Monday, February 25, 2013

Are you ready for spring?

Andy Rollins,  Clemson Extension Service sent me this image last week. In the circle are some basal buds breaking at the base of pruned cane as well as some buds further up the cane. Daylength, temperature (cumulative and current temperature) and plant hormones are key components that determine when buds on a plant will break.  The daylengths are getting longer, 12 hours and 7 minutes in Clemson SC last week when this was taken.  Chilling hours (cumulative temperatures between 34-45F) is at 325 units, according to one model, however, I think the real chilling is higher (the inception time depends on a temperature trigger of 28F and that first occurred this winter in January). The chilling unit accumulation at the Piedmont Research Station, in Salisbury NC, where some of our research plots are planted is over 1300 units. Daytime temperatures are getting warmer, although they are not staying warm, so continued growth will not occur for a while.

However, spring is not far away. Get pruning done, trellises repaired, irrigation system prepped, winter pesticide applications out (lime sulphur on blackberries has to go out at delayed dormant before buds are 3/4" long). See SRSFC IPM guide for the latest recommendations.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Managing (?) older plantings of raspberries and blackberries

In our raspberry trials in the NC mountains, where raspberries are adapted and are capable of producing good crops, we have seen productivity decline after the 5th year of fruit production. While in the peidmont areas, we see a dramatic decline in the 2nd year of fruit production of raspberries (they are not adapted to the region). Blackberries on the other hand, tend to be more adapted and will live longer in most regions of the state. However, how long they will last is not known. In North Carolina and other states in the Southern US a recent rise in acreage of blackberries occurred in the past few years and as these plantings age, we need to monitor them to determine how long they will be productive both in terms of fruit and profits.

In the southern US, heat, drought, insects, diseases, if not controlled can take their toll on the productivity of a blackberry and raspberry field. Likewise, plant and soil health needs to be monitored in order to provide a plant with optimal nutrition.  Because this is a fairly new industry, we don't have long term experiences with the crop, however, below are a list of things to think about and address as needed as your plantings age.

Observation of annual growth. Growers should keep good records of individual fields and compare productivity from year-to-year. In addition to yield records, the plants health can be monitored by looking number of canes/plant, cane diameter,  and number of fruiting laterals. You do not need to count each of these, but a picture taken at the same spot in the field each year could help you identify any issues.

Diseases and insects. There is a long list of diseases that can negatively impact  blackberry or raspberry plant health.  In fields that are lightly managed, I most often see cane blight and viruses, and borers negatively impact productivity. 
Weeds. Perennial weeds harder to control over time and annual weeds will compete with crop. Both will impact productivity if left unchecked.

Fertility. There is no known long term research for caneberry fertility in the southern US. However, routine soil and plant tissue samples will help you determine needs and adjustments. Tissue samples should be taken each year and sent for evaluation. In NC, samples should be taken after fruit harvested from the plants. Leaves from the 3-5th node of the primocane plant should be taken and sent to NCDA and they will make recommendations for the following season. Keep your records so you can see if there are trends in your fields. Below are the recommended levels of macro and micronutrients.

Yield and prifitabilty. Good yield records for each field should be taken every year. A simple comparison each year will be your most useful indicator of planting productivity over time. Based on a budget developed at NC State University, when a grower is getting $14/flat, a 10% reduction in yield, their returns fall from $6036 to $4359/acre (see blue font below). You can get a copy of this budget and play with the inputs (any boxes that are blue can be edited).

