Monday, March 9, 2015

Monitoring flower to fruit development of blackberries

Several of you saw the talk  that Daniel Shires gave at the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers meeting in Savannah in January.  Last summer,  Daniel, me and an intern helped to set up a demonstration that could help growers determine when a variety would ripen. We set up the demonstration at Killdeer Farm in Kings Mountain and posted weekly updates here on Team Rubus Blog. Here is how you can do it this year at your farm.

All you need is some flagging tape and a permanent marker.

Step 1. When you think the field is in full bloom, find a flower that is on the outside upper portion of the canopy. This fruit will most likely continue to be easy to spot if not buried too far into the canopy.

Step 2. Cut a 12" piece of flagging tape and put the date on one end of the flag (we used numbers for our trials instead of dates as you can see below)

Step 3. Tie the flagging tape around the base of the flower. We suggest you do at least 3 flowers from the same variety at the same time. We lost many fruit to a number of mishaps before the fruit was ripe.

Step 4. Return to the flower on a weekly basis and monitor. Record stage of plant development. Examples of a few of the stages are below.

Step 5. Keep the records so you can compare how long it takes each year. After a few years, you will have a good idea how long it should take variety to ripen at your location once it is in full bloom.

If you don't want to keep track of all of the stages, make sure at the least that you have a date for full bloom and shiny/dull black.

We also suggest that you let your pickers know that they should NOT pick this fruit.

Example of a data sheet for recording the steps of blackberry development.

Flower full bloom

Green fruit

Red-green fruit

Red fruit

Shiny black fruit

Monday, February 23, 2015

It was cold out there, but no evidence of damage to the floral buds.

Ouachita bud sliced open lengthwise after one night of 10 F, Feb 19, 2015. No damage evident.

Ouachita buds, from same field on second night, when temps were 10 again. No damage evident.
Last week, we had record low temperatures in parts of North Carolina. At a farm in western NC, near Shelby, a grower cut samples after two consecutive nights of cold temperatures. He brought me Ouachita because its buds were a bit more swollen than Navaho.

We saw this last year, the center of the Navaho bud is blackened. So, you need to look closely.
Navaho bud showing blackened center, this is damaged.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's going to be cold out there!

Field of 'Nantahala' red raspberry in western NC.

Much of the eastern part of the US has had a cold and in some parts, snowy winter of 2014-15. The upcoming nights in North Carolina are predicted to be cold, and in some places records are at risk of being broken. I'll be visiting fields in western NC over the next few days both before and after the cold temperatures and will keep you posted on what we have seen. 

Please search this blog for more information on cold damage. 
here are some links from the past:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NC Commercial Blackberry and Raspberry Growers Association Meeting

You are invited to attend the Eighth annual NCCBRGA meeting. As always we have an interesting and educational program scheduled. The meeting will be held in the Cleveland County Extension Auditorium at 130 S. Post Rd. Shelby, NC 28152.  In order to plan for the meal you will need to RSVP by March 6th by calling 704-482-4365. If you have any questions, need directions or if you would like to sponsor the meeting, feel free to call. There will be a $12 registration fee for the meeting. We will also be collecting, 2015 NCCBRGA annual membership dues. Make sure to thank and visit our numerous sponsors, which will be set in the back of the auditorium!
Below is a copy of the agenda.

Eight Annual NC Commercial Blackberry and Raspberry Growers Association Meeting
Wednesday March 11, 2015
Cleveland County Extension Office Auditorium
Shelby, NC 28152


8:45-9:00            Registration
9:00-9:05            Opening Remarks and Welcome. Daniel Shires, NC Cooperative Extension
9:05-10:00          Ins and Outs of H2A Worker Program, Dan Bremer AgWorksInc
10:00-10:15        Break
10:15-11:15        “Making the Grade” Blackberry Fruit Quality and Grading, NCDA&CS
11:15-12:00        Legislative Update for your Farm, Debbie Hamrick NC Farm Bureau
12:00-1:00          Lunch and Vendor Visits
1:00-1:20            Impacts of Herbicide Strip Width, Wayne Mitchem NCSU
1:20-1:50            Blackberry Pesticide Updates, Andy Rollins Clemson Extension
1:50-2:15            Blackberry Bloom to Ripe Study, Daniel Shires NCCE
2:15-3:00            New Blackberry Varieties for Replant Considerations, Gina Fernandez, NCSU
3:00                    Adjourn

Friday, February 6, 2015

Rubus Throw Back Thursday - a day late

NC State University Libraries maintains a collection of rare and unique digital images. While looking through the archives for some images of blackberry production in the state,  (I wanted them to help promote the upcoming Rubus and Ribes Symposium)  I only found raspberries. 

So, I only have raspberry fruit and production images to share here. Maybe some of you know someone, who used to know someone that may have grown these berries?  

Want to see more? go to 

Crates of picked raspberries

Raspberry planting in Catawba [County], July 1935, by H. R. Niswonger; Raspberry planting of C. F. Sietz, Catawba [County] and crates of raspberries ready for the market. Planting one year old and 1st year picking. Over 100 crates (24 1/2 pints) were picked from this 1/2 acre planting.

J. F. Pressley's latham red raspberry planting, July, 1935

Mr. and Mrs. Pressley and son being instructed in method of filling the half pint cup with raspberries for the market. Planting one year old and first picking

On acre red raspberry field, grown by D. R. Moore, 1934 

This field will represent a little better than the average growth and care given by the farmers who are cooperating in the 400 acre commercial raspberry project. Plants set in January 1934. Cultural practice consists of fert. with manure chicken droppings, nitrate of soda and clean cultivation

 One of the acre red raspberry fields in Burke County, 1934

Part of the 400 acre commercial project. Plant set in January 1934. This growth made by constant cultivation and fertilization with nitrate of soda and stable manure

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Want to learn more about blackberries and raspberries?

Attend the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association annual Meeting!  Tuesday, 2/24 through Friday, 2/27/15 2015 in Fayetteville Arkansas.

It’s a great opportunity to attend a meeting focused entirely on blackberries and raspberries, not all mixed up with other crops, meet growers from all over the country, and see Dr. Clark’s breeding research … touch the original Ouachita plants, see how extensive and involved the effort is, see what’s coming, etc…

Links to conference registration forms and online registration are at

Hotel reservations at the Chancellor Hotel,  by calling 479-442-5555 (mention NARBA). The rates are guaranteed only through Feb 1, so people should call right away. The “Blackberry & Raspberry Production 101” workshop is also filling up.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blackberry Chilling Update Jan 22 2014

Its 22 January and blackberry buds are tight.

According to the Blackberry chilling model CRONOS, at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury, we have accumulated 794 hours. Thornless blackberries need 700-1100 hours, and raspberries need 800-1700 hours. So for blackberries, we have experienced enough cold for some of them to break bud. BUT I don't think we are anywhere close to that based on field visits last week.

Pruning Navaho thornless blackberries at Mitchem Farm in Vale, NC. 

FYI I discussed chilling in a series of previous posts:

Here is an excerpt from one of those posts

High chilling/low chilling. Most of the blackberries and raspberries we grow in NC need to accumulate a high number of chilling hours in order to break bud and grow 'normally' next summer. Contrary to what you may initially think, we don't want low chilling plants. We want high chilling plants that can stay dormant when we get January thaws. 

If you live in the SEUS, you can find probably find out the chilling hours in your area.  The NC State Climate office has a great tool you can use if you want to calculate the chilling hours in your area. Here is a link.

Blackberry (Thorny)
Blackberry (Thornless)