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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1133: XI International Rubus and Ribes Symposium

Management of primocane fruiting blackberries for extended harvest in a mild winter climate

Authors:   M. Gaskell, O. Daugovish
Keywords:   caneberry, cane management, 'Prime-Ark 45', blackberry pruning, season extension
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1133.44
US fresh blackberry (Rubus L subgenus Rubus Watson.) market demand is increasing in response to improved cultivars and production practices that extend the production season. Mild winter coastal areas of California, USA, provide important volumes of fresh market berry crops and the recent development of primocane fruiting cultivars of blackberries expands alternatives for California berry growers. These cultivars permit the harvest of fruit from primocanes, floricanes, or a combination of the two. In California there are marked advantages to producing only for primocane production and eliminating the above ground plant at the end of each season. Field studies at multiple sites over the past five seasons have determined critical pruning practices to optimize yield and extend the harvest season of 'PrimeArk 45' blackberries to closely match a July to December market window. Results indicate that optimum mow-down of prior season's vegetative growth (primocanes and floricanes) should occur in Central California from January 1 to February 15. Trials at a more southerly site indicated that mowing in December reduced yield compared to January or February mow-down. Developing primocanes should then be soft-tipped at a height of 45-60 cm to encourage branching. Tipping earlier (45 cm) favors earlier and higher production over later tipping and one trial showed improved yield from a second tipping at 1.5 m. Later (June/July) use of soft tipping can delay harvest and reduce yield. High tunnels are often used to create a more favorable, protected environment for berry development and to protect fruit from late summer sun-burn. Initial surveys suggest that annual mow-down encourages plant resistance to redberry (Acalitus essigi Hassan) mite infestation when compared to floricane cultivars. These cultural practices support harvest of 'PrimeArk 45' blackberry for fresh markets from early July until mid-December at California central coastal sites.

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