We here in Poland have serious dilemmas, what varieties to plant, what cultivation system to choose. A severe limitation in the selection of varieties is the strict Polish climate. At the turn of February and March we had an influx of strong frosts from the north-east, temperatures for several nights dropped below -20 degrees, to which the wind appeared.
Producers who base their production mostly on Bluecrop have no reason to worry, this variety very well tolerates such extreme conditions. However, the differences are slightly different: Chandler, Duke, or licensed Draper, Liberty. With these varieties there is a lot of uncertainty about the amount of harvest in the 2018 season, there is also the risk that not only the flower buds but also the shoots could be damaged.
Conservatives of Blueberry claim we should continue to grow Bluecropa. Their voice is stronger in years with extreme weather, I would even say that these are the moments of triumph of these conservative views.
However, the expectations of customers in Western Europe are different. During the debate at the Blueberry Conference, topics related to varieties that are acceptable by, for example, British networks were discussed. The south of Europe has the option of planting southern varieties, in which there are many varieties with excellent commercial parameters. Unfortunately, we can not afford these varieties.
The representative of the Polish company exporting the blueberries, said that we should stick to old proven types, and the price should be a low price factor. Is this what the world expects of us?
Deciding on the cultivation of proven and reliable varieties for yielding, for example, Bluecrop, we aim above average quality. Yes, production will be sure, but who will be interested in this variation in a few years? In my opinion, we will not be able to compete effectively with blueberries from other countries with a milder climate. A low price here will not help, it may even hurt, because the market will destabilize. The 2017 season was difficult for Polish producers, but you can learn a lot from each difficult season. In September, to sell blueberries to the U.K market, the quality had to be high. The recipients abroad do not care about our local problems with the weather, the sale operates in a binary system:
1 - good quality - there is a buyer at a good price
0- average quality - no buyer even at a low price
There is no room for compromise here. Either we start to grow types with good parameters, or we start to be pushed to the margins of world blueberry, we compete only with price and fill the commodities with periods when another product is missing.
Of course, growing varieties like Liberty, Draper or even Duke is associated with some risk. When deciding on these varieties one must be aware that in years with severe winters, there may be losses. However, we have no choice but to maintain or even strengthen our position on European markets.
More and more new plantations are established from the varieties preferred by Western trade networks. Growing system similar to the trends from Western Europe - cultivation on the beds, full fertigation, cultivation in tunnels or under the foil.
We are also starting to go in this direction, of course, being aware of the threats. However, we know that there is no other way out, blueberry is a global fruit, if Poland will not be able to meet the recipients' requirements, other countries will do it. There is no sentiment here, new technologies and types are a must.