Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Small Fruits Consortium receives NIFA award

The Southern Region Small Fruits Consortium – a six-member group of land-grant universities including N.C. State – has received the 2012 Partnership Award for Multi-State Efforts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture. The award recognizes exemplary work impacting agriculture, environment, communities or people from a team at a land-grant university, cooperating institution or organization supported by the NIFA.
The full article can be found at:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association RFP


The North American Bramble Growers Research Foundation (NABG RF) is once again soliciting proposals for caneberry research to be conducted in 2013. NARB-RF is the research arm of the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Growers  Association. NABG RF is interested many categories of caneberry research, however this year there are specific priorities. The system is an electronic submission and if you have registered previously on the site you should be in our system. There are instructions there to guide you through the process.

The main body of the RFP is below and here is a link for the entire RFP and access to the electronic submission system.

Request for Proposals

The North American Bramble Growers Research Foundation (NABGRF) Inc. seeks proposals for bramble research for the year 2012. All blackberry/raspberry proposals will be considered, however the following specific priorities have been established for this round of funding:

Pest Management Strategies

• Management and biology of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD)
• Management and biology of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)
• Management (?) of Agrobacterium tumefaciens (crown gall)
• Evaluate new insecticides (pesticides) for blackberry and raspberry production.
Production Efficiency and Profitability

• Management of blackberries and raspberries in tunnels (pruning, training and trellis systems)
• Post-harvest handling for small farmers
Cultivar Development and Testing

• Germplasm development
Special Needs

• Marketing.

Since 1999, NABGRF has funded a total of 59 proposals totaling $124,756. Funding for individual projects is expected to range from $2000-$5000. In order to expedite the process, we ask that your request stay within this range. For the past few years we have been able to awarda  higher level of total funding than in previous years due to contributions by nurseries to NABGRF's Nursery Contribution Program, initiated in 2007.

Proposals will be reviewed by the Research Committee of the NABGRF at the next North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association annual meeting, in Portland OR January 27, 2013. The Research Committee will forward their recommendations to the NABGRF Board of Trustees. Final funding decisions are made by the Board of Trustees. Awards will be sent out in February/March 2013. For more information, email either of the NABGRF Research Co-Coordinators, and Jeff Chandler<>

The deadline for proposals is December 17, 2012.

The North American Bramble Growers Research Foundation (NABG-RF) is a tax-exempt, charitable 501(c)(3) organization adjunct to the North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association (formerly North American Bramble Growers Association, or NABGA).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fall colors Part 2

Blackberries have beautiful fall colors! AgriBerry Farm in Virginia posted this picture to their Facebook site this past weekend and I asked Anne Geyer, an owner of the farm to send me a copy. According to Anne the 2 (3?) left rows are Triple Crown, then 4 rows of Kiowa and to the right of that is a row Chester. This is a great example of how blackberry plants add beauty to the fall landscape.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Emergence of Blackberry as a World Crop

Drs. Chad Finn and John Clark review the history, recent crop expansion and production innovations of the blackberry industry in this easy to read article recently published in Chronica Horticulturae. Go to pages 13-18 in the link below.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall colors

Fall colors (and flavors) in the raspberry fields.  Photo: Absalom Heatwole Shank
Here are a few berries from one of my research sites. Just like the trees, raspberries have great color in the fall. These are berries picked from the seedling field yesterday. Not all are commercial quality, but they are sure fun to have around. I love my job!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scientists find aphid resistance in black raspberry

Here is a link to an article about research from the USDA-ARS group in Corvallis. Scientists find aphid resistance in black raspberry

This is the work that inspired our current black raspberry project.

Why is this research important? As they mention at the end of the article, aphids transmit viruses and viruses can be deleterious to plants.

We will be looking at black raspberry populations related to those in the USDA study back here in NC. Part of our task will be to look for additional traits that will be of economic importance. What will those traits be? Well, we are not sure at this time, we have lots of ideas and we will keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Hurricane Sandy southeast of Cape Hatteras, NC, October, 27, 2012. Source:
As Hurricane Sandy starts to slip northward, there are some things that caneberry growers in NC and adjacent states should think about. First if you are in eastern NC, you may have wet soils. If your soils tend to stay wet, caneberry plants do not like wet feet. I asked Dr. Phil Brannen Plant Pathologist, from UGA, and here are his thoughts on diseases:

"Assuming that drainage is good, long-term saturated soils could still result in root rot from Phytophthora, but I have rarely seen this in well-drained soils.  Assuming that there is a risk, Ridomil Gold SL can be applied through drip tape; phosphonates could be applied foliarly, assuming that leaves are still active.  There would be no harm in either of these actions, and application of a fungicide could provide some breathing room till the soils dry out.  The plantings may be too wet for a tractor and sprayer to enter for some time, so all applications may be delayed (unless drip-tape Ridomil is the preferred route)."

He also mentioned pruning and leaf spots:  "Any open, fresh wounds would be susceptible to cane blight, but there is really limited value in spraying a fungicide days after pruning -- especially if it has been wet for days already (infections would likely have already occurred).  Not sure therefore of the value of spraying for cane blight at this point, but some systemic fungicides may provided limited kickback if applied within a couple of days.  

