Nova Scotia Wild Blueberry Conference

Thursday 24 November 2022

Now that the busy beekeeping season is winding down, there are many opportunities for beekeepers to attend industry meetings.  Groups, like provincial beekeeping associations, have workshops and technical sessions which support ongoing professional development.  There are many opportunities for producers to further understand best practices and gain knowledge on new information around their industry.  These meetings also provide networking and social opportunities for both new and established participants in the industry.  As these meetings occur over the next few months, attendance is encouraged and always of benefit.  An excellent example of an industry meeting, the Nova Scotia Wild Blueberry Conference, has just occurred.  In this week’s blog you will find some of the highlights of the meeting.

Nova Scotia Wild Blueberry Conference

The annual conference and AGM of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia (WBPANS) was a great success in Truro last week (Nov 17 – 18).  Many blueberry producers, in addition to beekeepers, took advantage of the opportunity to meet in person which resulted in a healthy turnout for the event.  Two packed days of informative talks and opportunities for networking brought in people from all three Maritime provinces as well as the state of Maine.

The first day started with a warm welcome to all those who joined in person, as well as those accessing the meeting virtually.  The WBPANS outgoing president, Peter Swinkels, gave an excellent, concise report of the past year and an optimistic view to the future of the blueberry sector.  A more detailed report on the activities of WBPANS was given by Peter Burgess which reaffirmed our appreciation of Peter and his team for the tremendous volume of work achieved by the Association on behalf of the industry. 

The first technical report of the meeting was provided by Gilbert Lavoie as a commodity market overview of wild blueberries.  Mr. Lavoie, as founding partner of Forest Lavoie Conseil, told the group that Europe represents the largest market for the 100 million pounds of blueberries leaving the Maritime region.  The global market, 213 million pounds combined wild and cultivated blueberries, is increasing production, especially in China.  Appreciation of the quality of wild vs cultivated varieties was proven by this report as evidenced by the premium price paid for wild blueberries.  Although a generally optimistic economic report, Mr. Lavoie did cautiously suggest a potential downturn in price moving forward.

The importance of pollination services and honey bees was a theme throughout the conference.  Two sessions were dedicated to this specifically on the first day.  A pollination panel, with a group of experienced industry experts, discussed aspects of preparing for and managing pollination services.  An afternoon break-out session, chaired by Mario Swinkels, provided a chance for commercial beekeepers to discuss challenges and opportunities in that sector.

Day two of the conference focused on research highlights. Dr. David Percival and Joel Langdon from Dalhousie University talked about developments in new remote sensing technologies for identifying and subsequently eliminating field weeds, aimed to save producers time and improve accuracy in weed management. Dr. Travis Esau also discussed results of a new technology in weed management, an electronic weed Zapper which kills target vegetation. PhD candidate, Janelle MacKeil, provided an overview of her project which aims to contribute to the management of the blueberry fruit fly. In his presentation on herbicide application, Dr. Scott White emphasized his recommendation to always use Chikara together with Ignite for fescue management. 

Perennia and ATTTA were pleased to present at the conference, as well! Wild Blueberry Specialist Hugh Lyu and Agriculture Technology Specialist Thomas Harrington presented updates on the Weather Station Assistance Program, which had excellent uptake by wild blueberry producers. These weather stations are located throughout Nova Scotia and are already contributing to relevant research for wild blueberry producers. For example, Hugh discussed how the data is contributing to a better understanding of growing degree days for the wild blueberry bud F2 stage, which has important implications for management decisions. ATTTA was able to give preliminary results from our research projects over the summer! We will continue to share our results in our blog as these develop!

Overall, the event was a productive two days highlighting the significance of the blueberry industry to the Maritime region of Canada. Thank you to WBPANS for hosting and to all who attended!

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