Disease Found in Maine Blueberry Fields 

The wet weather some blueberry growers say has been good for their crops could also be helping to spread a devastating fungus.A new disease was found in some Maine blueberry fields earlier this month.”I’m really concerned that this is going to be something that’s not easy to control, and something that’s really going to determine whether people get a crop off at all,” says UMaine blueberry pathologist Seanna Annis. This is what has Annis worried – Valdensinia leaf spots.”So far in Maine, we have it reported in five blueberry fields – commercial blueberry fields – and two other locations,” she says. Geographically, they’re in “various places Downeast, near the barrens and right along the coast.”But she says the disease is likely even more widespread. The spots are typically round and brown, and can have a bulls-eye appearance. In wet conditions, the huge spores can quickly infect leaves in both prune and crop fields, spreading exponentially.”It will cause all the leaves on these plants to fall off. The plant then spends its energy producing new leaves and it doesn’t produce flower buds,” she says. Crop fields will have fewer, smaller berries.In Nova Scotia, the disease has ruined 40 fields this year. While researchers aren’t yet sure how it got here, Annis says infected wet leaves easily cling to humans or equipment.”So that’s the really big concern is to find out where it is now and make sure we don’t further spread it.”She urges all growers to inspect their fields and report any infection. Affected areas should be burned carefully. “The last time I was out, I didn’t see anything out there,” says grower James Alexander of Greenfield.He says he hasn’t seen the fungus in his fields, but if he had to burn any infected crop, that’s better than the alternative. “It’d be a big loss, but it’d be a bigger loss to lose the whole field,” Greenfield says.To confirm or report the fungus, you can call the Blueberry Hotline at 1-800-897-0757.You can also find more information on the leaf spot from the University of Maine online.