North Carolina blueberry farmers in Pender, Bladen and Robeson counties are surveying their fields to assess crop damage from a recent spring storm with hail. Some strawberry growers also saw damage.
Spring is a great time of year, but it can also be a tricky time of year for farmers. Late freezes, hail and strong spring storms can quickly destroy a young, tender crop.
And, as anyone who lives in North Carolina knows we can see frost and near record temperatures within the same week.
All in all, I would say we are blessed with a temperate climate, but spring always brings risks for farmers.
Two Fridays ago/April 30, farmers in our “blueberry belt” counties of Bladen and Pender saw strong storms and hail move through the area. Some areas of Robeson also reported damaging storms.
The storm stretched over 70 miles with pea- to golf-ball-sized hail dropping for about 20 minutes. For perspective on the potential impact to the blueberry crop, about half of our state’s commercial blueberry farms are located in Bladen County.
We started to hear reports of damage to the blueberry crop last week. I have also heard of some damage to strawberries in that area, too. At this point, these reports are continuing to be assessed.
Often, these storms are hit and miss, but if you are the farmer with the crop that gets hit, it can be a devastating.
From what I have heard so far, we expect local blueberries will still be available, but some growers in these counties may have very significant and extensive damage, possibly even total losses.
It is possible to have blueberries on a plant and still experience significant damage. As part of the assessment, insurance adjustors will wait 7-10 days following the storm for damaged fruit to fall from the plant.
That will put them out in the field this week, checking on remaining blueberries.
They will be looking to see if the fruit remaining on the bushes have visible hail scars. That would make them unmarketable.
North Carolina ranks 7th in the nation in blueberry production, with around 48.8 million pounds grown annually.
It’s a crop that generates around $77 million in farm cash receipts, so it is an important crop.
We’ll continue to monitor the developments with the blueberry crop. I hope the news is not bad for our growers.