Relative leaf spots, I suspect we are far enough along towards leaf fall that we would not currently worry about these."

If you are in western NC, and you are growing fall fruiting red raspberries, your season like ours came to an end abruptly today with the snowfall in the mountains. (We pulled the plastic off late last week in anticipation of this storm). We had a nice crop of berries under high tunnels still producing fruit. Most of our early and mid season primocane fruiting cultivars were done, however, Nantahala had a week or so left and Nova had a couple of weeks left. Our harvest crew was not too upset.

The winds have been strong and may blow some of the leaves off your plants. This is a bit early, but in general the plants have finished the majority of their root building for the season and the lost leaves will not impact your plants too much. Winds can also do damage to your trellises and plants may be laying on the ground. Get the plants up and off the ground as soon as possible and as Phil mentioned, hold off on pruning, until you can get a fungicide on.

Those are my thoughts for now. Let me know if you have any particular questions or concerns:

Monday, October 22, 2012

NC Small Fruit & Specialty Crop IPM: Kudzu bugs on caneberries?

We saw some new bugs on our plots last week. Here is Dr. Hannahs Buracks, NCSU Entomologists response:

NC Small Fruit & Specialty Crop IPM: Kudzu bugs on caneberries?: Kudzu bugs ( Megacoptera criberia ) on raspberry plants at the Piedmont Research Station, Salisbury, NC. Photo: PRS. My Monday morning ...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Plant breeding at NCSU

The Center for Plant Breeding and Applied Genetics at NCSU recently put together a video highlighting the depth of the program and impact of plant breeding has in NC and beyond. Here is a link to the Center's website:

Here is a link to a video:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Fresh Market Caneberry Production Manual

The University of California Cooperative Extension has just published a new Caneberry production manual.  Authors Mark Bolda, Mark Gaskell, Michael Cahn and Elizabeth Mitcham have compiled a manual aimed at the California growing system, but many of the chapters have information that would be of use to southeast US growers (e.g. plant description, flowering and fruit production, harvest and handling etc). With over 90 color photos, it will give insight into how things are done in CA. The manual is $25. If you follow the link below, they are offering a 10% discount with a promotion code on this blog:

PS IF you have not checked out this blog before, do so soon, it is packed with great information.

Websites and Seasonal checklists

Every 4 months I post a list of chores for caneberry/bramble growers on the Blackberry and Raspberry Growers Portal, here is a link to that site, the link to the Seasonal Checklist is always on the opening page of this website:

The same list is also published in the Southern Region Small Fruits Newsletter. This is a quarterly publication that has articles written by members of the six Universities that are part of this consortium. Here is a link to that newsletter.

I suggest you clip the list and post it by your computer, then you will always have it readily available to look at as a reminder of things to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

'Osage' a new blackberry from the Univ. Arkansas

If you have not yet heard, John Clark has released a new blackberry named 'Osage'. Here is a link for more information. We planted a few in our research plots this year, so will have some fruit to try next summer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Berry demand increases, article in The Produce news

Although this is not news to most of us in the berry business... The author of this article has compiled some interesting statistics on all berries, including raspberry and blackberry domestic production and imports. Some examples from 2010:

- the US imported 13,927 metric tons of Mexican raspberries valued at $118,000,000.
- the US imported 442 metic tons of Canadian raspberries valued at $658,000.
- the US imported blackberries worth $147,300,000 vs 2006 value of $58,500,000.

Read more here:

Friday, September 14, 2012

National Weather Service has lots of data for your area

Earlier this week, I met with several folks from the National Weather Service at their offices in Raleigh. They wanted to know how growers across the state react to forecasts of frost and freeze, and how the NWS could improve its general services. In the process, we uncovered a useful tool that provides detailed weather information that could be very beneficial to area growers.

Using models and real time data, they are able to produce forecasts for areas in a 2.5 km area (that is about 1.5 mile). These forecasts include temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction, sky coverage (clouds), precipitation potential, relative humidity and more. You simply click on the location on a map for location and a page is generated with lots of information.

Today, after I went through the NWS Raleigh web page, I was interested in finding out what the wind speed, rain potential and low temperatures are expected this Saturday Sept 16 at 6 PM at the Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh (where NCSU is playing South Alabama).

First I went to and saw the page below: I clicked on central NC...

Then I clicked on the dot near Raleigh:

And this screen appeared :

Then in the above page, just off the screen above on the bottom right corner, there was a box titled "Hourly Weather Graph" I clicked on it and saw:

Viola! Looks like it will be 79 F at kick off, then cool off once the sun goes down (the image is fuzzy here, but is clear on the original site). The winds will be from the NE at 6 mph, very low chance of rain. So, it sounds like a very nice evening for a football game.

The folks at the NWS say that they are fairly confident with forecasts 6 hours from the current time. Also, in the western parts of the state of NC, there will be more variability in the accuracy of the forecasts for a particular site.

Now think how this may be of use in the spring when your buds are breaking and you need to know if there may be damage in the upcoming nights.  Will you have time to implement some type of protection for your crop? How much wind is expected, how fast will those temperature drop? Will there be cloud cover? They update this information every 3-4 hours, 24 hours a day.

