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Primocane blackberries add an important new alternative for California’s small fruit producers

The Issue

Market demand for blackberries is increasing steadily following similar market growth for raspberries and blueberries over the past 15 years. Newer cultivars of blackberries with better flavor, appearance, and consistency are behind an increase in consumption of these minor berry fruits. California growing areas continue to be the source for much of the North American fresh market blackberry supply, and production has increased in response to growing demand. Some newer blackberry cultivars offer a different growth habit that includes primocane fruiting, meaning they bear fruit in the first year rather than the traditional second year. This challenges growers with new alternative management options, including pruning and thinning practices, that would best optimize production. Blackberry growers seek to control production to market fresh-market blackberries most effectively, and site-specific crop response information has been key to finding the most efficient management regime for different blackberry cultivars.

What Has ANR Done?

Field trials with primocane fruiting cultivars in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Santa Cruz counties by UCCE advisors have generated important, region-specific information to enhance management practices for primocane fruiting blackberries. This multi-year project, spread across three growing districts, has identified management practices, including a mow-down in January, early pruning, and “tipping” to delay production. Once production commences under this regime, primocane fruiting cultivars can produce continually until late November or early December under California conditions. The primocane fruiting cultivars offer a marked improvement over traditional cultivars, and these management guidelines help growers improve their productivity. This information was shared with 132 growers at the Annual Central Coast Caneberry Meeting in 2015. Continuing field trials seek to define what adjustments are needed to the tipping regime in order to grow the berries in high tunnels and to find suitable pruning alternatives for different production regimes; results of ongoing trials will continue to be shared every year.

The Payoff

New tools to increase productivity for berry growers

Coastal California berry growers have new tools to efficiently manage primocane fruiting blackberry cultivars efficiently and productively in order to target profitable market windows. UC research has used market signals to guide field trials that are developing improved production alternatives for California blackberry growers, the leading producers of fresh market blackberries in the country. Field trials in the key production areas of the state have verified the optimum management practices for producers to enter the market early, produce high-quality fruit over an extended picking season, and potentially increase profits.


Supporting Unit: San Luis Obispo County

San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Santa Cruz counties
Mark Gaskell mlgaskell@ucanr.edu
Mark Bolda mpbolda@ucanr.edu
Oleg Daugovish odaugovish@ucanr.edu