Great Village strawberry farmers hit with plant virus

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GREAT VILLAGE – Viruses discovered in strawberry crops here have the potential to cost the region millions of dollars in damages, says a local farmer.

“It’s upsetting… it’s a big loss,” said Curtis Millen, who estimated he will lose up to 70 per cent of his regular yield.

“It’s going to cost the region a lot of money. It’s going to be in the millions.”

This week, his crew began plowing up this year’s early crop.

“It has been the perfect storm,” said Millen, one of several local growers who are also cutting out their withered strawberry plants.

The viruses attacking producers is a combination of the mottled and yellow edge virus.

Millen explained that the aphid, a tiny insect that feeds on plants, carries the viruses from plant-to-plant. The viruses cause the plant to wither and reduce the amount of fruit it can produce, if any.

“They formed a complex, which is when two viruses get together,” said the farmer of 38 years. “One virus, the plant can handle it, but two viruses it can’t. The plant becomes unable to produce (much) fruit.

“Once the virus goes in the plant, it shrivels down, shrinks down. It’s similar to having a cold, you might say.”

It is bad news for the growing region but this setback will only affect strawberries for June and part of July.  

Millen, who employs more than 200 workers, is one of the biggest growers in the province and supplies, along with his fellow growers, retail stores in Atlantic Canada.

Fortunately, some growers are also using a ‘day-neutral’ system where new healthy plants will go in the ground this spring and will bear fruit in July to October.

“We have a first-rate reputation and this is out of the blue. It is a huge financial hit for the Great Village region. U-picks and roadstands in the area will be closed,” said Millen.

He said full recovery is expected by next season.

“Farmers are always dealing with Mother Nature. This is a little bit rougher than we are used to,” Millen said.

The farmers thanked the Department of Agriculture for providing resources and help deal with the situation.

Twitter: @TDNjocelyn


Geographic location: Great Village, Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • AL
    April 16, 2013 - 16:18

    I really want to know why these poor farmers in the valley and other places who are hiring foreign workers to work for them,,are getting from the federal and the provincial government,,and why not they are not hiring the poor unemployed canadians,,how much they get and how much they pay,,,and yes,,the assistant will be coming soon to them,,,Hey Mr dexter just donated 50 thousand dollars to boston hospital,,while we are crying for him to do something for cumberland county,,,or even donate few days from his valuable time to come and visit cumberland county,,I never supported any political party..but this is the worst,,,

  • AL
    April 14, 2013 - 11:32

    I am looking for information about the wages,provincial,federal subsidies and benefits paid for the workers in the farms of the Valley and Great village,, I am sure most of us have no idea,,,,and publishing this information might help many un-employed nova scotian to apply and work in these farms,,, during the summer,,Canada imporfting tens of thousands of workers every year,,please let us know the wages and benefits,,,thanks

  • pat mclean
    April 12, 2013 - 19:48

    Article is a little misleading Mr millen might employee 200 workers but we all know they are not from the Great village area !

  • Brenda
    April 12, 2013 - 10:06

    What a miserable comment on what is a disaster for the growers, the strawberry industry, peoples' livelihoods, and not to mention those of us who enjoy the product. Politics be damned, this is certainly newsworthy.

    • James Baillie
      April 13, 2013 - 14:46

      I agree with Johnny . Miserable but true, this is how politics is played in Nova Scotia or have you been in a coma for the last four years. Never fear loads of taxpayer money will be on the way that you can bet on. Pretty soon all of the growers will be singing happy days are here again compliments of daddy Darrell.

  • Johnny smoke
    April 11, 2013 - 18:29

    Never to late for daddy sawbucks Dexter to send truck loads of cash after all Great Village is a Liberal strong hold, what better way to break the grits grip? After all that was the purpose of the piece was it not? Diseases attack plants every day, however elections are only once in every four years, that is if we are lucky. By the way a big hello to all of my Partiquin friends in that area, must get over sometime and browse.

    • Qwert
      April 13, 2013 - 15:53

      So Dexter had a strawberry desease brought in to decimate the crops losing many tax dollars and now will compensate the farmers. Yeah that makes perfect sense. By the way Colchester voted in a conservative member who left the sinking ship created by Rodney`s government.