We will be using this site to help us determine if we should lay down our trellises and put on row covers in our blackberry trials at the Piedmont Research Station. See earlier post on that trial:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pack 'N Cool mobile chilling unit

Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie and her team, at the NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute have developed a mobile chilling unit, called a Pack 'N Cool,  for farmers in need of a "smaller" trailer to haul produce to markets.

There is a full news release at the site below, with links to a step-by-step instruction on how to build the unit and a detailed budget. For more information click here:“pack-‘n-cool”-provides-farmers-with-mobile-refrigeration-solution/

This same unit was used as part of an Extension Agent Training earlier this year.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spotted wing drosophila caught dead in its tracks

Ripe red raspberry with dead SWD stuck in the fruit.

This time of year is usually my favorite time to go to our research plots in the mountains. The temperatures are cooler, the humidity is dropping, and the fall-fruiting raspberries and blackberries are ripe.  It is usually great fun to evaluate and taste our advanced material that is in replicated trials in and out of tunnels. Well, this year, it is not that way. We are getting a double whammy this week, it rained 1.6" in 4 days, was very foggy in between rains so fruit was very soggy, even under the tunnels. AND to add a bit more misery to the soggy berry harvest, our current nemesis the Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) was present in all plots with a vengeance. In the photo above, a dead adult was stuck in a ripe fruit. YUK!

We are hopeful that the weather improves so that the rains and fog will not hamper our fruit production next week. SWD on the other hand, is a longer term problem. Fortunately we have a very dynamic researcher working on this insect, Hannah Burrack. For more on Dr. Hannah Burrack's work on SWD, check out her blog.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An update on what's happening in the Mexican berry industry

I was just forwarded this interesting article on the Mexican berry industry. In this article,  industry leaders give some perspective to the massive (95%) increase in production during the past decade and some insight into future growth.’s-berry-boom-gathers-steam/

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rotating Cross Arm Trellis August update

Figure 1. Rotating cross arm trellis in August.

Earlier this spring, I posted a picture of a new trellis we are trialing at one of our research stations ( Above is a picture taken on August 22, 2012.  We have 3 cultivars on each section of this trellis, Apache, Ouachita and Von (aka NC430).

Figure 2. Training of primocanes on wire. 
The second and third images show how we trained the primocanes to the bottom wire as they emerged from the crown. The canes were tied to the low horizontal wire. This encouraged buds that were on the horizontal wire to start growing. These secondary buds will produce canes that are very productive and are easier to train to the trellis because they are narrower. Fumi Takeda has done some very nice work describing the productivity of the buds in this paper. Here is a link to a summary of this work.

Image 3. Close-up of training of primocanes on the horizontal wire. Photo: Fumi Takeda. 
To get the entire article, you will need to become a member of NARBA. (

Friday, August 17, 2012

Black Raspberry Project!

So, are you looking for a new and improved black raspberry? Here is a bit of background information on a project we are working on with several other researchers and extension specialists in the US. In NC we have a student that will be evaluating a mapping population in the field that may have heat and aphid resistance. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meet 'Von', a new thornless blackberry

'Von' thornless erect blackberry.
‘Von’ is the first erect thornless floricane-fruiting blackberry to be released from the NC State University caneberry breeding program.  ‘Von’ is named after Harvey Von Underwood, who was a Researcher at NC State University. Mr. Underwood worked at NC State University muscadine and bramble breeding program in the 1950’s-70’s and was responsible for saving valuable germplasm from those programs.

'Von' was selected by Jim Ballington in 1998 as tested as NC 430. We have been evaluating 'Von'   at the Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs, the Moutain Hort Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River and at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury, NC. Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie conducted extensive post harvest evaluation of 'Von' since her arrival at NCSU in 2009.
Here are some key attributes of 'Von':
  • In a replicated trial at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury NC, total yield of ‘Von’ was 12,017 g/plant (24063 lbs/acre).
  • In that same trial, marketable yield of ‘Von’ was 10,704 g/plant (21,434 lbs/acre). 
  • Fruit of ‘Von’ is medium size  (6.6 g) has smaller drupelet and seed size compared to other cultivars.
  • ‘Von’ produces fruit in the late season, with average date of harvest commencing in the third week of June, peaking in the second week of July and ending the first week of August. 
  • ‘Von’ has a marketable post harvest score of 90.6, which is as good or better than the leading commercial cultivars.
  • Soluble sugars content of ‘Von’ was 9.4% and pH was 3.57, traits that characterize ‘Von’ as sweet with low acid. 
I will be posting a list of nurseries that will be propagating 'Von' later this year. 

For list of nurseries propagating Von go to

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blackberry Virus Project part 2

Last year I mentioned that NC State University was part of a USDA-SCRI grant "Mangement of Virus Complexes in Rubus". This is a multidiciplinary project that involves breeders, virologists and entomologists. The project aims are to: 1. Develop and validate diagnostic tests for the viruses involved in these complexes and transfer these validated tests to interested parties; 2. Identify candidate virus vectors based on virus genomics with greenhouse transmission testing; 3. Identify virus combinations capable of causing severe disease outbreaks, and; 4. Evaluate virus and vector resistance in Rubus germplasm; conduct field transmission tests to determine when viruses are being spread in the field and implement targeted control based on vector biology for management of the diseases and; 5. Communicate the results: Outreach, Education and Implementation for growers, extension agents, and agricultural consultants.

