Bird Netting Materials and Techniques

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers ON 1/19/2016

The following post has been created to capture a talk given by Craig Cunningham, Harbor Hill Vineyard Services, presented to the Saskatoon Session at The Northwest Michigan Orchard & Vineyard Show, Wednesday, January 13, 2016

 

Vermin want to eat your fruit before harvest. Birds, rodents, and mammals are waiting for the perfect moment to gorge themselves on your investment. And why not? It is conveniently located, largely unprotected, and it tastes so good that consumers are willing to pay you just for the chance to have some of their own. Even an occasional human can be found foraging in the orchard. So how can growers protect their crop until the hour of perfection when the fruit is harvested?

I have tried pretty much everything, and the animals have the upper hand (or paw or hoof or claw) Air Dancerwith pretty much every option. Flashy tape does not work. I have tried scary eyed balloons, plastic snakes, owls and other animal shapes, old spray suits, bird noises, cannons, avian control (on a 7 day cycle), four wheeler drivers with shot guns (I don’t recommend this for anyone) and, yes, even air dancers.

All these approaches make you feel better. But they don’t work for very long. You can mix, match, rotate, and move around each of these deterrents, but the birds will acclimate.

The only thing that really works is bird netting. Problem is that it is very expensive and very labor intensive. Be sure that it is cost effective before investing. Know the unit value of your crop and have an accurate yield estimate in any given year. Know your fields too, to better understand the actual pressure (damage potential). I have some fields with heavy pressure each year, and one field with almost no pressure.

Bird netting must be timely – just before the birds show serious interest, and until final harvest is imminent.

Bird netting is often reusable, though the quality of your netting, and the way you care for it, will have a lot to do with how long it lasts. I have some netting that is nearly 20 years old and doing well, though I tell my staff each fall to remove it as if their job depends upon it.

There are 3 types of bird netting that often relate to the durability of the material that they are made from, and reflect their potential lifespan.

  • Black is often extruded polypropylene. This is usually the least expensive option, and the quickest to fail.
  • Green [lighter more flexible HDPE] can tangle easily with bushes and debris.
  • White is also HDPE, and is a heavier woven product. This is strong, flexible, and my preference for bird netting. I have had it last for over 10 years when used only during fruiting season, and well cared for year around.

Whichever system you choose, closure will be key to your level of success. Along every seam (where two pieces of netting meet) and around the full periphery (where netting comes to the ground or any other ‘terminal’ surface), full closure must mean no space for critters to get through. For net-to-net ‘seams’, you will want to find a way to ‘stitch’ the sections together, whether an actual weave of twine, or twist ties, or a system of solid objects such as skewers or plastic clips; hardware of this nature should be available from your netting source. For terminal edges, drape down to the ground and allow 1’ to 2’. Think this through for your unique property before investing in a system. Covering ‘almost everything’ is very close to covering nothing.

There are 2 types of bird netting strategies that help protect from varmints:

  • Single Row Drape-over

With this strategy it is hard to get closure on periphery with varied bush heights. This is a good option for trellised grapes, because the trellis can act as a frame for the netting, though this is hard to work with because it is labor intensive. For some saskatoon cultivars the harvesting can come in stages. With this approach the netting would be removed to harvest, then have to be reapplied until the next harvest.

  • Multi Row Drape-Over (Complete enclosure)

The best option for saskatoons is probably complete enclosure. This system, like building a net room around part, or all, of your field, requires framing to cover multiple rows of bushes. Make sure your enclosure is high enough not only for your plants, but for you and your trimmer, sprayer, harvester and any other tools and equipment you will use during the season. And plan for repeated access. Anchor your posts well, as containment failure (even temporary) is nearly as bad as no netting for the whole season. Between anchored posts you can run 12-gauge wire to hold draped netting, and even include temporary supports along the way. When the wire is tightened (assuming the anchored posts hold – this is a “must”: frame has to be adequately built to host netting) the temporary posts will be held in position if the wire is snug across the top of each support. Keep in mind that you are building a structure not just for sunny peaceful days, but also for stormy days and unexpected stiff breezes.

Net enclosures should be inspected regularly to check for inadequacies and failures.

