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Emily K. Dixon, Bernadine C. Strik and David R. Bryla

Organic production of blackberries is increasing, but there is relatively little known about how production practices affect plant and soil nutrient status. The impact of cultivar (Black Diamond and Marion), weed management (nonweeded, hand-weeded, and weed mat), primocane training time (August and February), and irrigation (throughout the summer and none postharvest) on plant nutrient status and soil pH, organic matter, and nutrients was evaluated from Oct. 2012 to Dec. 2014 in a mature trailing blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus Watson) production system. The study site was certified organic and machine harvested for the processed market. The planting was irrigated by drip and fertigated with fish hydrolysate and fish emulsion fertilizer. Soil pH, organic matter content, and concentrations of soil nutrients, including ammonium-nitrogen (NH4-N), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), and zinc (Zn), were greater under weed mat than in hand-weeded plots. Soil K and boron (B) were below recommended standards during the study, despite a high content of K in the fish fertilizer and supplemental B applications. Primocane leaf nutrient concentrations were below the N, K, Ca, and Mg sufficiency standards in ‘Black Diamond’ and were lower than in ‘Marion’ for N, phosphorus (P), Ca, Mg, S, B, and Zn in at least one year. In contrast, floricane leaves and fruit tended to have higher nutrient concentrations in ‘Black Diamond’ than in ‘Marion’. Weed management strategy affected many nutrients in the soil, leaves, and fruit. Often, use of weed mat led to the highest concentrations. Withholding irrigation postharvest had limited effects on plant nutrient concentrations. Primocane training time affected the nutrients in each plant part differently depending on year.

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Emily K. Dixon, Bernadine C. Strik and David R. Bryla

Relatively little is known about aboveground nutrient content of organic blackberry, and there is no published work on total carbon (C) content. Treatment effects on biomass, C, and nutrient content, accumulation, and removal were assessed over 2 years in a mature organic trailing blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus, Watson) production system that was machine harvested for the processed market. Treatments included two irrigation options (no irrigation after harvest and continuous summer irrigation), three weed management strategies (weed mat, hand-weeded, and nonweeded), and two primocane training times (August and February) in two cultivars (Black Diamond and Marion). Floricanes comprised an average of 45% of the total aboveground plant dry biomass, while primocanes and fruit comprised 30% and 25%, respectively. Depending on the treatment, the total aboveground dry biomass accumulation over the course of the season was 5.0–6.5 t·ha−1 per year, while C stock of the planting was an estimated 0.4–1.1 t·ha−1 in late winter. Carbon accounted for ≈50% of the dry biomass of each aboveground plant part, including primocanes, floricanes, and fruit. Weed management had the largest impact on plant biomass and nutrient content. No weed control reduced aboveground dry biomass, the content of nutrients in the primocanes, floricanes, and fruit, and the annual accumulation of dry biomass and nutrients, whereas use of weed mat resulted in the most dry biomass and nutrient content. Nutrient accumulation was similar between the cultivars, although February-trained ‘Marion’ plants had a greater removal of most nutrients in 2014 than the year prior. The amount of nitrogen (N) removed in the fruit was 22, 18, and 12 kg·ha−1 for weed mat, hand-weeded, and nonweeded plots, respectively, in 2013. In 2014, ‘Marion’ and ‘Black Diamond’ differed in N removed in harvested fruit when grown with weed mat at 18 and 24 kg·ha−1, respectively, whereas there was no cultivar effect when plants were grown in hand-weeded or nonweeded plots. Plots with weed mat tended to have the most nutrients removed through harvested fruit in both years. In 2014, N removal from August-trained ‘Marion’ was 5 kg·ha−1 N less than the other training time and cultivar combinations. Plants that were irrigated throughout the summer accumulated more dry biomass, N, potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), boron (B), and copper in one or both years than those that received no irrigation after fruit harvest. The irrigation treatment had inconsistent effects on nutrient content of each individual plant part between the two years. Removal of nutrients was often higher than what was applied through fertilization, especially for N, K, and B, which would eventually lead to depletion of those nutrients in the planting.

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Emily K. Dixon, Bernadine C. Strik, Luis R. Valenzuela-Estrada and David R. Bryla

Weed management, training time, and irrigation practices were evaluated from 2013 to 2014 in a mature field of trailing blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus Watson) established in western Oregon. The field was planted in 2010 and certified organic in 2012, before the first harvest season. Treatments included two cultivars (Marion and Black Diamond), three weed management practices [nonweeded, hand-weeded or bare soil, and weed mat (black landscape fabric)], two irrigation strategies (irrigation throughout the growing season and no postharvest irrigation), and two primocane training dates (August and February). When averaged over the other treatments, ‘Marion’ and ‘Black Diamond’ had similar yields in both years. However, the presence of weeds reduced vegetative growth and yield, especially in ‘Black Diamond’, while weed mat increased growth and yield over hand-weeded plots by 13%. Withholding irrigation after harvest reduced water use by an average of 44% each year without adversely affecting yield in either cultivar. The effects of training time were primarily seen in 2014 after a cold winter. August-trained ‘Marion’ plants had more cold damage than February-trained plants and, consequently, had fewer and shorter canes, less biomass, fewer nodes, and 1 kg/plant less yield than February-trained plants. ‘Black Diamond’ was cold hardier than ‘Marion’, but was more readily infested by raspberry crown borer (Pennisetia marginata Harris). As the planting reached maturity, yields in the best performing organic production systems (both cultivars under weed mat and ‘Marion’ that was February-trained) averaged 11 and 9 t·ha−1, for ‘Black Diamond’ and ‘Marion’ respectively, similar to what would be expected in conventional production.