This is a collaborative project with the University of Arkansas, USDA-ARS in Corvallis, Mississippi State University and NC State University. For my part of this project, we are evaluating elite germplasm from 3 breeding programs at the institutions listed above. We sent plants to each other that we considered candidates for release as cultivars and planted them in spring of 2011. These selections were tested for viruses prior to being sent out and were considered to be free of known viruses. Within a year of planting, most of the selections that we have in NC were showing symptoms as is illustrated in the photos. This are a couple of examples of what we saw in our field at the Sandhills Research Station in Jackson Springs NC in May. The upper photo has small crinkled leaves and the lower plant (a different selection) has yellowing of the leaves. This just shows how varied virus symptoms can be in the same location.

For more hot off the press information on the virus identification part of this project, here is a link to a poster that will be presented next week at the ASHS meeting

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Post Harvest Agent Training

Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie showing the portable cooler.
In late June 2012, Cooperative Extension Agents from NC, SC, VA, GA, TN and AR participated in a Small Fruit Post Harvest Training, sponsored by the Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium (SRSFC). The two day training consisted of classroom lectures, a demonstration of a cool bot cooling system and low cost hand washing station, a post harvest fruit evaluation, monitoring SWD lesson, a tour of research plots and a tour to a local farm. For more information on the training, see an article in the SRSFC newsletter at:

This training and others like it, provide agents with tools to help growers improve their berry production practices.

Ramon Returns!

Seminar Wed July 11, 2:00, 121 Kilgore Hall, NCSU campus

Ramón Molina-Bravo got his PhD from North Carolina State in the Department of Horticultural Science in 2009 under the advisory of Gina Fernandez and Bryon Sosinski. Currently, Ramón is working at the National University of Costa Rica as a visiting professor teaching courses in genetics and biotechnology and is in charge of coordinating research projects at the Molecular Biology Unit in the School of Agrarian Sciences. He is involved in several research projects in genetics, two of which have been setting the foundations for establishing a blackberry breeding program in Costa Rica.

Ramon was my PhD student and while he was working here in NCSU,  he coined the term "Team Rubus"  for our research group. Rubus is the genus name for blackberries, raspberries and related species. We are forever indebted to him for coming up with this clever name. We are proud that he has remained a part of Team Rubus.

Floricane fasciation summer update

Earlier this spring, we had a pruning demonstration in Rockingham Co. I took a picture of a floricane that had an unusual shaped cane, due to a condition called fasciation. Above is the same plant with fruit a couple weeks ago. The fruit although small in this, will have a normal shape when ripe.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Navaho and it's amazing basal buds produce a crop after a freeze

Navaho blackberry plant. Upper oval shows fruit on a primary bud from a floricane, flowers were damaged by the April freeze and few fruit developed. Lower oval shows fruit from a basal bud, where abundant fruit is ripening. 
Each year I continue to learn more about the amazing blackberry plant. Last week I visited a farm in western NC. The farm had experienced the same cold spell that many of the growers had during the April 10-12 night freezes. Nearly all of the flowers from the primary buds that were present sustained damage. In the photo above, the smaller oval at the top of the picture shows what remains of the crop from those primary buds. The lower oval shows fruit that has come from basal buds. Each year Navaho sends out some basal buds, but this year, there were many more basal buds and the grower will be able to realize a much better crop than had been expected from just the primary buds.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hot days ahead

Temperatures are predicted to soar into the 100's in NC in the next few days. Raspberries and even their more heat tolerant cousins blackberries will be stressed.  The most important thing you can do at this time is to make sure your plants are well watered. This will help reduce the stress to the plant and enable your berries to continue to ripen and get plump.

Raspberry roots are usually in the top 10" of soil, while blackberries roots can be much deeper. However, the majority of the water is taken up by the roots in the top 6" of soil. Water stress before or during harvest can seriously reduce productivity. Water is the most critical factor for optimal fruit growth and primocane development, a berry is afterall more than 90% water! A shortage of water will limit fruit size and also the number and diameter of primocanes for next years crop.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Checklist is online

Here is a link to the summer checklist for caneberry growers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Natchez overcropping?

Rows of Natchez (left) and Ouachita (right) blackberries, June 2012.
    As blackberries are ripening across the SEUS, some questions about  Natchez are 'cropping' up. In the picture above, the two rows look dramatically different, in particular, here are a few things to note:
    - Has lots of red fruit, very few leaves on the floricanes and essentially no primocanes. 
    - Abundant fruit (harder to see),  abundant leaves on floricanes and primocanes are emerging above the canopy. 

    Here are some of my thoughts and things you need to think about.
    - Leaves are the primary source of food (sugars/carbohydrates) for plants   
    - If there are not enough leaves, the fruit will not have the sugars/carbs it needs to fully ripen. (Viticulturalists long ago determined a certain number of leaves are needed to ripen a cluster of grapes)
    - Natchez produces very large fruit and plants can produce large yields.
    - However, sometimes it makes TOO much fruit. 
    - This could be alleviated with special pruning in the dormant season? 
    - Although no one has done any studies that I know of, one suggestion for next year is to make sure that when you prune laterals in the winter, you do not leave them too long. We recommend 12-18, so for Natchez, so, I would suggest you try to prune to the shorter part of that recommendation. That will reduce your crop load.
    What will happen to the fruit in the picture above? Only time will tell, but likely the fruit will not be able to ripen fully, what does get ripe will be not very sweet (tart?). AND the crop next year may be reduced because there are no primocanes emerging.
    Ouachita looks great and should produce a nice crop. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Got to be NC Dairy Products and Team Rubus?

