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  • Author or Editor: Bernadine C. Strik x
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Primocane-fruiting blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus, Watson) cultivars, Prime-Jan® and Prime-Jim®, grown only for a primocane crop, were studied for 2 years to evaluate whether this type of blackberry should be sampled at a certain stage of development or time of season to best evaluate plant nutrient status. Leaves were sampled every 2 weeks from a primocane height of ≈0.75 m in spring through fruit harvest in autumn and were analyzed to determine concentration of macro- and micronutrients. Primocanes were summer pruned at 1.4 m, by hedging to a height of 1.0 m, to induce branching, a standard commercial practice. Leaf nutrient concentration was related to stage of primocane growth and development and whether the leaves originated on the main cane or on the branches that resulted from summer pruning. Nutrient concentration of leaves sampled on the main primocane from early growth in spring until early branch growth in summer was significantly affected by cultivar, year, and week for most nutrients. When leaf sampling occurred on the older leaves of the main cane (for 4 weeks after hedging), the concentration of Ca, Mg, B, Fe, Mn, and Al increased, likely a result of the relative immobility of most of these nutrients. When samples were taken on primocane branches, leaf N, Mg, S, B (2009 only), Fe, Mn, Cu (2009 only), Zn, and Al concentrations did not differ between samples taken 6–8 weeks after summer pruning or hedging. Leaf K and Ca were more stable when sampling was done from weeks 8 to 10 (early bloom to green/early red fruit). There was a significant difference in leaf P among all weeks sampled during this period. A sample date corresponding to early green fruit stage (week 8) would thus likely provide the best compromise for assessing plant nutrient status in this crop. During this stage of development the nutrient concentrations measured for both cultivars and years, were within the present recommended nutrient sufficiency levels for other blackberry and raspberry crops for all except leaf K and P which were below current standards. The results suggest leaf sampling primocane-fruiting blackberry at the early green fruit stage (about 8 weeks after summer pruning) rather than a particular calendar date. The present leaf sufficiency range for P and K may need to be lowered for this crop. In addition, sampling cultivars separately for tissue analysis would still be advised to better manage nutrient programs.

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In Spring 1993 and 1994, mature trailing `Marion' blackberries (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus Watson) were pruned to 0, 4, 8, and 12 floricanes/plant. An additional treatment of 0 floricanes with early (30 cm) primocane topping and pruning was included. Primocane length was measured from emergence in April until growth cessation at the end of October on individual canes and for the whole plant. In January 1994 and 1995, cane cold hardiness was evaluated by controlled freezing. In 1993, plants without floricanes produced more primocanes and branches with an increased total length at the end of the season than plants with floricanes. However, there were no significant differences in primocane length among treatments in 1994. In all treatments, the absolute growth rate (AGR), on a length basis, of primocanes occurred in flushes of rapid growth followed by slower growth throughout the season. Plants without floricanes had a significantly greater AGR than plants with floricanes on five dates in 1993. In 1994, there was no effect of floricane number per plant on AGR of primocanes over the season and the growth peaks were not as distinct. When comparing primocane elongation rate at three phenological stages in 1993, plants with no floricanes had a significantly higher total primocane growth per day during fruit production and from harvest to length cessation. The following year, plants with no floricanes had the highest rate of growth before bloom and a trend toward greater growth during fruit production. After fruit production, there were no differences in AGR between the treatments. Plants with floricanes produced a second flush of primocanes, while plants with no floricanes produced only one flush of primocanes. Primocane length of the first flush (averaged for 4-, 8-, and 12-floricane plants) was significantly different from the second flush at all dates during the season except for the final end of season measurement date. Primocanes pruned at 30 cm did not produce significantly more branches than unpruned primocanes on plants without floricanes. Plants without floricanes produced primocanes that were significantly more cold hardy (lower LT50) in 1994 and 1995 than plants with floricanes.

