Next to lobsters and spuds, blueberries are Maine’s biggest food product. But how much do you really know about them? Whether you want to learn to grow your own, impress your friends or just enjoy the sweet little berry, Skidompha Library in Damariscotta is bringing in an expert to fill you in.

Professor David E. Yarborough, a blueberry specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and UMaine horticulture professor, will be the guest speaker at Skidompha Library’s Chats with Champions program at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Porter Meeting Hall.

Yarborough will describe how wild blueberry plants established themselves as the glacier receded from Maine 10,000 years ago, then segue into the beginnings of the blueberry industry in the 1800s. He will follow the utilization and production of wild blueberries, which were first picked fresh, and later canned for preservation, and now are primarily frozen. In 1896, fewer than a million pounds of blueberries were produced, while in 2010 a bumper crop of over 110 million pounds was harvested.

Yarborough will explain the challenges that have faced the industry and the changes in harvesting techniques over time. He will discuss changes in pruning, improvements in weed and disease management techniques, and how the increased use of imported pollinators and irrigation have kept wild blueberries economically viable. His talk will cover the research and development of pest management techniques, followed by the health research that has allowed Maine’s blueberry industry to prosper and compete with cultivated blueberries in a world market.

Graduating from the University of Maine at Orono with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management and a master’s degree in resource utilization, Yarborough went on to receive his doctorate in plant and soil science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His research dealt with weed crop and shifts in species distributions in Maine’s wild blueberry fields with the use of herbicides. His current research involves developing chemical and cultural research for controlling weeds, and he works with wild blueberry growers in Maine and Canada to educate them on best management practices which will enable the industry to remain competitive in the world market

He has published more than 300 research and Cooperative Extension publications. In 2006, Yarborough was recognized by the Interregional Research Project No. 4, when he received the Meritorious Service Award. He was elected as a fellow of the Northeastern Weed Science Society, received a Faculty Applied Research Award from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Order of the Wild Blueberry from the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. In 2016, Yarborough received the Outstanding Service and Long-Term Commitment Award from the Wild Blueberry Producers of Nova Scotia.

Chats with Champions is a free community offering from Skidompha Library and is sponsored by Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop.

For more information, call (207) 563-5513 or visit skidompha.org

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