Off-season blackberry and raspberry production to expand markets and sustain farm profitability


Investigator: Curt Rom, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Project locations: Riverbend Garden, Fayetteville, Arkansas and Bill Morgan Farm, Elkins, Arkansas

This project was developed to investigate the production issues for a new crop, organic primocane blackberries, and the economics of extending the season of blackberries and raspberries for increased income by using high tunnels.

Floricane-fruiting (aka summer production) blackberry is a traditional southern high-value crop and is well adapted to the summer temperatures of the south. The new primocane-fruiting (aka fall-bearing) blackberry genotypes, which were introduced by University of Arkansas (UA) in 2004, are similar to primocane-fruiting raspberry production in that they both form terminal flowers in late summer and fruit during the autumn. Primocane blackberry and raspberry yields are limited by high temperatures, which inhibit development during flowering and fruit set.

High tunnels have been demonstrated to be practical and economically sustainable by advancing production earlier and/or extending it later into the season. UA has established a multidisciplinary, organic high tunnel small fruit project with the goal of developing innovative sustainable management practices to improve profitability for organic producers.

The objectives of this project are to:

  • Establish organic management practices for off-season floricane and primocane blackberry and raspberry production in high tunnels; and
  • Validate these production systems with an economic analysis for each crop.

We will compare high tunnel cultivation with unprotected controls in three studies with the following production objectives: 1) advancing the floricane production system through spring high tunnel production; 2) study extended fall harvest season for primocane blackberries and raspberries through autumn high tunnel production; 3) evaluate the potential of double cropping (fall then spring) primocane-fruiting blackberry and raspberry cultivars.

Data collection will include plant growth, yield, fruit quality, microclimate variables and economic variables.