Friday, June 22, 2018

It's getting hot out there, time to try a night harvest?

Last summer we conducted a small study looking at the possibility of night harvest for blackberries.

Briefly this is what we found:

  • Headlamps worked well. We used some that were rechargeable LED headlamps. They were about $20, from Amazon. There are other sources. Don't get the cheap ones they don't give you enough light. 

  • The fruit temperatures and air temperatures were almost identical last year, when we did our 24 hr study. We saw a 30F difference in temperatures, with a minimum temperature of 58F around 3 am and a high of 85 at noon.
  • The fruit never got wet BUT THE LEAVES DID.  The dew formed on the leaves around 1 am. The dew from those leaves was knocked onto the fruit during harvest and impacted the fruit quality. So, we think that after the leaves get wet, it is time to stop harvesting to prevent fruit from getting wet.
  • You many not want to harvest all night, but if you harvest late into the evening, those cooler temperatures may give your workers a more comfortable working environment and may improve fruit quality. 
Here is a link to the post from last year.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Blackberry season 2018: looking forward to a great harvest, some problems to watch out for along the way

The blackberry season just a few days to weeks away, depending on your location. Some of the more common problems that are likely to be seen are:

1. Cane blight. This is one of the most common diseases in blackberry plantings. The tips of the floricanes are necrotic and have a brown/silvery appearance. The canes became infect last year when they were primocanes and were tipped. The wound created by tipping allowed the disease to get into that large wound. To minimize the infection it is best to tip when the canes have a very small diameter. More information here:

2. Viruses. This was one of my first challenges that I met when I started  at NCSU. Back then, several  new plantings were riddled with virus symptoms. Thanks to a clean plant program, from tissue culture to nursery, to institution of improved cultural practices, viruses are not as prevalent now. More information here:

3. Poor fruit set/fruit not ripening. This could be a result of a number of things. Poor pollination during flowering, rain during flowering, but more likely this year to injury to the flowers during the spring. Some fruit never developed as is seen in the first image. You can see in the second image the damaged and not damaged flowers. Those that were damaged will not develop into fruit. For more information on damage from cold, click here

4. Leaves suddenly wilting on floricanes. This can be due to a number of things, winter injury, wind damage, crown borers or rodent damage. Here is a link for more information. Picture of wilting raspberry floricane courtesy of Kira Chaloupka.

5. Orange spots on canes, also known as Orange Felt or Orange Cane Blotch (Cephaleuros virescens). This occurs in warm humid fields in the central, eastern and southern parts of NC. It is also in other states in the south. It is a parasitic algae, so even though at first glance it looks like a disease, it is not. Here is a link with some more information.

6. White Drupelets. Although most cultivars can get white drupelet, we see this in Apache more than others. Here is a link with more information.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

NARBA Caneberry pricing survey

NARBA is conducting a survey of caneberry pricing and retail strategies for 2018. with the help of the University of Arkansas  Please participate if you are a grower. If you haven't settled on your 2018 prices, you can report 2017 prices. All participants will have the opportunity to receive a report of the results.

To access the survey please click the following link:
Also, please share this survey link now with raspberry/blackberry growers you know or work with. We are trying to get the word out both quickly and widely so we can analyze and report the results in June. Thank you, and thank you to those of you who already responded.
Debby Wechsler, NARBA Executive Secretary 
* * * * * * *
More information, in the full invitation: 
Dear Producer,
Researchers at the University of Arkansas, in collaboration with the North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association (NARBA), and the University of Vermont, are conducting a survey to learn more about caneberry pricing and retail strategies for 2018. The survey should only take around 10 minutes to complete. Your participation is completely voluntary. Responses will be recorded anonymously and no identifying personal information will be collected within the survey. You are free to refuse to participate in the research and to stop completing the survey at any time.
Information collected in the survey will be used to gain a better understanding of the marketing, pricing, and sales strategies currently being used by caneberry producers across the United States and Canada. Results will be aggregated and published in the June issue of the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association’s member newsletter. A report will also be emailed to all participants requesting this option.

To access the survey please click the following link:

If you have any questions about this survey itself, please contact Jennie Popp by email or phone at or 479-575-7381.   You may also contact NARBA by email at, or by phone at 919-542-4037.
Jennie Popp, Ph.D.

