A Winter Protection Method for Blackberries

in HortScience
Authors:
Fumiomi Takeda1USDA-ARS, Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, WV, 25430

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David Handley2University of Maine, Agricultural Research Center, Monmouth, ME, 04259

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A combination of simple cultural practices, a modified rotatable crossarm (RCA) trellis system, and covering plants with insulation material in winter overcame the lack of cold hardiness in trailing blackberries that have been established at Kearneysville, W.Va. After tying canes to trellis wires and rotating the cross-arms to below horizontal, tied canes were close to the ground, allowing them to be covered with protective materials, such as floating rowcover and polyethylene plastic during winter. Covers were removed in early spring and the canes remained in the horizontal orientation until bloom, which promoted flowering laterals to grow upright. After bloom, the cross-arm was rotated beyond vertical to position the fruit on one side of the row and improve harvest efficiency. In Jan. and Feb. 2005, the daily minimum temperatures under the FRC+PE covers were about 3 °C higher than in the open. The covers also provided protection against the wind. Tissue damage in protected trailing blackberries was significantly less than for unprotected plants. `Siskiyou' plants in covered plots produced 3 to 5 times more fruit than plants in the open. Harvesting of `Siskiyou' fruit occurred during the red raspberry harvest season or 2 to 3 weeks earlier than for eastern blackberries. Our findings suggest that trailing blackberries can grow satisfactorily and produce fruit if the adverse effect of low temperatures and winds is mitigated with our trellis system and winter protection method. If practical cultural techniques for improving their winter survival become available, there is a potential for early-season high-quality blackberry production in the mid-Atlantic coast region.

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