Organic blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus, Watson) production is an important niche market in Oregon, which produces a significant portion of the organic and conventional crop in the United States [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2010, 2014]. Blackberry is a perennial plant that produces biennial canes from the crown. When canes emerge the first year, they are vegetative and called primocanes. In their 2nd year, they produce fruiting laterals and fruit on what are then called floricanes. Following fruit production, the floricanes senesce and are removed. In an annual or every-year fruit production system, primocanes and floricanes exist on the plant at the same time (Strik and Finn, 2012).
Nitrogen (N) allocation has been studied in several blackberry types (Malik et al., 1991; Mohadjer et al., 2001; Naraguma et al., 1999; Whitney, 1982). Primocanes have been found to use new fertilizer N for early growth (Malik et al., 1991; Mohadjer et al., 2001; Naraguma et al., 1999), while both stored N and new fertilizer N are allocated to floricane growth and fruit production (Mohadjer et al., 2001). Blackberry has relatively low accumulation of biomass and N compared with other perennial crops due to the low planting density and relatively small size of the plants (Mohadjer et al., 2001). Annual N accumulation ranged from 37 to 44 kg·ha−1 in alternate-year production (Mohadjer et al., 2001), while N removal ranged from 34 to 79 kg·ha−1 in the first year of trailing blackberry fruit production (Harkins et al., 2014). The nutrient content of different blackberry plant parts and nutrients other than N have only been examined during the establishment years (Harkins et al., 2014), but not during mature production. It is important to understand the accumulation and removal of each nutrient as their rates of soil mineralization and plant uptake differ. Because of this, fertilizer requirements may be over- or underestimated.
Aboveground dry biomass production in red raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) ranges from 0.3 to 7.8 t·ha−1 depending on planting age, location, and production practices (Alvarado-Raya et al., 2007; Darnell et al., 2008; Dean et al., 2000; Rempel et al., 2004; Whitney, 1982). There has not been as much work done in blackberry, but Mohadjer et al. (2001) reported 4.8 to 5.3 t·ha−1 of dry biomass in an alternate-year production system of ‘Kotata’ trailing blackberry, and Harkins et al. (2014) measured 3.3 t·ha−1 of aboveground dry biomass in 2012, in the first fruiting season of an organic trailing blackberry planting.
A high percentage of plant dry biomass is composed of C (Dixon, 2015), but the C content and allocation of blackberry has not been studied. There has been work in other Rubus sp. on photosynthetic rate (Bowen and Freyman, 1995; Fernandez and Pritts, 1993; Percival et al., 2001), radiolabeling of 14CO2 (Fernandez and Pritts, 1994; Gauci et al., 2009; Privé et al., 1994), and reduction in C supply (Fernandez and Pritts, 1996). Mature blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) was found to contain 8.3 t·ha−1 C during dormancy (Nemeth, 2013), while mature grape (Vitis vinifera L.) was estimated to have 1.9 t·ha−1 of C (Keightley, 2011). Carbon sequestration has become increasingly important in light of climate change and the ability to estimate the C stock of agricultural land could be important for gauging offsets to C emissions.
The objective of this study was to continue the work by Harkins et al. (2013, 2014) and Dixon et al. (2015a, 2015b) and examine the effects of cultivar (Black Diamond and Marion), postharvest irrigation, weed management (weed mat, hand-weeded, and nonweeded), and primocane training time (August and February) on aboveground accumulation and removal of dry biomass, C, and nutrients in a mature planting of organic trailing blackberry.
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