This research has been reviewed according to the University of Arkansas IRB procedures for research involving human subjects:
IRB # 1805120083
Approved: 5/16/18

If you have questions about your rights as a participant, or to discuss any concerns about, or problems with the research, you may contact the University of Arkansas Research Compliance office listed below:
Iroshi (Ro) Windwalker, CIP
IRB/RSC Coordinator
Office of Research Compliance
109 MLKG Building
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701 
Phone: 479.575.2208    
Fax: 479.575.6527

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Another year, another round of blackberry flower bud injury

Blackberry flower bud damage. The centers are the female part of the flower (a gynoecium with many pistals) develop into the fruit. Image above shows 3 out of 5 flowers with blackened centers, indicating that there was lethal damage and fruit will not develop.

Since 2007, just as the NC blackberry industry began to emerge, spring time cold temperatures have killed flowers multiple times (my blog says 2007, 2012, 2014, and 2018, but there may be more). 

Last week, just as we began to think we had missed any chance of bud injury, temperatures dipped to 27F or below.  Blackberry shoots with developing flowers were emerging. There was a wide range of damage, depending on location, degree of bud break, and temperature. Locations and cultivars on the same farm had  in some cases little or no damage to 40% damage to the primary flower buds. 

Growers know what to look for (blackened centers) and had been assessing their crop for the last few days. See image above. In most cases the king or largest flower bud was damaged and some of the secondary and tertiary flower buds also were damaged. The smaller flower buds with green centers will develop into fruit. 

When we see this type of damage, often there are secondary shoots that will emerge and produce flowers a week or so after the initial damage. Look for succulent lighter green often elongated shoots. (Sorry no image, if you have one, send it to me and Ill post it here). The extent of secondary shoot emergence is not consistent. It likely depends on extent of damage to the primary flower buds, cultivar, how well the secondary shoots had developed in the previous year.  We have done some shoot removal studies in the past. These will be summarized in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile here is a link to posts from the past on this topic.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Spring Caneberry Chores

Blackberry leaves and buds eastern NC April 3 2018.
Spring Caneberry (Raspberry and Blackberry) Chores 2018

Dr. Gina Fernandez, Small Fruit Specialist at NC State University

Spring 2018 has been cool, we had snow in Raleigh on April 7. But blackberry plants have broken bud are are ready to start the season. Chores and timing may be somewhat different in your area or for your cropping system.  For IPM recommendations and general production practices, see the 2018 Southeast Regional Caneberry Integrated Management Guide.

The IPM guide above lists these stages of growth or planting age. This is the time of year we are now leaving (or have left a while ago!) the dormant period and by the time the next newsletter comes out, we will likely be harvesting in some locations.

Dormant (prior to budbreak)
Delayed dormant (swollen buds) to green tip
Shoots 6 inches long and before blooms open
Pre-bloom (when flower buds show white)
Early bloom (5-10%)
Full Petal
Cover sprays
Pre-harvest (14 days before anticipated harvest)

The SRSFC production practices are in the Regional Caneberry Production guide (includes link to PDF format):

Plant growth and development
·      Plants deacclimate quickly
·      Bud differentiation (additional flowers can be formed)
·      Bud break
·      Flowering
·      Primocane emergence
Pruning and trellising
·      Finish pruning and make sure all floricanes are tied to the trellis before budbreak
·      Remove canes from field to minimize spread of diseases
·      Rotate shift trellises to horizontal position before budbreak; rotate to upright position immediately after flowering.
·      Prepare for flower to fruit monitoring (see )

·      Weed growth can be very vigorous at the same time as the bramble crop peaks
·      Weed control is best done earlier in the season, with pre-emergent herbicides before harvest commences
·      Hand-weed perennial weeds in and around plots

Insect and disease scouting
·      Growers with a history of cane diseases and/or mites often find that certain fungicides and oils are most effective just prior to bud break. The period of time in the spring when the plant is flowering is the most important season for control of insects and diseases. Know what your pests are and how to control them. See the
Water management
·      Test irrigation system and look for leaks
·      Canberry plants need about 1”-2” water/week. This amount will be especially critical during harvest
Fertlity management See Caneberry Production Guide

Marketing and miscellaneous

·      Service and clean coolers
·      Make sure you have enough containers for fruit in the coming season
·      Prepare advertising and signage for your stand
·      Contact buyers to finalize orders
·      Hire pickers
·      Prepare signage for field orientation; it is easier to tell pickers where to go if rows are numbered
·      Check buds and canes for cold damage (27°F is temperature that kills all stages of flower buds see

·      Monitor and record peak flowering date for each variety every year. Then later during harvest, check your records for peak harvest of each variety.  Over time, it will help you to determine when your peak harvest will occur.