How to Save More Berries From The Birds

POSTED IN For Growers ON 7/14/2016

Struggling with bird management? Kathy Heidenreich of Cornell University published an article a

Research Support Specialist/Plant Pathologist New York State Agricultural Experiment Station-Cornell University Department of Plant Pathology

Cathy Heidenreich, Research Support Specialist/Plant Pathologist
New York State Agricultural Experiment Station-Cornell University
Department of Plant Pathology

few years ago that many saskatoon growers may find helpful. This document lists and review common fruit eating birds as well as a variety of bird management tactics. The goal is to reduce loss in commercial fruit fields while avoiding any sort of injury to the birds.

Too see the full article go to Bye Bye Birdie – Cornell

Apple curculio and saksatoons

POSTED IN For Growers ON 6/3/2016

Apple curculio are making their  appearance as most sites are in petal fall. Insect activity has really picked up due to recent warm weather. Sweep net samples at the research center planting caught saskatoon sawflies (lower numbers than last week), apple curculio (first detection this year), tarnished plant bug, leaf-feeding weevils and several types of small moth caterpillars. There were also many beneficials in the sampling—spiders and parasitoid wasps. Unfortunately the threat of fruit losses from sawflies and curculios outweigh the current value of the beneficials, so it is advisable to protect the fruit with an insecticide at this time. Avaunt, Actara and Assail are likely to be the best choices where apple curculio is known to be a problem. It is also time to start protecting fruits from rust and entomosporium spot disease, especially with the threat of rain later this week. Tilt or Quilt Xcel, if not already used this year, would be good choices now. These have a 30 day PHI, so they do not fit well in your disease management program after we get into June.

Apple curculio are a risk in saskatoons

Apple curculio on saskatoon berry

Note the size of the Apple curculio in this sasatkoon berry

Apple curculio damage on saskatoon berries

Apple curculio adults are small and easily overlooked. They have tiny jaws at the end or a prolonged snout, which they use for cutting a uniquely shaped egg-laying slit into the surface of berries. The grub stages of the curculio feed inside the fruit.

curculio 3

Larvae can grow inside saskatoon berries


Duke Elsner, Small Fruit Educator, Michigan State University Extension

Frost Damage in Saskatoon Bushes

POSTED IN For Growers ON 5/19/2016

Well, we had quite a chiller go through this past weekend, and some have seen frost damage. While saskatoon bushes are pretty harder throughout the winter, they are a bit more suseptable when they are in blossom. In Northern Michigan they have seen some signs of damage, though not as threatening as with some other crops.

Elsner_Duke_2013_CroppedDr. Erwin ‘Duke” Elsner, Small Fruit Educator with Michigan State University Extension recently helped us understand how to tell if your plant has frost damage, and what to do about it:

Frosted tender leaves will show darkened margins, almost black in color.  The injured tissue doesn’t grow or stretch as the rest of the leaf continues to grow, so the leaves look more crooked or crumpled the season continues.

Lightly frosted flowers just show some browning of the petals.  

Nothing needs to be done to these light frost injured plants. Under most circumstance they will continue to grow and produce this season.

Best wishes to all you growers and harvesters this season.  If you find that you have unusual damage due to cold temperatures, please let us know.


Saskatoon Sawfly & Saskatoon Bud Moth

POSTED IN For Growers ON 5/19/2016

 First Documentation of Saskatoon Sawfly in Michigan – May 13, 2016 

Late last week I observed saskatoon sawfly (Hoplocampa montanicola) for the first time in Michigan, at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Leelanau County. I had suspected that some fruit injury seen at this site in 2015 was due to this insect, and growers had previously reported injury of a similar nature, but this was the first time the insects have actually been found. 

saskatoon sawflyAdult saskatoon sawfly 

Adults of the saskatoon sawfly were plentiful (more than ten on a bush at some times) and very actively flying amongst the flower clusters (plants were at approximately 50% bloom at the time). Although I observed the sawflies for some time, I was not able to actually see one attempt to lay eggs. Based on what I have gathered from Canadian references, the egg laying behavior might not start until the flower ovaries start to swell after fruit set. Good pictures of the egg laying scars, larva and fruit damage can be seen at The potential threat for fruit losses in Michigan has not been determined, but this pest is an important one in Alberta and Manitoba. 

Saskatoon sawfly is not listed in the 2016 Saskatoon Berry Pesticide Recommendations that I released earlier this spring. Based on recommendations made for a related pest of apples in Ontario, sprays of Assail, Altacor or Exirel at petal fall would be the best choice. These are all toxic to bees, so it is important that all bee activity be completed before the application. 

Larvae of Saskatoon Bud Moth Now Active 

On the same date and location I also noted the first larvae of saskatoon bud moth (Epinotia bicordana) for the season. Small larvae, a little over 0.25 inches in length, were feeding inside nests of tender leaves they had webbed together with silk. They must have been active here much earlier, as their first feeding of the year occurs as they bore into the bases of swelling buds. They were not numerous, so the early feeding on buds would likely have been very hard to detect. According to Canadian literature, the development and feeding of the larvae is 

completed by the time of petal fall; the early season feeding inside buds is the damaging time as it can kill entire buds or injure some of the flowers. The later feeding on leaves is of no consequence to production. The importance of saskatoon bud moth to production in Michigan is uncertain. It is too late this year for sprays to reduce bud injury or fruit loss. 

Curled leaves from saskatoon bud mothSaskatoon Bud Moth











Leaves tied together by saskatoon bud moth larvae (left), and close up of a larva (right). 




