Stone fruits have also suffered a severe setback

Devastating frosts cause significant losses of blueberries in Ukraine

Ukrainian farmers are facing a serious setback this spring due to extraordinary weather conditions. The persistent night frosts are about to wipe out almost half of the national blueberry production, according to EastFruit. Some agricultural companies are preparing for losses of up to 90%.

The northern regions are the most affected. Yevhen Kharlan, Director of Development and Strategy at Nikdaria LLC, shares his impressions in an exclusive interview. The company oversees an extensive 100-hectare blueberry farm in the Ukrainian district of Zhytomyr.

What exactly caused the loss of the blueberry crop?
Persistent below-freezing temperatures all week have been detrimental. Before, the mercury did not drop below 3 degrees below zero. However, on the night of May 14, temperatures plummeted to 6-8 degrees below zero in the coldest section of our plantation.

These frosts penetrated beyond the soil surface and affected the crowns of the bushes, where flowers form and berries develop. The soil, warmed by daytime temperatures, retained heat during the night, while the air temperature at canopy level dropped considerably.

This unusual meteorological phenomenon is unprecedented in the seven years that I have been dedicated to growing blueberries. Temperature readings from our seven strategically placed weather stations have shown notable variability every 15 minutes.

Initial assessments indicated a 30% loss of our anticipated harvest. We now expect this figure to be closer to 50%. The Chamber of Commerce will provide more accurate assessments when declaring force majeure conditions. Early and mid-season varieties appear to have suffered a total loss. There is a glimmer of hope for some of the later maturing varieties, although the outlook remains bleak.

What stage of development were the blueberries in at that time?
The flowering phase has concluded and the berries are incipient. Late varieties, still in pre-flowering, can still bear fruit. However, for bushes with formed buds, the chances of berry production are zero.

What did they apply to mitigate frost damage?
We tried hot smoke generators, colloquially called “glycerine guns,” and burned all the available material. Unfortunately, these measures, together with specialized frost protection agents, proved ineffective against the severe temperatures.

Were neighboring producers also affected?
Data from weather stations and sensors suggest widespread impact. While we maintain a cautious stance regarding the situation, our neighbors have a more optimistic view. This discrepancy could be due to a lack of comprehensive information or a delay in completing a complete agronomic evaluation.

Stone fruits

In early May, a sudden drop in night temperatures in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine caused significant damage to fruit trees. Petro Lyakhovich, a plantation owner in the village of Vladimirovka, reported that the mercury drop to -1°C caused frost damage to his apricot and plum trees, according to SEEDS.

«Despite a generally warm spring, the frost on the night of May 5, although apparently minor, had a substantial impact. Although a few apricots survived, the plum crops were completely decimated.

This phenomenon is not uncommon every year, but the magnitude of the damage this year was unprecedented, affecting about 2,5 hectares,” Lyakhovich conveys.

Lyakhovich points out that apricot trees are especially vulnerable to frost due to their precocity in flowering and fruit setting. This year was the first in which plum crops have succumbed to the cold. He attributes this to the premature arrival of heat, which caused fruit to develop earlier than usual.

«The fruits were in a delicate state, beginning to take shape. If they had been more developed or had not yet formed, the damage could have been less severe. This spring, however, there was a premature advance of the vegetative period,” says Lyakhovich.

Farmers in other regions have faced similar problems. «Colleagues from the Vinnytsia and Chernivtsi regions report damage of varying degrees to trees. In the Novomoskovsk district, frost even claimed entire fields,” adds Lyakhovich.

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