What Did We Learn: 2016 Aronia Harvest

Guest article from Dean Mangrich

What did we learn in 2016? That aronia is like growing any other crop. Weather rules all! Starting with the frost that hit on the morning of May 14 a lot of the northern area was affected. From a total loss to a little damage in fields where growers

Crops at Dean's farm.

Crops at Dean’s farm.

didn’t notice because they weren’t looking. One degree higher or lower made a big difference in the amount of damage that occurred. We can provide more information on what to look for and ideas to help prevent frost damage in an upcoming newsletter.

The two weeks of 90 degree days and warm nights in early June were no friends to our aronia plants either. It was only as the berries started to change color and fill did we see that things were different this year. It took forever for all of the berries to change color. So what did your field look like at harvest time? All over the place we saw on the same plant berries that went from still being red in color to shriveled up and falling on the ground. This made it difficult to harvest. It went from just touching the plant the berries would fall off to having to be aggressive enough to get the berries off the plant.

In general the production was down off of growers estimates by a common of 25% to as high as 75%. If there is one thing that we are learning about aronia is that it is a fickle plant to grow. We have so much to learn! Help yourself be a better grower for the future. Take pictures and take notes as to what you are seeing and when. This should be done weekly. Over time hopefully we can start to draw some conclusions as to what might be ahead for the growing season.

What’s ahead for 2017? Well we can’t control the weather but what we can do is start to plan for the 2017 harvest. Yes, now is the time to start planning. With increasing production and a lot of new plants starting to produce, harvesters will become scarce. Custom harvesters alone will not be able to keep up with the demand. One might consider working with another grower or two and purchase an aronia berry harvester. You are growing aronia so buy a harvester designed to harvest aronia…NOT just a berry harvester. There is a BIG difference. If you are looking to have your berries custom harvested then get on someone’s list even if you plan to hand harvest get on their list! Contact me if you have any questions. dean@absnei.com

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