The Costs of bird netting includes:

  • Framing
    • Posts (primary)
    • Temporary Supports
    • Cement [maybe, for posts]
    • Wire (12-gauge) – tightened after frame is assembled
  • Netting
  • Equipment
    • To install framing
    • To drag netting over the framing (and recover later)

I use the white woven HDPE and recommend one supplier – Michael J Schmidt, Jr. of SPEC Trellising – http://www.spectrellising.com. And that recommendation comes without any finder’s fee for me. SPEC is not always the cheapest, but he knows what he has, what you need, and he is good with schedule.

         Current Sizes and Pricing from SPEC for Woven, Polyethylene Netting

         16.5 x 990     $425/bag

         21.5 x 990     $550/bag

         33.0 x 990     $900/bag

         48.0 x 990     $1375/bag

         66.0 x 990     $1800/bag

 

This product can go back in the bag at the end of the season, and be ready to use in the spring with no winter/moisture deterioration.

I encourage you to employ the various options before buying netting. Some sites have no bird pressure. Don’t assume netting is the way to go for every site. Make sure netting is cost effective. Really. Don’t do it because it sounds like a good idea, but won’t result in increased net income [no pun intended].

In some cases, the pressure is mostly along the edges and one might try limited border applications, but this can fail if species scout beyond the covered area.

Dogs help. Any type of non-recurring activity will help. The Swiss use monofilament, as do some in the Grand Traverse area. This product is often used for seagulls. I prefer the netting.

For comments and questions, contact: craigcvs@gmail.com

 

The Economics of Growing and Selling Saskatoon Berries

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 1/11/2016

Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference

Would you benefit from knowing more about the economics of growing and selling saskatoon berries? Lets talk dollars and sense on Saturday, January 30, 2016 from 9:00 AM – 10:15 AM at The Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference, located at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. SBINA will be offering a session entitled The Economics of Growing Saskatoons, which will provide:

  1. A basic list of the costs of developing a commercial saskatoon field
  2. A general timeline of cash flows and important events
  3. Several potential markets for saskatoon berries
  4. Methods to project future revenues
  5. A discussion of relative value of cooperating with other saskatoon growers.

Come meet current growers and learn from those with the experience of walking this path already.

 

Learn More About Growing Saskatoons at The Northwest Michigan Orchard and Vineyard Show!

POSTED IN For Growers ON 1/11/2016

If you are growing saskatoons, or hope to be soon, come join us on Wednesday morning, January 13, 2016 at The Grand Traverse Resort to learn more about how birds and bees can affect your success.

With another season in the history books, growers found two issues were primarily responsible for a decrease in production: 1) birds (who love saskatoons) and 2) leaf spot. Given this feedback, this week’s program has been developed to address those specific topics, as well as optimizing pollination.

The Schedule is as follows:

 

Concurrent Saskatoon Session                           Room – Peninsula A

Moderator:    Duke Elsner, MSU Extension

9:00 – 9:20      Basics of Bird Damage and Management in Small Fruits

                            American Kestrel Next Boxes

                        Dr. Catherine Lindell, Michigan State University

9:20 – 10:00    Bird Netting Materials and Techniques

                        Craig Cunningham, Harbor Hill Vineyard Services, Traverse City

10:00 – 10:30  Vendor Break

10:30 – 11:00  A Close Look at Entomosporium Leafspot

                        Annemiek Schilder, Dept. of Plant Pathology, MSU

11:00 – 11:30  Support Your Local Pollinators

                        Rufus Isaacs, Dept. of Entomology, MSU

11:30 – 12:00  Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America report

                        SBINA Board Members and Staff

12:00 – 12:15  Fill Out Pesticide Recertification Credits (###)

 

Learn more at: http://www.msustatewide.msu.edu/Programs/Details/2087

 

Are You Forward Thinking?

