June 7, 2012

Maine strawberry growers anticipate 'nice crop'

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

MONMOUTH — Maine strawberry growers are anticipating a good harvest in the coming weeks, despite several spring frosts as flower buds formed and recent heavy rain, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension at Highmoor Farm.

The strawberry bloom has been "terrific" this spring, suggesting that a "nice crop" is in store, said David Handley, the extension's vegetable and small fruit specialist.

"This is actually due in part to the nice fall weather we had last year, as strawberries form most of their flower buds in the fall,"  Handley said today in a news release.

Most growers managed to protect crops from frosts by irrigating through the night, Handley said.

Early warm weather overall this spring has put some plants ahead of the typical strawberry schedule, so some growers may be picking five to 10 days ahead of the normal season. However, cooler weather this week may slow things down a bit.

"Anxious pickers should give their strawberry farm a call soon to see when the fields will be open," Handley said.

Some fields experienced minor winter injury due to the lack of a protective snow cover, he said, but recent growing conditions have been good and problems with insects and disease have been few.

Recent heavy rain limited how many farms extension staff could scout this week, but they managed to visit strawberry fields in Monmouth, New Gloucester, Minot, Lewiston, Wales and Livermore Falls, according to Handley's blog.

Early varieties are mostly past bloom, with some pink fruit showing. Day-neutral varieties grown on plastic mulch are now starting to be harvested. Later varieties are in full to late bloom.

Growers will need to continue protecting blossoms and fruit from gray mold infection and be on the lookout for leather rot or anthracnose fruit rot because of recent heavy rain.   

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