The Lower Mainland has seen it’s driest May since 1946, but that has not caused the blueberry crop to wither.
In fact, the crop is ripening about two weeks ahead of schedule, particularly in the micro-climate of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area, says Debbie Etsell of the B.C. Blueberry Council.
Vancouver had it’s driest May since 1946, as only 4.2 mm of rain fell in the month, compared with an average of 68 mm.
The Pitt Meadows airport was not quite as parched, receiving 27.6 millimetres of rain for the month, thanks mostly to a soaking on May 5 that dropped 20.4 mm of precipitation.
The conditions appear to be near perfect for blueberries. Normally, the first pick comes off in early July, explained Etsell, but producers are now getting ready to harvest by mid-June.
“Get ready, they’re coming,” said Etsell. “We’re two weeks ahead, so they’ll be coming off sooner.”
Having no periods of prolonged rain while the fruit is ripening is key to a good yield, said Etsell, and plants were assisted by a mild winter and warm spring.
Blueberry producers in B.C. enjoyed a record year for their lucrative crop in the summer of 2014, when they harvested 69 million kilograms – up from the old record of 55 million kg.
The vast majority of the province’s blueberries are grown in the Fraser Valley and Pitt Meadows farmers are big players in the industry.
Based on the early indicators, a new record could be coming this year. Etsell said recently that planted crops are maturing and reaching full productivity.
The Weather Network says the province will have a summer that is both hotter and drier than normal, but June will see periods of cool weather.