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers ON 11/3/2015

The colors are brilliant. The air is crisp. The nights are longer. Fall Colors Soon the snow will fall, and then the holidays. Yup, spring is just around the corner. Are you thinking about planting saskatoon berries next year? This industry needs more growers to meet current demand. Whether you would grow for fun or profit, this is the time to place orders for next year. If you wait to place orders next summer, you will lose yet another year. Act now to have fruit of your own sooner! This is not to say that you can plant a bush, wait a few weeks, and have saskatoon berries.  Most plants, even when well cared for, will not have fruit until year 3 or 4 (after that, they have been known to produce for 50 years or more). There are some options to cut your lead time.  Some nurseries will grow out your ordered plants for 1 year or 2 years, reducing the time you would need to reserve space and care for them. However your bushes will still need to winter at least one year on your site before you get fruit. So don’t wait until the right year for a harvest.  Plan ahead! There are several sources for saskatoon plants (Amelanchier alnifolia – called bushes in some places and trees in other places). Those nurseries may have varied reputations regarding plant quality, shipping, and survival rates. So do your homework. You can see our member nurseries on our directory page. You can order plants for spring or fall planting. Fall planting often provides stronger plants with less risk of disease because they have been through a season already. You will want to note how the plants are being shipped: bare root, tube or pot. If you can plant with roots already in shipping dirt, they will generally adjust more quickly to your property. Avoid the result of the sign maker who created this: Plan Ahead   Make you plan BEFORE it is time to execute, and then put it into action. If you have questions, feel free to raise them here, or contact a nursery.

2015 Saskatoon Crop Study Completed

POSTED IN For Growers ON 6/17/2015

Our hearty thanks to all the farms that participated in this year’s Saskatoon Crop Study! We learned a lot, and expect you will too. These results will not be published, but all participants who completed the survey, and provided their e-mail address, will receive a copy of the Summary Report, which is being e-mailed today. We would love to have you join us in our effort to spread the good word about saskatoons.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 12.55.34 PM

Saskatoon Growers Education Tour Scheduled for June 20, 2015

POSTED IN For Growers ON 5/19/2015

Double click on this graphic to see an enlarged version with all the details.

Come see fields of real saskatoon bushes, including various stages of development, and learn more about how to better grow saskatoon berries, whether you have just a few plants, or many acres of plants

.
Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 4.33.20 PM

Saskatoon buds are coming along!

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers ON 5/14/2015

Many farms are reporting that they are seeing buds developing. Though several growing regions experienced colder than normal winters this past year, the saskatoons are coming on strong!  This cold-hearty fruit plant is so resilient!

Looks like we are headed for another great year! We will be watching as the plants mature, and look forward to eating those saskatoon berries, either fresh or processed.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.45.34 AM

Saskatoon White Chocolate Mousse

(from Sunrise Berry Farms, Lethbridge, AB)

Dessert Crust:
  • 21 cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 pouch Sunrise Berry Farms Saskatoon Berry Pie Filling
White Chocolate Mousse:
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 pkg (32 g) instant white chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  1. In a food processor, process cookies until finely chopped.
  2. Add butter; cover and pulse until mixture begins to hold together.  Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 10″ pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes.  Cool on rack.
  3. For mousse, in a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes; set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cream; let stand for 1 minute.  Heat over low heat, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat remaining cream until it begins to thicken.
  6. Add sugar and extract; beat until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in gelatin mixture.
  7. Fold into pudding.  Refrigerate until slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
  8. Spread Saskatoon Berry Pie Filling into crust; top with mousse.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.  Garnish with chocolate curls if desired.

Yield:  8-10 servings.

Last Evening’s MAEAP Training Was Tremendous

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 3/27/2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.34.02 PMThe Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program is a voluntary, proactive environmental assurance program. Over 2,600 farms in Michigan have been verified as of this date, with many more currently in the process. Thank you to all the saskatoon growers that attended last night’s program. Clearly there are benefits to growers, consumers, the state, and the environment as this program develops. Thank you also to Laura and Jessica for your efforts. Your experience and drive are an asset for our region. The Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America will evaluate ways that we can continue to partner with MAEAP in pursuing our common goals. This program is only offered in Michigan. Each county has a MAEAP Technician that can help farms evaluate their readiness, and help with the verification process. If you live in other states, provinces or countries, you might check with local agricultural extension officer to see if there is a similar program where you live. While not quite the same as being there, you are welcome to take a look at the PowerPoint presentation for the evening: MAEAP overview Saskatoon For more information, you can also go to: www.maeap.org

How To Find Saskatoons in Grocery Stores in Northern Michigan

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers, For Members ON 7/16/2014

While we await photo contest entries (See “Announcing The Great Saskatoon Search Contest!”),  we can share some photos of what saskatoon berry displays look like in a couple of local grocery stores.