Estimated Returns per Acre for Commercial Blackberry Production
for Varying Yields and Wholesale Prices per Flat.  Total yield 19,000lbs/acre, 80% marketable, so net of 15,200 marketable lbs/acre. 
Wholesale Market ($/flat)                Marketable Flats per Acre
1,621 2,027 2,533 3,040 3,648
$8.96 ($8,173) ($7,533) ($6,732) ($5,932) ($4,971)
$11.20 ($4,542) ($2,993) ($1,058) $878 $3,200
$14.00 ($2) $2,682 $6,036 $9,390 $13,415
$16.80 $4,538 $8,356 $13,129 $17,902 $23,629
$20.16 $9,986 $15,166 $21,641 $28,116 $35,887

Estimated Returns per Acre for Commercial Blackberry Production
for Varying Yields and Wholesale Prices per Flat. Total yield is 17,100 lbs/acre, 80% marketable yield, so net of $13,600 lbs/acre. 
Wholesale Market ($/flat)  Marketable Flats per Acre¹
1,459 1,824 2,280 2,736 3,283
$8.96 ($8,429) ($7,853) ($7,133) ($6,412) ($5,548)
$11.20 ($5,161) ($3,767) ($2,025) ($283) $1,807
$14.00 ($1,075) $1,340 $4,359 $7,377 $11,000
$16.80 $3,011 $6,447 $10,743 $15,038 $20,193
$20.16 $7,914 $12,576 $18,403 $24,231 $31,224

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mark Bolda wins NARBA award

Mark Bolda, University of California, farm advisor was presented with a Distinguised Service Award at the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association Annual meeting in Portland. Although Mark works in CA, he has been an asset to the entire US caneberry industry. To see a story on his award go to:

Mark presented a great talk "Caneberry CSI: Figuring out your mysterious problems in the  field" at the meeting. To see the example of the field work that was a basis for his talk, check out his blog:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Taste test anyone?

In an earlier post, I shared some statistics on the caneberry industry in Oregon. As I mentioned, the majority of the fruit is used in the processing industry. The USDA-ARS Small Fruit breeding program has lots of samples to evaluate each year, some evaluations are done in the field, but since most of the fruit is used frozen, evaluations of frozen fruit is needed. So each year, Dr. Chad Finn and Brian Yorgey, his colleague from the OSU Department of Food Science, freeze lots of samples of fruit and bring it to events for public evaluation.  Above are plates of frozen red and black raspberry and blackberry fruit including named standard varieties and newer numbered selections. Attendees volunteer to evlauate (taste test) each one and fill out a form. Although it may seem daunting, Chad says that through these evaluations, some selections rise to the top each year. I am afraid to admit I only had time to taste a few before I had to give a talk and by the time I got back they were gone. Did anyone else get to taste them? Your impressions?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NARBA 2013 Pre-conference tour

In the picture above, taken at the NWREC, canes are trained in an "Arc-Cane" to the I trellis. This is the type of system that is used for their fields that are mechanically harvested. 
Last week the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association (NARBA) held it annual meeting in Portland, OR. Prior to the meeting, Drs. Chad Finn and Bernadine Strik took 3 busloads of berry enthusiasts to the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) and local farms.  We took a look at several research trials including an organic blackberry trial that is part of a large federally funded OREI grant, an organic blueberry trial, and Dr. Finns strawberry and caneberry breeding trials. More on the tours in a later post, for now, here are some amazing stats...

Collectively Oregon, Washington and British Columbia (Canada), produce most of the processed caneberries you eat in your jams, jellies, yougurts, ice cream and as those whole frozen berries.  Most of the raspberry production is in Washington and British Columbia, while Oregon has more blackberry production.

According to National Agricultural Statistics Service, in Oregon in 2011 there were:

1,200 acres of red raspberries, valued at $6,400,000. The majority of the production (5,000,000 lbs) was used for processing.

1,100 acres of black raspberries, valued at $5,510,000. The vast majority of this crop is also used in the processing industry.

There are 7,900 acres of blackberries, and about half (4,000 acres) are Marion(black)berries, the primary variety used for processing. The value of the blackberry crop in OR is $43,000,00.

Marionberry has been the primary blackberry used for the processing market for many years. However, the new cultivar, from Dr. Finns program, Black Diamond, is increasing in popularity.