| Date of Last Update: 7 August 2014
Watch your email for crop condition updates. If you are not on our email list and would like to be, please contact us. Typically the newsletter will be short and come out weekly during the harvest season [June to August] to let you know what is happening. It also comes out once or twice in the off season.
Peak of Season for Mars & Saturn Table (Seedless) Grapes
Still blueberries but picking has slowed way down meaning picking time per gallon has increased significantly. There are still green blueberries so we expect that diehard pickers will be able to get them until late August. However, we will no longer have pre-picked blueberries either at the farm or at the markets. . Some of the reasons for the quickly diminished picking time are robins (now gone), mature berry drop, we are past peak-of-season and there is a new invasive species called Spotted Wing Drosophila which is giving us a problem of soft berries. I will discuss more on this issue below.
Peak of Grape season! We are picking Mars and Saturn grapes now …The vines are loaded! And picking is easy! Mars, dark blue, are a little like concords but sweeter and the Saturn, dark red, are a sweet crunchy grape. You will need “snipers” to cut the clusters (bunches) from the vine without cutting the main vine. We like to see a little stub where the cluster is removed. It produces phytoalexins (antibiotic like materials) that protect the vine from fungal invasion. The Jupiter grapes are near the end so picking requires being selective for mature clusters, and we do still have some Jupiter in the cooler already harvested. They are so sweet and fragrant. The Venus grapes are gone. Grape season moves quickly so do not delay or you will miss the season. They will be gone by September or even sooner.
Figs are in! Picking is slow but will improve. There are a lot of figs on the trees. The trees are recovering from the January 8 freeze nicely. I am forecasting peak in a week. Remember figs are climacteric. That means they will continue to ripen after you pick them- even when they are in the refrigerator! They should be picked when the short stem begins to bend. You will also note a change in color to brownish and when you see cracks in the skin it is at its peak, ready to pop in your mouth!
Muscadines continue on schedule for August 15. Picking will be slow at the start requiring the development of the eye, feel (softness) and taste nexus so you get great berries. You pick them one at a time- not by clusters. Muscadines (and Scuppernongs) are not climacteric, so if you pick them green they will not continue to ripen after being picked. They are big and fill the bucket quickly so take your time and get great ripe berries.
We are perplexed over the issue of Spotted wing Drosophila (SWD)! Let us explain. The Spotted Wing Drosophila is an invasive species that was introduced as a result of globalization of our food supply amongst others. It has spread from Asia to California and thence over the entire North American continent within its ecological boundaries determined by temperature. It has no significant natural enemies.
Our objective is to be ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible to our community. In keeping with these objectives we have been using a “bait and kill technique” for management for the past two years using a whole farm approach. An organic insecticide is put in molasses bait, spiked with corn liquor and blackberry wine. The thick mixture is sprayed on the lower stems every 15 feet…. There was no research to show if the technique worked. It was a gamble based on what we could learn. Sadly, the control has collapsed and we are going to have to look at stronger measures in the future. For now, the combination of the natural slowing of harvest with the increased loss of crop from SWD has put us in a position where we have had to decide to stop picking blueberries for pre-picked sales.
SWD- the details: The female of the spotted wing drosophila (a fruit fly) Looks like a regular fruit fly but it has a serrated (saw like) ovipositor that enables it to puncture a healthy fruit to lay it eggs. A normal fruit fly requires a damaged fruit to reproduce. The egg of SWD hatches and feeds resulting in a soft fruit just at harvest time. The good news is that cold temperatures kill it out both in the refrigerator in the winter reducing populations. The bad news is that their fecundity (rapid population growth) means they will be an annual problem for which we will have to spray weekly. The SWD could destroy our entire blueberry and blackberry crop. If that happens, we will not be economically viable.
Control Measures: There are two materials that are labeled for use for control of SWD and they should be used in an alternating program to avoid the development of resistance. They are Mustang Max and Delegate. They both have a pre-harvest interval of one day. We will need to spray for the entire harvest period. We would begin the spraying based on trap catches which will show us when the SWD begin. Once we begin spraying, we will need to close one day a week and we are thinking Sunday or Monday. We will evaluate sales from this year to help us make that determination. The loss of sales on either of those days will be an economic blow but hopefully can be made up during the week.
We are sorry that we must do this and hope you will stay with us. We are writing this to let our community know what we are doing and why. We would love to hear your comments. We will attend winter conferences to learn of new mew methods of SWD management, if any, that have been developed. If you want to get into a spirited conversation, talk to Walker about globalization. He believes it is ecologically unsustainable and that there is good reason for economic boundaries of which food security is at the top of the list. Also there are natural boundaries such as mountains and oceans that are important to maintaining biotic diversity and the balance of nature. There is just no way that technology can keep up with the massive number of problems we face as a result of biological homogenization due to globalization!
Back to the Good Stuff!
PS Don’t forget your buckets if you have them
We appreciate you and your continued support. We hope you will come see us at the farm!