Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blackberry and Raspberry Seasonal Checklist Winter 2015-16

This checklist was originally developed for blackberry growers in North Carolina. Many of the items apply to raspberry production as well. You may have to adjust your work activities either earlier or later depending on your location. For more detailed information, check the Southern Region Integrated Caneberry Management Guide and the Southeast Regional Caneberry Production Guide at:

Check the items off as they get done. This list is very general, but should help get you to think about what types of activities occur at various times of the year. If you would like other items to be added to this list, send them to me and I will add them next time.

Plant growth and development
Plant is not visibly growing during the winter months although many blackberries will retain their leaves through the winter
Some differentiation is occurring in the flower buds
Low chilling cultivars can break bud in January after adequate winter chilling. You can monitor chilling hours accumulated in eight states in the eastern US by accessing this site:
Developmental stages for IPM guide:
1. Dormant
2. Delayed dormant (swollen bud) to green tip

Pruning and trellising
Pruning should occur in late winter.  The unseasonably warm temperatures we are experiencing in mid December 2015, are not a good reason to get the pruning done early.  Pruning can stimulate growth. We have several more months to go before we want to see any type of growth!
Make trellis repairs after plants have defoliated but before pruning and training.
Erect types
Prune out the spent floricanes
Tie canes to wires in a fan shape
Cut lateral branches back to 8-12”
Thin canes to 6-8 canes/ hill (4 ft spacing)
Trailing types
Prune out spent floricanes
Tie or weave canes to wire so that they do not overlap
Prune side laterals to 12-18”
Thin canes to 6-8 hill (6-8ft spacing)
Primocane fruiting raspberries and blackberries
Prune (mow) primocane fruiting types to ground level

Weed control
Check the Southern Regional Bramble integrated Management Guide for recommendations.
Many summer weed problems can be best managed in the fall and winter using preemergent herbicides. Determine what weeds have been or could be a problem in your area. Check with local extension agent for cultural or chemical means to control these weeds.

Insect and disease scouting
Check the Southern Regional Bramble integrated Management Guide for recommendations.
Scout fields for insect and disease damage and remove those canes
Remove wild blackberries and raspberries by the roots if they are within 600 ft of your planting during the winter

Take soil tests to determine fertility needs for spring plantings.
There are some new raspberry and blackberry cultivars available each year. If you have not tried them or it is not know how they will do in your region, it is best to order a small quantity to see how well they will perform in your area
For larger growers, prepare list of cultivars for 2017 plantings and order now.
A commercial small fruit nursery list at

Water management
Make repairs to irrigation system (check pumps, lines, etc)
Plants generally do not need supplemental water in winter

Marketing and miscellaneous
Order containers for next season
Make contacts for selling fruit next season
Attend grower meetings:
o The 2016 North American Raspberry & Blackberry Conference will be held in Williamsburg, VA.
o Southeast Regional Conference and Tradeshow, with sessions on blackberry
o January 7-10, 2016, at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center
o The 2016 NCCBRGA meeting will be Friday February 19 in Shelby. For more information contact

For more information on growing caneberries see:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Deer or other varmint damage to canes

Growers should be monitoring fields at this time for damage to the canes from animals chewing on the bark. The pictures above are most likely from deer, the grower has also had damage and seen deer in a nearby strawberry field.  Damage to canes is usually concentrated at the base of plants. This damage this early in season is not a good sign, as winter has not arrived and there is still other food out there to eat. Damage may get worse as other plants become less appetizing.  Deer and other varmints need to be controlled.

UPDATE: Grower has seen rabbits in this field chewing on the canes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

SWD beware

So, in case you have not heard, our own Dr. Hannah Burrack is heading a large research project on SWD. Here's a link with details.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lots and lots of rain! Caneberries beware!