Duke Elsner, Small Fruit Educator, Michigan State University Extension 

Saskatoon Growers Education Tour 2016

POSTED IN For Growers ON 5/16/2016


JUNE 17, 2016

Saskatoon Growers Education TourThe day’s agenda is as follows (for mapping information, click on any location shown below):


8:15 AM        MEET AT JACOB’S FARM, M-72 WEST

                        (Coffee and Saskatoon muffins)

                        (RESOURCE PERSON: DR ERWIN DUKE ELSNER)




                        (RESOURCE PERSON: JIM DIXON)




                        (RESOURCE PERSON: STEVE DUCHENEY)




2016 Saskatoon Disease and Insect Pesticide Recommendations for Michigan Released

POSTED IN For Growers ON 3/15/2016

Michigan State University ExtensionWhat pesticide might help in controlling unwanted insects, fungus or weeds on, or around, your saskatoon bushes (Juneberries)? The members of the Saskatoon Berry Institute work with Duke Elsner, Small Fruit Educator, Michigan State University Extension to review their experiences with various products labeled for saskatoons. The results of that joint effort are included at: 2016 Saskatoon Disease and Insect Pesticide Recommendations.

Whether as a hobby, or a business, if you are growing saskatoons, you have probably run into some natural challenges to your optimal harvest. Common challenges for saskatoons include leaf spot, rust, rot, moths, weevils, mildew and aphids. Many of these are common to a variety of berries and other fruits. Especially with young plants (less than about 4 years old), weeds can compete with saskatoon bushes for water and nutrients. These issues can reduce the development of bushes and challenge the size of the harvest.

If you are new to growing saskatoons, and fruit in general, you may want to note that recommended pesticides vary by annual plant stages.

The recommendations are the result of seeking effective means of handling each of these challenges, and include “reduced risk” and organic options that have been found to be effective. Other sources of information for these recommendations include: Annemiek Schilder and Rufus Isaacs, both of The Center of Integrated Plant Systems, and both of whom made presentations to saskatoon growers as recently as this past winter.

To help improve the quantity and quality of your saskatoon crop, you may want to review How to Encourage Pollinators and Improve Your Crop, which was presented by Rufus Isaacs.

Many growers also experience challenges with birds. For this challenge, go to: Bird Damage and Management In Small Fruit.

For more information on the bud and bloom stages mentioned in the pesticide recommendations, and/or to help researchers better understand that timing of plant development, take a look at Saskatoon Bud and Fruit Developmental Stages.

Let us know of your experiences, and tell us about resources that are available for other states and provinces by going to: Contact the Institute.

Best wishes for a fruitful summer!

The Economics of Growing Saskatoons

POSTED IN For Growers, For Members ON 2/16/2016

The presentation “The Economics of Growing Saskatoons” was part of the program of the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference on Saturday, January 30th, 2016.

Subject matter includes:

  1. What saskatoon berries looks like
  2. What saskatoon bushes looks like
  3. Health benefits of saskatoon berries
  4. Growing requirements
  5. Market opportunities for fresh and processed saskatoons
  6. Costs associated with planting and maintaining a saskatoon orchard
  7. Key business practices for successful growing
  8. Essential business considerations
  9. Business planning concepts
  10. Tax considerations
  11. Insurance considerations
  12. Legal considerations
  13. A financial projection example
  14. An introduction to resources that can help


To download the program presentation, go to: SFC 2016 Econ Saskatoons

We had a good group, with many targeted questions. It was a delight to talk through both the questions for which good answers are available and the questions for which good answers are still being researched. 

What we know is that:

  • People that try saskatoon berries almost always want more saskatoon berries
  • Growers with even minimal marketing experience can sell out of their fruit
  • Working together through the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America we are building a larger market, and working on ways to satisfy orders larger than many farms can fill by themselves

If you are already growing saskatoons, please consider joining the Institute.

If you are considering growing saskatoons, please talk the Institute and our members.

And Remember:

Eat saskatoon berries!

How to Encourage Pollinating Bees and Increase Your Harvest

POSTED IN For Growers ON 2/12/2016

Rufus Isaacs presented “Support Your Local Pollinators” at the Saskatoon breakout session of the Northwestern Michigan Orchard and Vineyard Show on January 13, 2016. This program was part of a “birds and bees’ focus on methods to improve saskatoon berry crop harvests. Rufus discussed how to support native bees through their active seasons, the role and timing of pesticides, and ways to encourage and increase native bee populations around saskatoon orchards.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.04.26 PM

Local pollinators: Wild bees that are beneficial to harvest

To see the complete PowerPoint presentation, as a pdf, click on this hyperlink: Isaacs – support your local pollinators 2016 – OV Saskatoon Session

Topics covered include:

  • Common wild bee identification techniques
  • Nesting habits
  • Seasonality
  • Effectiveness of pollen deposition
  • Wanna-bees – other non-bee insects that are pollinators
  • Creating and maintaining good pollinator habitat
  • Insecticide effect on pollinators by trade name
  • Ways to minimize insecticide effect on pollinators

Great job Rufus!  This is exactly what our growers needed!


Bird Damage and Management In Small Fruit

POSTED IN For Growers ON 1/22/2016

Are you experiencing Bird Damage – loosing a significant portion of your cash crop to birds?

Bird damage - eating fruitThere are many beautiful pictures available online of birds eating berries. And I can’t blame them. I really like eating fruit too.

But those birds are less cute when they taking money out of your pocket and, therefore, food off your table this winter.Bird damage - eating blueberries

So how might you handle this situation?

C.A. Lindell of Michigan State University provides some thoughts in the attached document.

Basics of Bird Damage

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 – 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: