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Elizabeth Conlan, Tatiana Borisova, Erick Smith, Jeffrey Williamson and Mercy Olmstead

Freeze events between January and April can result in major crop and economic losses for growers of low-chill, early-ripening varieties of blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) in Florida and Georgia. The objective of this research was to determine current responses by blueberry growers to freeze events. Blueberry growers in Florida and Georgia were surveyed about frost protection decision criteria. Growers had differing opinions on when to make the decision to frost-protect blueberry crops. Almost all (98.9%) of the respondents (n = 94) who reported using at least one method of active frost protection reported using irrigation. Farm size, as measured by blueberry acreage, did not influence decisions regarding the use of active frost protection measures. Blueberry growers, on average, reported that a loss of up to 30% to 39% of their crop could be tolerated and still produce a marketable crop. However, they may have been overly cautious at the early bud stages, with ≈40% and 55% of respondents protecting at the bud swell and tight cluster stages, respectively. Understanding the use of irrigation as a frost protection practice in the southeastern United States can aid in improving frost protection recommendations, helping growers maximize yield and saving water and money.