Consumer interest in raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and blackberries (Rubus sp.), members of caneberry group (Rubus), has been increasing in recent years because of their health benefits and the organoleptic quality (Lawless, 2012; Nile and Park, 2014). These caneberries have rapidly become important contributors to coastal California agricultural economies. For example, in Ventura County, CA, the annual value of caneberries is over $200 million according to the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s Crop and Livestock Report (Ventura County, 2019).
Raspberries and blackberries are typically grown in relatively short-term cycle in California compared with traditional caneberry production (Bolda et al., 2012). Primocane raspberries are often planted at high density to rapidly fill a hedgerow, then removed and replanted to new plants in 24- to 30-month cycles. Although primocane blackberries often remain for several years in the same spot with individual plant separation, they are often cutback to the soil surface periodically to control timing of production, plant architecture, and manage redberry mite (Acalitus essigi) infestations (Gaskell et al., 2015). These planting systems predominate in mild coastal production sites where long-season production is desirable.
California caneberry growers can produce as part of large commercial marketing companies that make their proprietary cultivars available only to their growers or they can choose to grow and market fruit independently using publicly available cultivars. There is relatively limited planted area (<20% of the total) devoted to publicly available cultivars compared with those developed by proprietary fruit marketing companies with their own breeding programs (M. Bolda, personal communication). Raspberry and blackberry breeding programs by public institutions in the United States are limited and many new cultivars come from European sources and other programs outside of the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates importation and release of new cultivars that are vegetatively propagated (Jenderek et al., 2007), and this often involves a 2-year quarantine period during which distribution of plant materials is limited. Thus, new, publicly available cultivars can be slow to become available to U.S. berry growers.
Several new blackberry cultivars have been evaluated in California in the last few years (Tourte et al., 2016), but Prime-Ark® 45—a newer primocane-fruiting blackberry released by the University of Arkansas in 2011—has been widely planted at coastal California sites for several years. Primocane-fruiting cultivars with commercial quality characteristics and postharvest potential for shipping provide opportunities for current and prospective growers to produce marketable fruit during extended seasons and production areas (Clark and Perkins-Veazie, 2011). California growers predominantly use primocane-bearing cultivars in high tunnel culture (≈80% of the acreage) for an extended production season (Gaskell et al., 2015; Tourte et al., 2016).
To address the needs of small- and medium-sized independent growers, we evaluated recently released publicly available cultivars of raspberries and blackberries in two coastal California locations representing different production environments within the same production region. The objective of the project was to assess their fruit production and quality under different management regimes to provide the basis for developing recommendations for independent growers.
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