Todays, National Weather Service forecast for NC and adjacent states. 
The last 5 or so days have been very rainy in most of the state of NC.  The forecast for the upcoming days includes more rain. Although we need the rain, the prolonged wet periods can be problematic for caneberry (and lots of other) plants. Growers should be aware that wet soils and plant surfaces can be a problem, mostly diseases, for caneberries. Here is a repost from 2012 detailing some of the potential issues and what can be done.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rotating Cross Arm Trellis in the news

Apache flowering in vertical position on RCA trellis at the Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury, NC.

Blackberry plants on a RCA trellis is covered to protect canes from winter injury at the Peidmont Research Station in Salisbury, NC. 
In a recent article, the Agricultural Research Service horticulturist Fumiomi Takeda of the Appalachian Fruit Research Station shows how a rotating cross-arm (RCA) trellis and cane-training system to help growers overcome environmental challenges, produce more fruit, and reduce labor.

To read how the trellis can help growers in the midwest minimize cold damage and those in the south, decrease fruit discoloration, click on this link:

Monday, September 14, 2015

Caneberry Checklist Fall 2015

Plant growth and development
ü  Primocanes continue to grow but growth rate is slower
ü  Flower buds start to form in leaf axils on summer-fruiting types
ü  Carbohydrates and nutrients in canes begin to move into the roots
ü  Primocane fruiting types begin to flower in late summer/early fall and fruit matures until frost in fall
ü  Primocane leaves senesce late fall
ü  Primocane-fruiting raspberry harvest
ü  Primocane-fruiting blackberry harvest
Pruning, trellising and tunnels
ü  Spent floricanes should be removed as soon as possible
ü  Optimal time to prune is after the coldest part of the season is over. However pruning can start in late fall if plantings are large (late winter for smaller plantings).
ü  Start trellis repairs after plants have defoliated
ü  Remove covers on three-season tunnels
Weed management
ü  Many summer weed problems can be best managed in the fall and winter using preemergent herbicides. Determine what weeds have been or could be a problem in your area. Check with your states agricultural chemical manual and local extension agent for the best-labeled chemicals to control these weeds.
Insect and disease scouting
ü  Continue scouting for insects and diseases.
ü  Remove damaged canes as soon as possible to lessen the impact of the pest.
ü  Check the Southern Regional Bramble integrated Management Guide for recommendations.
ü  Growers in warmer areas (e.g. extreme southeastern NC) can plant into early December.  Preparations for winter planting should have already been made. If you have questions about winter planting please contact your local county extension agent
ü  In cooler areas, prepare list of ­cultivars for next spring’s new plantings. Find a commercial small fruit nursery list at
ü  Take soil tests to determine fertility needs for spring plantings.
ü  Non-nitrogenous fertilizers are best applied in the fall to established plantings.
ü  If soil is bare, plant an overwintering cover crop (e.g. rye) to build organic matter and slow soil erosion.
Marketing and miscellaneous
ü  Order containers for next season
ü  Make contacts for selling fruit next season

Make plans to attend Grower meetings! Blackberries and raspberries are part or all of these programs.
  • 2016 North American Raspberry & Blackberry Conference:  March 2-4, 2016 at Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Southeast Regional Conference and Tradeshow, with sessions on blackberry
JANUARY 7-10, 2016, at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center

Key Resources:
Southern Region Integrated Bramble Management Guide and the Southeast Regional Bramble Production Guide:

Blackberry and Raspberry Grower Information Portal:

Social Media links:
Twitter: @NCTeamRubus  
Facebook : Team Rubus   


Thursday, August 20, 2015

XIth International Rubus and RIbes Symposium puts the Carolinas on the map!

The XIth International Rubus and Ribes Symposium was held in Asheville, North Carolina, June 21-24, 2015. There was also a pre-sympsium tour of research sites and grower locations in NC and SC. We had 190 people registered by the end of the meeting and 80 people on the Pre-symposium tour, from 26 countries.

