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Cool weather delays strawberry harvest


June 8, 2009
By The Canadian Press

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strawberriesJune 8, 2009 – Strawberry growers from coast to coast have endured some
nail-biting days as low temperatures threatened their tender crops.

June 8, 2009 – Strawberry growers from coast to coast have endured some nail-biting days as low temperatures threatened their tender crops.

strawberries 
  

Several frosts in late May put commercial growers like Jos and Marge DeBlieck and their family of Lynden, Ont., into a panic as they rushed to irrigate their eight-hectare strawberry patch in the middle of the night. The ground temperatures had fallen to well below freezing.

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“We lost a lot of our strawberry flowers, especially the first bloom,” says Marge, who with her husband and family has grown strawberries and many other crops on the farm since 1974. She adds that they expect to lose 30 to 40 per cent of the crop this year because of the weather.

“Those cooler temperatures may delay things for a few days,” says Kevin Schooley, executive secretary of the Ontario Berry Growers Association in Ottawa. And, he adds, it appears that this colder than usual past winter has delayed harvest in most regions across Canada.

However, some local berries are on the market as a result of what Schooley calls “special situations” where growers are using row covers or tunnels and techniques to advance maturity.

“They are trying to extend the season and we are seeing more and more of this each year,” he says.

The DeBlieck family supplies two supermarket chains, Metro and Sobeys, with their berries daily during the harvesting season.

“Supermarkets want a firm berry,” says Marge. “So it’s a daily pick and daily ship into the stores because once you get day-old berries they won’t last.”

Schooley says there is a lot of new technology now associated with growing strawberries in Canada.

There is the development of the day neutral strawberry that will fruit in the spring about the same time as the June- and ever-bearing types, he says.

They stop for two to three weeks in July and begin bearing fruit again in August until frost stops production.

“At one time the growing season was three or four weeks but now we have an increasing number of producers who are growing from the end of May to the end of October,” says Schooley.