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  • Author or Editor: Kathy Demchak x
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Winter injury has limited the expansion of commercial blackberry (Genus Rubus, subgenus Rubus) production into more northern latitudes in central and eastern United States. Rowcover (RC) was applied over trailing ‘Boysenberry’ and ‘Siskiyou’ and erect, thornless ‘Triple Crown’ and ‘Apache’ blackberries at Kearneysville, WV (lat. 39.5°N, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6b) from 2004 to 2007. The daily minimum temperatures under RC were as much as 5 °F to 10 °F higher at nights after sunny days, but were similar during nights after overcast days. On sunny days, daily maximum temperatures under RC were as much as 28 °F higher than in the open. Under RC, humidity rose more quickly and remained higher during the day than in the open, but was slightly lower at night. Mean vapor pressure deficit in late December, January, February, and early March was 100 to 250 kPa higher under RC than in the open. RC treatment significantly reduced winter injury and increased yield in ‘Siskiyou’ blackberry plants. The winter protection techniques described here would provide substantial benefits for growing blackberries in more northern areas where winter injury frequently causes crop failure.

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The Center for Plasticulture's High Tunnel Research and Education Facility was established at Pennsylvania State University in 1999. Since its inception, applied research has been conducted at this facility by a team of researchers and extension specialists on the development of a new high tunnel design. The development of crop production recommendations for vegetables, small fruits, tree fruits and cut flowers grown in high tunnels has been a priority. To complement the applied research program, an aggressive extension education program was developed to extend information on the technology of high tunnels to county extension personnel, growers, industry representatives, students, master gardeners and the general public. The extension programming effort consisting of demonstration high tunnels, field days, tours, in-service training, publications and presentations made at winter meetings will be discussed in the report below.

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At the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) High Tunnel Research and Education Facility, a system of production of high-value horticultural crops in high tunnels has been developed that uses plastic mulch and drip irrigation. The Penn State system involves small-scale, plastic-application equipment that prepares and applies plastic mulch and drip-irrigation tape to individual raised beds. It differs from the production system developed by researchers at the University of New Hampshire in which drip-irrigation tape is manually applied to the soil surface and then the entire soil surface in the high tunnel is covered with a black plastic sheet. An overview of the production system used in the Penn State high tunnels is presented in this report.

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