Research on blackberry production systems and cultivar selection is needed to expand the industry into colder hardiness zones in the United States (Takeda et al., 2013). This would provide growers with the necessary techniques to provide high-quality fruit to consumers at a price that would be competitive with other production areas in the United States and abroad. Blackberry production and sales have more than tripled in the past 10 years (NARBA, 2018). Worldwide, it has been estimated that blackberries are grown in excess of 25,000 ha with most industry expansion in North America (Clark and Finn, 2014). Most blackberry production and blackberry cultivar research has been done in the Pacific Northwest and eastern United States, but there is also ongoing research in Michigan and Indiana (Takeda and Phillips, 2011). However, no information is available in the northern Great Plains on blackberry floricane production systems or cultivar recommendations.
The RCA trellis system is a unique trellis design and cane training protocol with the potential to increase production efficiency and prevent winter injury by laying the plants horizontal to the ground so that they can be covered during cold periods (Takeda et al., 2003a, 2008). This system allows growers in areas with more extreme winters to cover floricane blackberries, preventing cane injury and cane death and enabling fruit production the following year. The objective of this study was to determine the best suited floricane blackberry cultivar(s) for production in the northern Great Plains using the RCA trellis system and several types of rowcovers for winter protection.
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