This meeting is held every 4 years in regions where these crops are grown. Since hand harvested blackberries are a newer crop, the Carolinas turned out to be a good location for the meeting. We were able to bring in researchers from the region that had not attended the meeting before, as well as veterans of Rubus Ribes. We had 50 oral presentation and 93 posters. NARBA sent Debby Wechsler and she will be writing up some articles about the meeting in future issues of the Bramble and other trade magazines. We are still preparing the official technical report (Acta Hort Proceedings), it will be published late in 2015. Some of the comments from the participants were:
"Best Rubus Ribes meeting ever"
"I learned something from every presentation" 
"This puts North Carolina on the Map"

If you want to learn more about the sites we visited and the talks presented, you can check our our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. They can be viewed at, and under  ‘RUBUSRIBES2015’ on Instagram.

Participants of the XI International Rubus and Ribes Symposium, June 21024, 2015, Asheville, NC.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Topics for NARBA Grower meetings in 2016

From the Executive Secretary of NARBA...Debby is looking for topics for the National and Regional meetings of NARBA to be held in Williamsburg in March 2016 and Savannah in January 2016.

This is a reminder that the planning committee for our March 2016 conference in Colonial Williamsburg, VA invites you to submit your suggestions for speakers and for topics for sessions and presentations at the conference.  Their first program-planning meeting is coming soon, on August 12, so I thought I'd re-send this and encourage you to respond.

What do YOU think the leading topics, important new research, and important concerns are in the caneberry industry? What's new, what would be useful?
What topic, presentation, or discussion  would bring YOU there?
You are also invited to put yourself forward as a potential speaker, panelist, or discussion leader -- whether you are in caneberry research/extension, a supplier or marketer, or a grower. 

Please email back your suggestions and proposals now, or if easier, give me a call at 919-542-4037.  If something occurs to you later, over the next few months, that is fine, too-- developing the program is a lengthy process.
We can't guarantee that anyone's ideas will be selected, and there will undoubtedly be budget considerations, but look forward to getting lots of new ideas and great presenters whose expertise we might not otherwise know or think about. 

Thank you!

Debby Wechsler
NARBA Exec Secretary

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More on the heat and fruit harvest

As the temperatures look to be staying quite warm this week and next just as harvest are some thoughts.
-keep the plants irrigated, they are transpiring a lot with the heat. all that water is pulled up through the plants, and berries. 
-berries are 90% water, so as they increase in size this week, a lot of that size is due to water uptake
-harvest as early in the day as possible, to minimize soft and hot fruit.
-consider going to a night harvest? Its been done in grapes and apples. 

Heres how they do it in apples an article from good fruit grower. It might not work for you now, but something to consider.

Harvesting apples at night

Monday, June 15, 2015

Worlds Blackberry, Raspberry, Currant and Goosberry Experts coming to North Carolina

From June 19-24, North and South Carolina will be the hosts to the XIth International Rubus and Ribes Symposium. This is a group of scientists and industry professionals that come together every 4 years to share research findings, develop new collaborations, renew old friendships and talk about blackberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries for almost a whole week non stop! To some of you this may sound boring, but to us, this is one of the highlights of our careers.

Why North Carolina? Well, the Rubus and Ribes group has not met in the US for over 30 years, and the last time was in the Pacific Northwest. Four years ago, when they were meeting in Serbia, the southern US was suggested because of the dynamic fresh market industry that had developed over the past few years.  The Rubus and Ribes Working Group asked and NC State University agreed to host the XI International Rubus and Ribes Symposium in 2015.

This meeting is being held in 2 parts. A smaller group (about 75 people) will take part in the Pre-Symposium Tour. Later this week, we will gather in Charlotte, NC and fan out for 3 days visiting growers and research facilities.  We will visit 5 farms, the NCDA&CS Research Station, and the Plants for Human Health Institute. Then we head up to Asheville for 3 days of scientific meetings with a half day break for local farm tours. We are expecting 170 people from 26 countries to attend the Symposium.

If you want to follow what is going on, the XIth International Rubus and Ribes Symposium is on Facebook (, Twitter (@rubusribes2015) (#rubusribes2015), Instagram (rubusribes2015), and Pintrest (rubusribes2015). Like, tweet, post and share with us.