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In Spring 1993 and 1994, mature trailing `Marion' blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus Watson) plants were pruned to 0, 4, 8, and 12 floricanes. In 1994, yield per cane was higher for plants with 4 floricanes compared to plants with 8 or 12 floricanes. In Summer 1993, there was a trend for lower primocane dry mass with a higher floricane number and a significant reduction in primocane branch dry mass with an increase in floricane number. Total plant, fruit, floricane, and lateral dry mass increased linearly with floricane number. Results were similar for floricane components in Summer 1994; however, there were no treatment effects on primocane or branch dry mass and there was a significant linear increase in crown dry mass with floricane number. By Winter 1994-95, there were no treatment effects on primocane or crown dry mass. Plants without floricanes produced more primocanes per plant than plants with floricanes in 1993 but not in 1994. Plants without floricanes produced primocanes that had a significantly lower percent budbreak the following year (1994) than plants with floricanes. Primocanes produced by plants without floricanes had more nodes per branch and a greater average branch cane length than those from plants with floricanes the previous season. The number of nodes per primocane tended to decrease with an increase in floricane number per plant in 1994 and 1995. There was no significant effect of floricane number per plant the previous season on fruit per lateral, fruit mass, or yield per plant the following season in either treatment year (1993 + 1994). However, in 1994, plants without floricanes the previous year had the lowest yield per cane. Topping primocanes at 30 cm in 1993 and 1994 had few significant effects on yield components the following season. Thus, `Marion' blackberry can compensate for reduced fruiting cane number through an increased percent budbreak on remaining canes. While there were differences in primocane dry mass among treatments after harvest in 1993, there were no differences by mid-winter in either 1993 or 1994. Although plants grown without floricanes in 1993 had more primocanes, these canes had a lower percent budbreak the following season. Consequently, in this study we did not see increased yield in plants grown without floricanes the previous season. This was perhaps because primocanes were not trained as they grew, a practice that improves light exposure to the canes and may increase flower bud initiation.

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Blueberry production area in North American increased 30% from 1992 to 2003 to 239,818 acres (97,054 ha); most of this increase occurred in Canada. During this period, lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) area increased 33% and highbush 24%. In the United States, the area planted to highbush, which includes northern (V. corymbosum) and southern highbush (Vaccinium sp.) and rabbiteye (V. ashei) blueberries, increased from 48,790 acres (19,745 ha) to 55,898 acres (22,622 ha) from 1992 to 2003, a 15% increase. In 2003, the midwestern region of the U.S. accounted for 35% of the area of highbush blueberries planted. The southern, northeastern, and western regions accounted for 29%, 19%, and 13% of the planted area, respectively. Specific states in the U.S. that had considerable growth from 1992 to 2003 were California, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington. In Canada, the area planted to highbush blueberries increased 105% to 11,010 acres (4456 ha). Commercial blueberry plantings in Mexico were estimated at 70 acres (28.3 ha) in 2003. In the U.S., total lowbush area increased 6% in 10 years, with Maine accounting for 97% of the area planted. In Canada, lowbush area increased 57% since 1992 with 37% and 34% of the total area present in Quebec and Nova Scotia, respectively. The blueberry industry is still projected to grow considerably in the next 5 to 10 years. Highbush blueberries in the U.S. are expected to increase in area planted by 14% and 31% in the next 5 and 10 years, respectively. In Canada, planted area of highbush blueberries is expected to increase by 22% in 5 years and 26% in 10 years. If projections are correct, planted area in Mexico will increase by almost 30-fold in 10 years. The managed area of lowbush blueberries is expected to increase by 5% to 10% over the next 10 years. Data on typical yields, types of cultivars grown, markets, proportion of machine harvest, major production problems, and changes in production practices are presented.

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A 6-year trial was established in Oct. 2015 in western Oregon to evaluate the effects of pruning and trellising on yield, hand- and machine-harvest efficiency, fruit quality, and costs of pruning and harvest of ‘Legacy’ highbush blueberry (complex hybrid based largely on Vaccinium corymbosum L. and Vaccinium darrowii Camp.). Pruning treatments began in Winter 2017–18 (before year 3) and continued each year through 2020–21 (year 6). Treatments included 1) recommended pruning for ‘Legacy’, removing less wood and leaving more short, thin laterals and a denser bush than is typical for most northern highbush cultivars (“control” with standard T-trellis), 2) control pruning and training to a V-trellis (“V”), and 3) standard northern highbush style pruning (“HB” with standard T-trellis). Fruit were harvested solely by hand in 2017 and 2018, and by hand for early harvests followed by machine for later harvests from 2019 to 2021. In most years, more wood was removed from HB- than control-pruned plants. On average, HB-pruned plants had a lower yield (6.7 kg/plant) than control-pruned plants, particularly those trained to a V-trellis (7.5 kg/plant). There was little effect of pruning treatment on fruiting season and hand- (7% drop) or machine-harvest efficiency (23% drop). Pruning method had no effect on berry weight, diameter, total soluble solids, or firmness over the study period or percent internal bruising in 2019. All of the ‘Legacy’ pruning methods studied required more time (358 to 561 h·ha−1) than the industry standard, ‘Duke’ (247 h·ha−1). Control and HB pruning did not differ in time to prune per unit area; however, in 2 of the 4 years, adding a V-trellis increased pruning time. On average, control and HB pruning had a similar cost per harvested fruit ($0.20 to $0.21/kg), whereas control pruning with a V-trellis ($0.23/kg) cost more than HB pruning. All treatments required the same amount of time to harvest (12.7 and 0.5 min·kg−1 for hand and machine picking, respectively). Total cost to prune and harvest ranged from $1.63/kg in 2019 to $3.43/kg in 2021 but was most heavily influenced by harvest costs rather than pruning. The one-time installation cost of $637/ha for the V-trellis was not compensated for by increased yield or efficiency of pruning or harvest compared with the control method with a standard T-trellis. Pruning according to recommended methods for ‘Legacy’ (control) increased yield without having a negative effect on fruit quality and had similar or lower costs to prune per kg of fruit harvested as typical northern highbush pruning.