Have you seen this truck on the roads of NC this summer? This is a tasty combination of NC farm products!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blackberry anthracnose – What's happening in the field? - Missouri State University

Blackberry anthracnose – What's happening in the field? - Missouri State University

We have seen similar symptoms in NC.

Blackberry or black raspberry

This link found its way to me yesterday. People are often mistaking black raspberry and blackberry in the wild, gardens and local markets. Although there are many traits that help a Rubus expert distinguish the two apart, follow the pictures to the end of the link for an easy way to tell them apart. The fruit are very different. One is hollow (black raspberry) and the other is not (blackberry).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blackberry tipping

Now is the time to tip your primocanes. The arrow shows the point were the cane was tipped. Tipping means that you only need to use your fingers to remove the top of the cane. This results in a smaller wound and will be less likely result in diseases entering this area (see earlier posts on Cane Blight). If you need to use pruners, you will need to apply a fungicide afterwards.

Two ovals show where the axillary buds below the tip are starting to elongate. Instead of having just one cane to produce fruit, you now will have 2 branches.

For floricane-fruiting blackberries, you should be tipping them about 6" below the top wire. This will enable you to redirect the growth in a "horizontal direction" and increase your fruiting area for next year. I use "" around horizontal because the canes are growing vertically in this picture and will do so in your field. Later in the year, they will start to bend over and will form the framework for next years fruiting laterals, and be more or less horizontal with some strategic training.

For primocane-fruiting types, we have found that tipping them at about 3-4 ft., will result in higher yields. We have yield data and a published paper that shows all this data, however, validation in the field is always great. Last week I was visiting a grower that had some Prime-Ark 45. He tipped some plants (on my recommendation) and did not tip some, just to see what happened. He told me last week, yields were much better when the plants were tipped. The picture above is from his field, where all plants were recently tipped.

Also see last years post on this subject:

Spotted Wing Drosophila

As was the case last year, Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is present throughout NC this year. We have been finding them in our research plots in blackberry and raspberry plantings. This year we also see them in black raspberry trials. This pest is a big deal, I urge you to check out Dr. Hannah Burracks blog to find out the latest information, including factsheets and spray schedules.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Twilight Tour Henderson Co.

There will be a Twilight Tour TOMORROW evening in Henderson County.

Location: 284 Jacobs Apple Lane Hvl. Take Ext 49A, Hwy 64E off I-26 toward Edneyville, Right on Pace Rd (stop light at intersection), go -1/4 mil. take left on Lark Rd. (church on left) go 200 yds., take right on Jacobs Apple Lane. This is the new Reiter Farm. They are affiliated with the Driscoll Company.
We will start at 6:00PM. 

Hannah Burrack will be discussing insects pests including spotted wing drosophila
Gina Fernandez will be discussing managing plantings in a reduced crop year, diseases that have been diagnosed this spring, white drupelets, and ?

Sorry for the late notice, I just got the directions late yesterday. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

White (grey or tan) drupelets

In the last few days I have had several calls and emails from growers concerned about white drupelets. Here are a few points that I have gleaned from experience and other articles (see links at the end of the post).
  • It is thought that this condition is caused by UV radiation and appears when there has been an sudden increase in temperatures.
  • Rainfall appears to make the problem worse, with sunlight on wet berries plus high temperatures. (We have had quite a bit rain in parts of NC lately).
  • This was thought to be a result of stinkbug damage many years ago. BUT not now.
  • Apache shows more of this problem than any other variety, but white drupelets have been seen on most of the Arkansas varieties. 
  • Tolerance for white drupelet varies to some extent by grower. Growers that ship berries have no tolerance, while pick-your-own growers can tolerate a few white drupelets (see last point, educate your clientele).
  • White drupelet disorder is usually a problem early in the season and then disappears.
  • The berries are still edible, they make delicious pies, juice, ice cream...

For more information see


Friday, May 18, 2012

Blackberry Crop after 2012 Freeze

Image 1. All flowers killed by 27F, no fruit developing, crop loss was significant with this variety.

Image 2. Only the early flowers were killed,  this variety will produce nearly a full crop. 
Yesterday I was in a farmers field in the Piedmont region of NC and took several pictures. As with many farms in NC, on the night of April 10, temperatures at this farm got down to 27F. This farmer grew several different varieties of blackberry. Some were in full bloom, while others did not have any open flowers. The early varieties that were in full bloom now look like the top photo, while later varieties only lost their king flowers/fruit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rotating Cross Arm Trellis

RCA trellis with young untrained canes at Piedmont Research Station, 2011.
At our Piedmont Research Station, in Salisbury NC, we (Gina Fernandez and Penny Perkins-Veazie) have started evaluating the Rotating Cross Arm Trellis system. This project is in cooperation with Dr. Fumi Takeda, USDA-ARS. Dr. Takeda has been working on this system for many years and is helping us train and manage the canes on this trellis.