This is an event held under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science.

White Drupelets in caneberries 2015

Conditions are favorable for white drupelet this week. I have already gotten calls this morning and expect more as the day goes on. Here is a great explanation of White  from UC Davis/Mark Bolda

White drupelet is a tan-to-white discoloration of one to many drupelets on the fruit. Most often, white drupelets will appear when there has been an abrupt increase in temperature accompanied by a drop in humidity; it is especially pronounced when there is wind. In the Monterey Bay area, white drupelet typically occurs when temperatures that are fairly steady around 70°F suddenly go above 90°F, and there is an absence of fog.

While white drupelets may seem to be directly caused by weather, they are actually caused by ultra-violet (UV) radiation. Weather conditions modulate this by the effect they have on penetration of UV radiation into the fruit. Cool, humid air scatters and absorbs UV radiation, while hot dry air has the opposite effect and allows more direct UV rays to reach the fruit. The movement of humidity away from the canopy by wind only heightens the effect of hot dry air. Additionally, as humidity is moved away from the plant canopy, more UV rays penetrate the canopy and damage fruit that may not even have been exposed to the sun. Fruit inside of the canopy is not acclimatized to UV radiation and is subsequently more susceptible when it reaches them.

Some growers of caneberries in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, where rapid changes from a normally mild climate to temperatures up to and above 100°F occur through the summer, use overhead irrigation to minimize fruit loss to white drupelet. This is not merely to mist the fruit; instead, large amounts of water are applied to thoroughly wet the canopy and maintain cool temperatures and high canopy humidity for as long as possible. Sprinkling is not done too late in the evening to allow fruit to dry before nightfall.

While some varieties, such as Apache blackberry, Kiowa blackberry, and Caroline red raspberry tend to get white drupelets more frequently than others, almost all caneberry varieties are susceptible to white drupelet to some degree.

My additions:
  • 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...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bud removal to mimic freeze damage in the spring

This spring we set up demonstration trials at 2 locations in the state to monitor what would happen if we mechanically removed buds at critical times during flowering. We wanted to mimic what may happen when we get bud kill to flowers in the spring due to freezing temperatures. One of the trials is at the Sandhills Research Station in Jackson Springs, Josh Mays is overseeing the trial on the cultivar Ouachita. He removed buds at four times in the spring, has taken lots of data and lots of pictures. Here is a short video of what we saw today. He will be sharing more at grower meetings this upcoming year.

The other trial is at the Mitchem Farm in Vale NC. I'll post about that one later...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Summer Caneberry Chores

Summer  2015
Caneberry Chores

This list was developed by Dr. Gina Fernandez, Small Fruit Specialist at NC State University.  Chores and timing may be somewhat different in your area or for your cropping system.

Plant growth and development
Fruit development for floricanes fruiting types
Rapid primocane growth
Flower bud development for primocane fruiting types later in summer
Floricanes senesce

Pruning and trellising

Floricane-fruiting raspberries:
May need to adjust primocane numbers if canes are too thick (i.e. remove less vigorous primocanes at their base)
Train primocanes to the trellis
Pinch black raspberry primocanes at 2 to 3 ft. to promote lateral growth

Primocane-fruiting raspberries:
Train primocanes within a trellis to hold canes erect

Erect floricane -fruiting blackberries
Tip the new primocanes when they are about 6” to 12” below the top wire of the trellis to encourage lateral branching
Continue tipping at monthly intervals to maintain desired branching and height of canopy (laterals should reach top wire)
Prune out spent floricanes after they have produced fruit, do not thin out primocanes until mid-to late winter
Train primocanes to trellis to minimize interference with harvest.  Shift trellises or V trellises make this relatively easy

Trailing floricane-fruiting blackberries
Train new primocanes to middle of trellis, on the ground in a weed-free area, or temporarily to trellis outside of fruiting area (depends on trellis type)
Cut back side shoots to 18” (after dormancy in cold climates)
Remove spent floricanes after harvest

Primocane-fruiting blackberries
Tip canes at 3-4 ft to increase branching and fruiting potential.

