Blackberry (Rubus subgenus Rubus Watson) production has the potential to expand into the northern Great Plains with the development of the rotating cross-arm (RCA) trellis system that prevents winter injury by laying the plants horizontal to the ground so that they can be covered during cold periods. However, this will only occur with the evaluation of new cultivars and overwintering protection methods associated with the RCA trellis system. Ten cultivars under four rowcover treatments were evaluated for winter damage, vegetative growth, yield, and fruit quality. Thermo-couples monitored air temperature under each rowcover treatment. Results indicated that rowcovers differed in their ability to moderate winter air temperatures. However, temperature moderation differences from rowcovers did not correspond to plant growth differences. Instead, cultivar influenced plant growth differences. Plants under the thermal blanket with corn stover had greater yield and more berries, while fruit quality was unaffected by rowcover treatment. Differences were also found between cultivars for fruit quantity and quality. Although rowcovers enabled overwintering primocanes to produce fruit after winter temperatures reached −30 C, further research is recommended to improve winter protection techniques and the identification of higher-yielding floricane blackberry cultivars for production in the northern Great Plains.
We thank the graduate students and faculty at North Dakota States University who made this research possible and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture for Specialty Block funding.
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