This year we are determining if row orientation will impact blackberry fruit quality. Row are orientated N-S and E-W. The set in the foreground is running  E-W while the second set of trellises in the background of this image runs N-S. We will be collecting yield data and post harvest attributes. We think that this type of trellis may improve fruit quality and yield.

This trellis system also has potential to enable growers to cover the plants in the winter or during spring frosts like the one we had this year. The trellis arms rotate, so the canes can be layed down and row covers could be placed over the trellis to protect the plants, similar to what is done in strawberries. Here is a picture of a field with the RCA in Ohio in the summer and winter.

The trellis was donated by Trellis Growing Systems (

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Michigan and New York Growers loose crops to cold temperatures

It looks like we are not the only ones hurt by the  cold snaps this spring. See this article from the American Fruit Grower for the story in Michigan and New York:

Last week I was talking to Courtney Weber, the berry breeder at Cornell. He was planting strawberries in the snow.

Fascinating Floricane Fasciation

During one of the pruning demonstration in March, we saw a plant with a very strange shaped cane. The cane was flattened from the ground up. This is called fasciation. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, fasciated stems are "produced due to abnormal activity in the growing tip of the plant."  The cause of most fasciations is not really understood.  It can be a result of injury,  physiological or genetic changes.

A very technical description can be found at: Some very interesting pictures of other plants can be found at:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Small Fruit Class

Yesterday I finished teaching HS 422, Small Fruit Production. Throughout the semester I presented lectures on biology, production, pests and more of strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and other small fruits. For the 'lab' portion of the class, we took trips  to strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and muscadine farms. Some were small PYO and some were larger commercial operations. Growers in NC are great, they open thier farms, share their knowledge and welcome the next generation onto their farms. Thank-you students and Thank-you NC growers!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Estimation of damage from a grower and his daughter

Blackberry shoot about to be dissected

A grower in western NC sent me this information that he and his daughter gathered as part of a math lesson. They used real data from the plants that had been damaged from the cold temperatures in April. I have asked them to follow up with pictures and yield data. I will keep you all updated. I have also instructed some of you to do the same in your fields.

Blackberry Freeze Damage/Production Estimate
Conducted 4/24/12
Frost and Freeze occurred 4/12/12 27 degrees on top of field and 25 at bottom
Randomly selected one Navaho plant and removed every fruit shoot and sliced each fruit bud to determine percentage of live buds at this development stage of Navaho.
Marked the plant to later determine new shoot generation.
Plant utilized was a 3rd season plant ¾ up the knoll and mid field.
Data collected:
107 fruiting shoots on the plant.
10 minutes to remove all shoots – (approximately $3334 of labor to remove shoots per acre)
Average of 6 fruit buds per shoot at this development and time of season (there were 5 open blooms on the entire plant)
340 buds were determined “alive” out of 642 buds examined – 53%
These plants have been under a vigorous fertilization/irrigation regiment following the freeze – to hopefully stimulate new growth.
Observations made:
0 buds were found alive the day after the freeze.
The live buds appear to be the ones that have developed after the freeze. The live buds are small ones surrounding the top dead buds or developed at a lower lateral of the fruit shoot.
It appears that there is a possibility of further new buds to develop at lower tiers of the fruit shoot.
There is concern of deformed fruit on some buds that appear to be “alive.”
Natchez were much further developed and 0 to very very few new buds are being found.
The 1st year harvest Navaho appear to have a more significant new bud development – no data at this time.

If you would like some help estimating your damage give me a call or send me an email. This is not like the 2007 freeze, so any information you can share will help us all learn from this experience.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Another cold night in store for NC

Here is the latest from the National Weather Service, freezing temperatures and high winds are forecasted for the mountains of NC.



***From our experience last week, these predicted temperatures (high 20's) will only kill the flowers and flower buds, it takes colder temperatures to kill the shoots (low 20's).  High winds could also damage the plants, causing cane and shoot breakage and potential damage to the trellises. ***

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Frost 2012 damage to blackberry crop

I was able to visit blackberry growers earlier this week in Western NC.  The current situation is very complicated. I saw a lot of flowers and buds with blackened centers (Figure 1). The center part of the female part of the flower, (technically the pistal), it is attached to the receptacle. Both of these flower parts form the blackberry fruit that we eat, and....both were damaged.

Temperatures. Temperatures dipped to 25-27 F degrees and stayed there for 4-6 hours depending on location the first night, but temperatures likely varied due to location as was evidenced in variation in the amount of damage we saw. (In 2007, it got to 20 F and was widespread across the entire state, damage was severe and killed the entire fruiting shoot).

Crop stage and location. According to most growers, the crop was about 2 weeks early, so all cultivars were well ahead of their normal schedule and many were flowering.   Natchez was at or near full bloom and Ouachita had some open flowers and many flowers that were at popcorn stage. Navaho was behind with just a few open flowers. However, these stages varied depending on the location of the field, location within the field (higher spots had less damage), and location within the canopy (upper wire had more damage than lower wire). 