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Plant water requirements were investigated in three northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) cultivars, Duke, Bluecrop, and Elliott, grown either at a high-density spacing of 0.45 m apart within rows or a more traditional spacing of 1.2 m. Spacing between rows was 3.0 m. As is typical for the species, each cultivar was shallow-rooted with most roots located less than 0.4 m deep, and each was sensitive to soil water deficits with plant water potentials declining as low as −1.6 MPa within 5 to 7 days without rain or irrigation. Compared with traditional spacing, planting at high density significantly reduced dry weight and yield of individual plants but significantly increased total dry weight and yield per hectare. High-density planting also significantly increased total canopy cover and water use per hectare. However, although canopy cover (often considered a factor in water use) increased up to 246%, water use never increased more than 10%. Because of more canopy cover at high density, less water penetrated the canopy during rain or irrigation (by overhead sprinklers), reducing both soil water availability and plant water potential in each cultivar and potentially reducing water use. Among cultivars, water use was highest in ‘Duke’, which used 5 to 10 mm·d−1, and lowest in ‘Elliott’, which used 3 to 5 mm·d−1. Peak water use in each cultivar was during fruit development, but water use after harvest declined sharply. Longer irrigation sets (i.e., longer run times) or alternative irrigation methods (e.g., drip) may be required when growing blueberry at high density, especially in cultivars with dense canopies such as ‘Elliott’.

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Timing and severity of pruning in a 30-year-old commercial `McFarlin' cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) bed were studied. Treatments in 1989 and 1990 consisted of early or late pruning and heavy, moderate, light, or no pruning. Yield component data were collected in Fall 1989 and 1990, just before harvest. Time of pruning did not affect yield components. In 1989, the unpruned and lightly pruned vines had a higher total plant fresh weight, fewer berries, higher berry yield, longer and more fruiting uprights, and fewer nonfruiting uprights (U,) compared with moderately or heavily pruned vines. Average length of UN and anthocyanin content of berries in 1989 were not influenced by pruning. In 1990, the effects of pruning severity were similar to 1989. In 1990, unpruned vines had a lower percent fruit set and berries contained less anthocyanin than pruned vines. Annual pruning with conventional systems in use decreases yield.

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`Meeker' red raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) cane densities of 5, 10, or 15 canes/hill in a hill system, with canes topped at 2 m or the entire cane length retained and looped, were compared with a 15- or 30-cm-wide hedgerow with canes topped at 2 m from 1995 to 1997. Cane density among all treatments ranged from 2.2 to 9.9 canes/m2 during the study. Plots were harvested by machine every 2 days. Within the hill system, total yield increased with cane density in all years. Looped treatments produced a higher yield/plot than did topped ones in all years except 1996, when the yield difference was insignificant because looped canes had greater winter injury. Weight per fruit ranged from 5.4% to 9.7% less on looped than on topped canes. Hedgerow systems had a lower yield than hill systems in 1996, but a higher yield in 1997. Losses due to machine harvest were not affected by pruning (cane density or topping) or production system (hill system or hedgerow) and averaged 16.2% of total yield in 1997. Thirty-five percent of the loss due to machine harvest occurred between harvests.

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Mature `Kotata' and `Marion' trailing blackberry plants were studied in 1994. In `Kotata', canes were subjected to 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% primary bud removal in Feb. 1994. In `Marion' 0, 55, or 100 primary buds were removed per dm2 from fruiting sections (panels). Primary bud removal did not subsequently affect yield per cane or per dm2 in either cultivar. Yield compensation occurred through production of secondary laterals, which were as fruitful as primary laterals.

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