Submitted to: Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association (OPGMA)
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 30, 2008
Publication Date: November 10, 2008
Citation: Takeda, F. 2008. A winter protection system for blackberries. Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association (OPGMA), TODAY, fall issue 2008, p. 9-11. Technical Abstract: The interest in growing blackberry is high among farmers looking for crops with a market niche and the potential for high returns on investment. As a result, there has been a rapid expansion of blackberries for the fresh fruit production in the United States. Blackberry acreage has risen 23% from 1997 to 2002. In Pennsylvania and surrounding states (OH, NY, WV, MD, NJ, and DE), acreage has increased 83% from 262 ac to 478 ac during the same time (USDA-NASS, 2004). The upsurge in blackberry acreage points to the interest in this crop and perceived market potential. Its production, however, is small in areas where sub-zero temperatures (° F) are common during the winter, such as in northern and central Pennsylvania. The fruit production by field-planted thornless blackberries has been rare (Demchak, 2006). For example, in central Pennsylvania, 'Chester Thornless', 'Navaho', 'Arapaho', 'Choctaw', and 'Shawnee' blackberries produce vigorous primocanes each growing season, but the buds and canes of these cultivars showed low temperature injury and have not produced fruit. In southeastern Pennsylvania, production of eastern thornless blackberries is hit-or-miss with winter injury decreasing yields in nearly every year. Preventing winter injury in some cultivars may be possible if blackberries are grown under protected cultivation to decrease desiccation damage or prevent dropping of temperatures that will be lethal to them. At Penn State, 'Triple Crown' eastern thornless blackberry plants that were established in a 17 ft wide single-bay Ledgewood Farm Greenhouse high tunnel (Moultonborough, NH) grew successfully, and each plant produced about 12 lbs of marketable fruit. Primocane-bearing blackberries may also make blackberry production more consistent; however, reliable crop production will be limited to the fall season, and available cultivars do not have good quality or productivity that is equal to traditional, floricanes-fruiting cultivars.