Crop damage. Damage ranged from very little to severe depending on the location  and cultivar.  In some cases, just the king flower was dead (Figure 2). In other cases, flowers only in the upper portion of the canopy were damaged. I estimate that in some severe situations, there was 80-90% damage and in others only 30-40% damage. 

As I mentioned above and in earlier posts, the 2007 freeze killed the entire primary shoot and the secondary buds emerged and were able produce a crop. However, this year only flowers were damaged, the primary shoots are still viable and they will likely remain attached to the canes. This will likely inhibit the growth of the secondary buds and the crop that they would produce. 

Figure 1. Blackberry flower after 2012 frost. Photo courtesy of Amy Lynn Albertson.

Figure 2. Navaho fruiting shoot. Area circled shows king fruit dead, but subbordinate flowers are viable. 
What to do this year? There are a couple of options, these are some that come to mind at this time.
  • You could just wait and see what happens, some buds lower on the primary shoot may not have sustained damage as is seen in figure 2. They will produce fruit, in general the tips of the shoots have the most fruit, often 3-5, while lower down the shoots, only one fruit per node is produced. 
  • Prune off primary shoots. You would have to do this close to the cane, but be careful not to prune or damage the 2nd bud (leave approx 1/4 inch). This MAY allow the secondary buds to develop.
  • Prune out the entire canes, removing all the dead flowers and the canes that they are attached to. 
  • In all cases, maintain a fungicide program, in the first two scenarios, you will have more dead tissue out there that will be susceptible to disease infection.  
Future? Wind machines or helicopters may help if inversions are present. Helicopters or wind machines are often used in peach orchards and grape vineyards. When inversions are present these machines are able to mix the air,  bringing the warmer air down and mixing it with the cooler air, and keeping the temperatures above lethal stages. 
We are also evaluating a movable trellis. This trellis can shift positions. So when it gets cold, the trellis can be laid down and row covers can be placed over the entire row. Finally, we can hope that we are not 2 weeks early in the upcoming years. The earliness of this years crop really elevated the amount damage we saw.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blackberry plants recovering after the freeze 2007

Image 1. This is a secondary bud that has emerged (semi vertical green stem). There is a remnant of primary stem, it is the brown nub on the right. 

Image 2. Regrowth of laterals after complete loss of primary buds in 2007. 
Reports are in, there was damage, laterals were wilting in the afternoon at some locations after the  freeze this morning and at other farms there was just bud damage (4/12/12).

Above are some images of the plants a couple weeks after the freeze in 2007. These were in a field  of Arapaho. The remnants of the primocane leaves are on most nodes, it is the brown nub on the right side of the node (Image 1).  A few days after the freeze I was in this field and noted 99% blossom kill and most of the fruiting laterals tissue appeared dead (wilted). I did not look for secondary buds at that time. However, about 2 weeks later, secondary buds were emerging, and I could not find the dead primaries (Image 1).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What to look for in terms of cold damage in blackberry and raspberry plants ALSO SEE POST 4/19/12

Image 1. Bronzed flower buds
Preliminary reports from across the state indicate that temperatures did go below freezing. It was 27 F in Davidson County,  and 29 F near Danville, VA.  To determine if your caneberry plants were damaged, you will need to wait a few hours. Around noon, go out to your field and start looking at your buds. Closed flower buds will show a bronzing on the sepals (green outer layer of flower buds) see an example in Image 1. However, there does not to be any visible damage, you need to look inside the buds.

Image 2. Blackberry flower bud after freeze injury. Note that only the ovaries and the receptacle are blackened. 
Slice the buds longitudinally and take a close look. In 2007 we saw that the male plant parts (anthers) were fine in some cultivars, but the female parts were damaged (ovaries) and the receptacle were damaged. See Image 2.

Image 3. Damage to blackberry buds in 2007, the entire flower, anthers, ovaries and receptacle are blackened, in most of these buds. 
However in some cases the entire bud was damaged as is shown in Image 3. In either case, no fruit will be formed.

In a few days you may see entire laterals wilting as was seen in the previous post. If you see this type of damage, you will loose the fruit from those buds. BUT you should see secondary flush of growth and based on what happened in 2007 you will get up to 70% of a full crop, later. Later in this year, means a normal fruiting season, I hope.

If you have damage, what should you do? With all the dead tissue, there is an increased risk of botrytis.  You should apply a fungicide to help keep the infection level down. Maintain your spring fertilizer regime and keep weeds under control to reduce competition for nutrients.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cold weather and blackberry and raspberry bud damage 2007

Blackberry bud damage in April 2007. Note that the primary buds were killed (browned leaves) and secondary buds growing (green leaves).
After an abnormally warm March, April is decidedly cooler in NC. Blackberry and raspberry plants have broken bud and many are beginning to flower. Temperatures are expected to be quite cool these next few days, with temperatures predicted to be 38F in Raleigh and 33F in the Asheville area according to Accuweather. So growers in western NC should be paying close attention to their weather this week.

Although we don't have data on critical temperatures for blackberry, we expect that damage due to cold would be very similar to strawberry. Tighter buds are less vulnerable, and open blossoms are the most vulnerable. These temperatures are:

Tight Bud: 22F
Popcorn stage: 26F
Open Blossom: 30F

Strawberry growers can use rowcovers or irrigation to protect open blooms. Blackberry growers do not really have these options. Rowcovers would be very difficult to spread over the rows. Overhead irrigation adds ice and therefore weight to the canes and will cause them to break.

