Written by: Emily Cabrera, IPM Communications Coordinator

Expert/Source: Ash Sial, Blueberry Entomologist

Blueberry growers got up close and personal last week at a special blueberry insect IPM learning session in Alma, Georgia. Over the past few years, a range of blueberry insects have battered the industry in the southeast, so learning to recognize pests at various susceptible growth stages is critical for making timely management decisions for a fruitful year ahead.

University of Georgia blueberry entomologist, Dr. Ash Sial, hosted the meeting in collaboration with MBG Marketing to help growers identify several pests of blueberries by looking at them under microscopes. One particularly challenging pest is blueberry bud mite (Acalitus vaccinii), a microscopic mite that causes significant damage to blueberry buds and may be responsible for what is commonly referred to as ‘black bud’. Since blueberry bud mites live and feed inside blueberry buds, they are often undetected in the field until the spring when growers begin to notice poor growth and yield.

“Black bud is an issue we have very little understanding of and this year we are trying to watch it very closely to hopefully learn more about the cause,” said Ben Cantrell, a Sunbelt horticulturalist who helped organize the meeting with Sial.

In addition to blueberry bud mites, Sial brought scales, mealy bugs, and gall midges for growers to observe under the scope.

“This event provided a unique opportunity for blueberry farmers to look at the live insect pests of economic significance and enabled them to learn how to correctly identify those insects and implement appropriate management strategies in a timely manner. In this interactive session, growers openly discussed their pest management related issues and we responded to their questions and provided pest management recommendations,” explained Sial.

Blueberries are Georgia’s top fruit crop and ninth-largest agricultural commodity with an estimated $300 million in value, according to UGA agricultural economists.

Growers, Extension agents and industry professionals will have the opportunity to participate in a Blueberry IPM Field Day early next spring as Sial will once again be teaming up with commercial blueberry area Extension agent, Renee Holland, and other specialists to deliver the most recent advancements in blueberry management – so stay tuned for updates!

To learn more about blueberry management, visit the UGA Blueberry Blog. To learn more about integrated pest management, visit the UGA IPM Blog.