Weed management
Mow along side of row to maintain the width of the bed to 3 to 4 ft.
Weed growth can be very vigorous at the same time as the bramble crop peaks.
Weed control is best done earlier in the season before harvest commences.
Mow middles regularly to allow pickers to move through rows easily.

Insect and disease scouting
Scout and treat for these pests:
Spotted winged drosophila
Raspberry crown and cane borers (canes girdled and wilt)
Two-spotted spider mite
June beetle
Japanese beetles
Stink bugs
Fire ants
Scout for diseases
Orange felt (orange cane blotch) (blackberry)
Sooty blotch (blackberry)
Orange rust
Powdery mildew
Double blossom (blackberry)
Cane blight (blackberry)
Powdery mildew

Water management
Raspberry and blackberry plants need about 1-2 inches of water/week; this amount is especially critical during harvest.
Give plants a deep irrigation after harvest.
Nutrient management
Take leaf samples after harvest and send to a clinic for nutrient analysis
Blackberry growers should give plants additional nitrogen after harvest, check with your local recommendations.
Harvest and marketing
The busiest time of the year for a blackberry or raspberry grower is the harvest season. Each plant needs to be harvested every 2-3 days. For larger plantings, that means fruit is picked from some part of the field every day of the week.
Pick blackberries when shiny black for shipping. Those that are dull black are fully ripe and suitable for PYO only.
Pick directly into clamshells with absorbent pads, or for PYO use clean cardboard flats, take-home baskets, or sanitized re-usable containers.
Keep harvested fruit in shade and move into coolers as soon as possible to lengthen the shelf life of the fruit.
Use forced-air precoolers for best removal of field heat.
Store at 32 to 34°F and 95% relative humidity.
Freeze excess fruit for jam, juice, or wine.
Keep good records of what cultivars are picked, what fields are picked and when they are picked. Good record keeping will help you predict harvest  potential in the future.
Keep your customers informed with social media.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How can I tell the difference between a primocane and floricane leaf or cane?

So this time of year there is a lot of new growth in the blackberry field. Both floricanes and primocanes are present and providing the plant the food via photosynthesis that occurs in the leaves.  This food (carbohydrates) help to ripen the fruit.

Most of the floricanes are loaded with green fruit by late May, and look like this image below. shorter laterals, short internodes relatively small leaves with 3 leaflets. FYI, caneberries have compound leaves, meaning each leaf has more than one section or leaflet.
Picture 1. Floricane with fruit.

The primocanes usually have thicker stems, that gradually taper at the tips,  and long internodes (area on stem between each leaf). They look like this:
Picture 2. Primocane Note that each leaf has 5 leaflets.
Then there are these canes, at first they look like a primocane, but then with closer inspection, they have little flower buds and only 3 leaflets per leaf.
Picture 3. This is a floricane, note the leaf is comprised of 3 leaflets.
So, there are two types of floricanes, the ones that produce the majority of the fruit on the canes that developed last year. Then there are basal buds that are much more vigorous (and look like primocanes) and produce fruit later in the season (Navaho is probably the variety where we see if most often). Here is a picture of the basal floricane and the primocane. Note that not only does the floricane have fruit, it has 3 leaflets per leaf. Most blackberries and raspberry floricanes have 3 leaflets and primocanes with 5 leaflets.
Picture 4. Floricane with 3 leaflets/leaf  and small flower buds on left, primocane with 5 leaflets/leaf on right.

So, when you are wandering through your fields, take a look, can you tell the difference?

Friday, April 10, 2015

New blueberry genomics/breeder making his first cross

Jim Ballington showing Hamid Ashrafi how to make a blueberry cross.
I witnessed a bit of history today. Jim Ballington showing Hamid Asrafi, the new NCSU blueberry genomics professor how to make a blueberry cross.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Building a better black raspberry

Here is a link to an article that a few of us working on a nationwide black raspberry project wrote for Growing Produce, a grower magazine.

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