We experienced a similar situation in 2007. There was lethal damage to primary buds. Fortunately, secondary buds broke soon after the primary buds were killed and the secondary buds produced approximately 70% of a full crop. Five to six weeks after the freeze, the secondary buds were open and you could hardly tell there was any damage earlier that year. Laterals were longer and harvest was later, I think it was at least 2 weeks. Given that we were early, this delay if it happens may not be a bad thing, we may  be able to reset our harvest to the normal dates.

For some insight into what happened in 2007, here is a link and some pictures.

There is also more information on strawberry protection and critical temperatures on the strawberry portal.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Crop phenology, when things happen...

The southeastern US, like other parts of the country had a very mild winter. Many people are wondering if crops will be earlier than usual.  At this point blackberries and raspberries are a bit ahead of schedule, but we will not know until later this season, how far ahead of normal harvest will actually be, if at all. If you are a grower, you should have a notebook where you record dates of key phenological events. Some of these events are bud break,  bloom, primocane emergence, and harvest. Although at times it is hard to remember, this will help you determine when things happened in the past and will help you compare seasons and determine when fruit may ripen. I have included an example of 50% bloom and harvest dates for a number of cultivars. Although this technique is not foolproof it is a start and we hope to have more tools for you in the future to help you forecast harvest times for you. However, you will need the basic information that I listed above.

Flower buds on raspberry plant late March 2012

Here is some data from the University of Arkansas, showing bloom and harvest dates for a number of blackberry cultivars. The number of days from 50% bloom to peak harvest for Ouachita ranged from 43-61 days (yellow columns). This is quite a spread. While the number of days from first harvest to last harvest ranged from 34-41 days (blue columns). You can easily do the same.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Rust disease?

Spring is the time of year when we usually see the first signs of a disease known as Orange Rust. Orange Rust is a systemic disease that is very hard to control, once a plant is infected.  One of the tell tale symptoms are bright orange spots on the undersides and margins of leaves and a spindly overall appearance of the plant. This spring some growers are seeing orange spots on blackberry leaves, but the symptoms are not what we expect...

Below is an email that was just sent out from Dr. Phil Brannen. Growers in the SEUS should be  on the lookout for plants with these symptoms and use your state disease clinic or specialists to help you identify the potential causal organism....

"Commercial blackberry producers should be on the lookout for blackberry rusts (there are several), and they should likewise be maintaining a good rust control program through use of cultural practices and fungicide applications.  Conditions may be particularly conducive for rust development this year due to a warm fall and winter.  There is also the possibility that we are observing a new rust on blackberries in the Southeast.  

Last week, a Natchez thornless blackberry specimen was submitted to the UGA diagnostic clinic in Athens.  Though we sometimes observe orange rust as the leaves emerge in the spring, we did not observe typical symptoms of orange rust, and the spores did not match those of other common blackberry rust diseases.  Also, the producer indicated that all of his Natchez plants were showing this rust symptom, and that would be very unusual for orange rust, as it is usually limited to only a few plants.  Today, I received questions from North Carolina as to rust issues there. 

Charles Hodges (North Carolina State University) writes of a rust on a Navaho thornless blackberry sample:

“I have had a lot of trouble trying to identify the rust species on the specimen of blackberry submitted and am still not sure of just what it is. The symptoms are not consistent with those of orange rust which is characterized by stunted and misshapened leaves, nor are the fruiting bodies and spores similar to orange rust. The rust fruiting bodies and spores on the underside of the leaves more nearly fit the uredinial stage of cane and leaf rust (Kuehneola uredinis). However, there is no evidence of the spermagonial, aecial, and telial stages that should be on the same infected leaf at this time of year. Furthermore, I could not find any fruiting bodies of the rust on the canes, which is common with the cane and leaf rust.”

This description from North Carolina, though highly technical, perfectly matches our Georgia observations as well. It makes me think that we are dealing with a new rust or one that is problematic as a result of the warmer weather we have experienced this year. 

Producers are automatically assuming that this is orange rust due to the timing, and our general recommendation for orange rust infected plants would be complete plant destruction, since it is a systemic rust disease.  However, we have never seen orange rust take over large acreages to date -- always isolated plants in well managed commercial blackberry plantings.  DO NOT assume orange rust and DO NOT automatically dig up symptomatic plants till you truly confirm orange rust is the culprit.  If a specimen is identified as orange rust (county agent can often just send a photo of the symptoms or a hard sample can be sent to the diagnostic clinic in Athens), then we would recommend complete destruction of infected plants.  There may in fact also be more orange rust this year as well, since a warmer fall/winter has possibly allowed a second round of infections -- likely in the fall of last year.  Orange rust management requires fungicide application from early bud break through early to mid-summer, and this normally addresses other blackberry rusts as well.   Follow rust disease management guidelines found in the Blackberry IPM Guide at

Again, don't dig up anything till you truly confirm orange rust.  Based on these initial reports, our current blackberry rust is either a new rusts or one that is generally present but not normally problematic.  Please share this information with your commercial blackberry producers, as they need this information to help them in their management decisions. "