Northwest Washington leads commercial production of red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) used for processing in the United States, with 82.5 million lb harvested from 9200 acres in 2019 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2020). Despite the scale and significance of this industry, increasing costs and decreasing availability of labor are compromising its economic viability. Floricane red raspberry production is particularly labor intensive, with annual selective pruning and tying of canes representing ≈18% of total annual costs per acre during established bearing years (Galinato and DeVetter, 2016). AY production is another method by which all canes are removed every other year in a nonselective manner, thereby possibly increasing profitability by reducing labor costs of pruning and training. AY production is practiced in more than 60% of the trailing blackberry (Rubus subgenus Rubus) fields in Oregon (Strik et al., 2007). Average yields were reduced by 20% in AY blackberry production relative to EY production (Strik et al., 2017), but several advantages, including decreased labor costs, reduced pesticide applications, and improved cold hardiness, contribute to its adoption (Bell et al., 1995; Bullock, 1963; Julian et al., 2009; Martin and Nelson, 1979; Strik, 2018).
AY production of floricane red raspberry may likewise be a more economical option for commercial operations, but minimal research on AY production systems has been completed in floricane red raspberry in the important production area of northwestern Washington, and economic analyses are lacking to assist growers in deciding whether to adopt this practice. In a 6-year study performed in Vancouver, WA, investigators found the yield of ‘Meeker’ and ‘Willamette’ was reduced overall by 60% in an AY system (Barney and Miles, 2007). However, it is unknown whether primocane suppression occurred during the study, which can impact yield potential (Duan et al., 2017). Other studies have shown floricanes yield more fruit in the absence primocanes (Sullivan and Evans, 1992; Waister et al., 1977), and more primocanes are produced in the absence of floricanes (Waister et al., 1977). The extent of this yield and growth gain can vary by cultivar (Waister et al., 1977), but has been attributed in part to leaf shading by primocanes in the EY system, leading to leaf loss on lower fruiting laterals (Wright and Waister, 1984). Yet, Fernandez and Pritts (1996) demonstrated in ‘Titan’ floricane raspberry that it is resilient to changes in carbon supply induced by shading, but yields still tend to be greater if prevented from full production the previous year.
Floricane raspberry has the potential to yield more on a per-cane basis in an AY production system and provide labor savings, which may make it more economical for northwest Washington raspberry growers challenged by rising costs of production. This project’s objective was to evaluate the economic viability of AY production in a floricane red raspberry system and compare it to traditional EY production to assess whether this approach could provide cost savings for western Washington raspberry growers.
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