ELLSWORTH — State agricultural experts are optimistic about this year’s cranberry harvest despite a threefold increase in the incidence of cranberry fruit worms.
Charlie Armstrong, a University of Maine cranberry professional, said he expects the harvest to be about 2.5 million pounds.
There are some 210 acres of cranberries in Maine, he said.
“It’s on a par with one of our better years, but probably not our best year ever, which was in 2010,” Armstrong said of the 2.9-million pound harvest two years ago.
“We had just the right mix of sun, pollination and rainfall,” he said. “Those are the three key ingredients.”
The 2011 harvest was about 2.4 million pounds.
Armstrong said the mild winter hurt pollinators but helped the unwanted proliferation of fruit worms and moths.
He said he was initially concerned about pollination this year because the native bumble bee population was “hit hard.”
The unusually warm temperatures followed by cold weather sent the bees back into hibernation.
“When they did wake up there weren’t many pollen or vector sources to be found again,” Armstrong said. “The cranberry growers relied on the honeybees to make up the difference.”
Although the cold and rain was a deterrent to bees, it was good for the plants and reduced the amount of irrigation needed, he said.
“If we can get more water it will help even more by increasing the size of the berries,” he said.
Armstrong expects the cranberry harvest to start in earnest the first week of October.
Cranberries are picked dry and sold fresh, or the fields are flooded and the berries are water harvested, which limits their use to processing, he said.