 34 degrees are forecasted and we have many more flowers in the stages 10 to 12. The worry is supper cooling and we think we will run the wind machine for 2-3 hours each morning to prevent boundary layer formation and pull more heat into the system. We have not heard from other blueberry growers yet what happened elsewhere.
Here’s hoping for a good season!!
Walker for the Happy Berry Bunch
The Happy Berry Newletter March 2022
As of March 5 - Daffodils were in full bloom, forsythia was in full bloom, Maples were ready to be dropping seed in a few days, blueberry buds were swollen and cracked and even a few flowers showing.
Then March 12-13 and the big dip in temperatures hit.
We appreciate all the calls and concerns - The good news is that the frost damage was minimal. For those who are interested, the in depth details are posted online. Please go to our website and read the full story!
I will start this newsletter with the bad news. We had to up what we pay labor this past year by 25%. Fertilizer prices are up 28%. Fuel prices are up 59% by the barrel over last year. Supplies are up approximately 18% - and that is if you can get them. Many weed management and other “farmaceuticals” are just not to be had, which means more labor. So we are sorry… but berry prices are going to have to go up if we are to stay in business. We will have a family discussion and I will share the results later.
In the Field:
There is still 1 acre of blueberries to get pruned and at least 2 acres of grapes to get pruned. Are there any volunteers? Free lessons! The good news is the organic dormant treatments for white spot disease are complete.
With minimal damage after the last freeze - We still have most of everything at this point! In addition, we are making significant additions to farm diversity this spring.
We are adding a winter hardy Kiwi called Ken’s Red.
We lost the entire planting of Dwarf Black Mulberry, from Japan; that we planted about 9 years ago to a disease called Xylella fastidiosa. We are replacing it with Girardia a dwarf black mulberry that is slow growing, about a foot a year. Girardia, which is a North America mulberry, we hope is resistant plus we will use cultural tactics to prevent the disease.
We are adding Jujubes- an Asian delicacy. Jujube fruits, also known as red or Chinese dates, are low in calories and rich in fiber and other nutrients. The varieties are from the province of Dongzao (Sugar cane) and Shanxi. We have gotten one tree, Zhanhua, a thornless Jujube. If it works out we will increase it using root shoots.
We are continuing to grow our number of Kaki persimmons.
We have decided to transition to all thornless blackberries. We have Caddo in the ground and after second leaf in the field it still looks really healthy with no virus symptoms. There are 36 viruses of blackberries that shorten the life of a planting. We are adding more Caddo this year and we are adding Ponca an early variety that is thornless. We increased our Von variety in 2021 so next year we should have more Von variety. We have removed a good bit of our Kiowa. And some we are replacing with Chester, an old, late summer bearing USDA variety that is very productive.
About twenty years ago we planted about 10 Paw Paws, a Native American fruit. All ten of the seedlings survived but grafts did not take and the seedlings have turned it into ¼ acre PawPaw patch. We are on the search for improved varieties to top work them. Do you know anybody with a good Paw Paw tree that would share some bud wood with us?
A final note on diversity: In the past few decades we have lost 2/3 of wild mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects related to pollution (greenhouse gases) and the associated climate change. To address this issue we have added pine trees for cooling, passive frost protection, and carbon sequestration. We are also now leaving wild life corridors creating habitat for birds including boxes and forage.
Maybe we are bragging but we are very proud of it. When we started in 1979, the farm was almost completely highly eroded old cotton land with an organic matter content of half a percent. That is equivalent to about 5 tons per acre of sequestered organic matter or if we accept that in general 65% is Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) then we have about 3.25 tons of sequestered Carbon. Today we are approaching 10% organic matter or that is 200,000 tons of soil Organic Matter (SOM) or 130 tons of SOC sequestered. Compare that to industrial farming practices which are doing good to maintain a steady state of SOM or evening declining if they are not following good soil conservation practices. But when I compare that to what was here 500 years ago, before the introduction of the plow, there was at least 8 times and possibly 16 times as much carbon sequestered or 2080 tons of carbon/ acre. So we at The Happy Berry have a long way to go, but I think we can safely say we have sequestered 25,000 tons of carbon and we are proud of it.
A final note on carbon… We have research plots, in cooperation with Clemson University, where we are looking at converting our waste stream to charcoal. Charcoal not only sequesters carbon for hundreds to thousands of years it greatly enhances the fertility of the soil. The plots are: no fertilizer and no charcoal; Charcoal at 5 tons to the acre; charcoal at 5 tons plus fertilizer and fertilizer only. The observational results to date after 4 years are no difference in any of the plots. Our interpretation to date are that 40 years of wind row composting is eliminating the need for fertilizer, that charcoal, which increase water percolation and water holding capacity, has no negative effects and continuous addition from our waste stream will increase sequestration and fertility. Our dream is to have a charcoal kiln on the farm!
I will update you in 6 weeks after we get past frost season.
Thank you for your support!
Walker for the Happy Berry Bunch