Recent wet weather has caused fairly heavy losses for strawberry growers in south Louisiana.
Dr. Regina Bracy, resident coordinator at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station, said the cool, damp weather is responsible for fewer berries available for this year’s Strawberry Festival, which runs from Friday evening (April 3) through Sunday (April 5) in downtown Ponchatoula.
“The growers I’ve talked to say they are seeing some berries that are bruised, discolored and having some cracks as a result of the weather conditions,” Bracy said.
She explained growers normally use row covers to protect the berries from cold weather, but they didn’t with the recent rains because if the rows stay wet for any length of time, growers may save berries from rain damage but lose them to disease.
Sandra Benjamin, LSU AgCenter agent in Tangipahoa Parish, said growers have been spraying fungicide to decrease the amount of berries lost to fungus and mold.
“The berries that were lost were mainly those that were already ripe, and the growers tried to get as many of those as possible picked before the rains came,” Benjamin said.
Bracy said consumers are paying about $14 per flat for berries now but should expect to pay more for berries at this weekend’s Strawberry Festival.
She said overall the berries are good quality and are very sweet this year.
“The price for berries may be a little higher this year due to the weather, but I’ve been assured by the growers that they are well worth the price,” Bracy said.
According to Bracy, growers lost about 80 percent of two pickings during recent wet weather.
Bracy said the crop got off to an early start this year, with the first berries coming in around Thanksgiving. Louisiana berries are normally available through Mother’s Day.
For additional information on Louisiana strawberries, contact Dr. Bracy at (985) 543-4125 or email@example.com or Sandra Benjamin at (985) 748-9381 orSBenjamin@agcenter.lsu.edu.
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