IMG_0205At Olseon’s Plaza West (Traverse City, MI) the saskatoons are in the produce department wall cooler, next to the raspberries, and above the strawberries.

IMG_0207

While the supply is low today in this store, Oleson’s staff report that they are expecting another shipment tomorrow morning.

Across town, the look is a bit different.

IMG_0208

At Tom’s East Bay (Traverse City, MI) you will find the saskatoons on a stand next to the cherries and apricots.

IMG_0210

Tom’s also provides some information about saskatoons, which was prepared by Cherry Capital Foods.

IMG_0209

This is not a complete directory of stores carrying saskatoon berries. Rather, these are examples, reflecting photos that we have seen so far. As always, if you do not see saskatoons, ask store staff members.

If you find saskatoons elsewhere, and you have your smart phone or camera with you, snap a picture to post on this blog, and you may find yourself the satisfied winner of a jar of awesome saskatoon jam!

 

What About Juneberries?

POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers, For Members ON 7/14/2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 3.21.36 PMThis morning’s NPR Morning Edition story “Saskawhat: A Novel Berry From Canada Takes Root On Michigan Farms” has been feeding a discussion about the the name(s) of the fruit of Amelanchier alnifolia, which this site often calls saskatoons, but describes in the “About Saskatoons” tab as having several common names, including Juneberries.

As far as this author is concerned, this fruit tastes great regardless of the label one affixes to it.

That said,  in an effort to address the various voices responding to the NPR story filed by Peter Payette of Interlochen Public Radio, I offer the following observations.

Wikipedia identifies 15 species of Amelanchier found in North America:

The same source notes that another species “Amelanchier lamarckii” is common in Europe. Botanists speculate that this European species originally came from Canada, but is not found there, in the wild.

Another name is Sarvisberry, similar to Serviceberry.

One might note that particular common names can be used for a variety of species, indicating that the common names are not necessarily species specific.

The species currently propogated in Northern Michigan, and covered in the NPR story, is Amelanchier alnifolia. The common name saskatoon berry is specific to Amelanchier alnifolia. On a different Wikipedia page, the following list of names are shown for Amelanchier alnifolia: saskatoonPacific serviceberrywestern serviceberryalder-leaf shadbushdwarf shadbushchuckley pear, or western juneberry, and pigeon berry. This list includes some names shown above, and some others as well.

Within the species Amelanchier alnifolia there are also cultivars, with variations in characteristics, allowing growers to choose what they perceive to be more desirable features such as soil and temperature compatibility as well as flavor and texture preferences. Cultivars affect many of us on a daily basis, from grocery store options of many fruits and vegetable to the colors or your favorite flowers and the shapes of leaves of bushes and trees. Some of the cultivars being harvested commercially in Michigan include: Thiessen, JB-30, Northline, Martin, and Smoky. These cultivars are not native to Michigan, though various Amelanchier species do grow wild, and are used in landscaping, in Michigan. Because cultivars represent preferences, there is no one right answer for everyone.

While not all environments can grow the fruit of Amelanchier alnifolia (as they require a specific number of days of below freezing weather – 90, I believe), provinces and states that grow Amelanchier alnifolia include:

Canada:

o Alberta (more commonly called saskatoons)
o British Columbia (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Manitoba (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Nova Scotia (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Ontario (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Quebec
o Saskatchewan (more commonly called saskatoons)

The United States of America:

o California
o Idaho (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Illinois
o Maine (more commonly called juneberries)
o Massachusetts (more commonly called juneberries)
o Michigan (more commonly called saskatoons)
o Minnesota (more commonly called juneberries)
o Montana (a variety of names)
o Nebraska
o New Hampshire
o New York (more commonly called juneberries)
o North Dakota (more commonly called juneberries)
o Oregon
o Pennsylvania
o Washington
o Wisconsin

In many locations there may be some confusion about the season of ripe fruit. In Michigan, for instance, the fruit ripens in July, but is not called Julyberry. In other locations, such as New York, the fruit can ripen in June, making Juneberry a very accurate description.

We continue to work on learning more about the variations in each of these locations, and welcome information from readers and other sources.