“Organic Blueberries Don’t Come Easily”

The New York Times ran an article with this title in 2011 to inform readers why there are so few organic blueberries grown in New Jersey – “the blueberry capital of the world”. It seems that the organic blueberry growers are powerless to prevent massive feeding on their berries by insects that call New Jersey home. On the other hand, blueberry growers who use chemical insecticides are able to control the insect problem and harvest 2 to 4 times more blueberries per acre.

“New Jersey is one of the country’s top producers of blueberries, yet only a small number of farms are organic. And considering all the obstacles presented by nature, it’s not hard to see why. Insects like the root grub and the plum curculio, as well as some fungi, contribute to organic farmers’ loss of up to 50 percent of their berries a season, whereas conventional farmers may lose 5 percent or 6 percent, said Peter Oudemans, a Rutgers professor and a plant pathologist at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research in Chatsworth, Burlington County. Blueberry plants are native to New Jersey, Dr. Oudemans said, which makes them a natural food choice for native insects. ‘Planting a solid acre of organic blueberries in New Jersey is like throwing a peanut butter sandwich into a room full of kindergartners,’ said Dr. Oudemans, of Hammonton, ‘the blueberry capitol of the world,’ according to a local highway sign. ‘Everything around is going to go for them.'”

“‘We have to do twice the work of conventional growers,’ Mr. Condo [an organic grower] said. ‘It’s a lot harder and much more labor-intensive. Conventional farmers probably get around two or three thousand crates per acre. We’re lucky if we get 700 to 900.'”

Authors: Tammy La Gorce
Title: Organic blueberries don’t come easily.
Publication: The New York Times. June 17, 2011.

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