A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist developed a specialized trellis system to help blackberry growers boost profits.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) horticulturist Fumiomi Takeda of the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia, developed a rotating cross-arm (RCA) trellis and cane-training system to help growers overcome environmental challenges, produce more fruit and reduce labor costs. This system can increase a grower’s income by more than $6,000 per acre—a significant increase.
Blackberry crops are becoming more common in the United States, but commercial production is limited in the Midwest and Northeast because low temperatures can injure or kill the plant’s branches. In the southern parts of the country, the challenges are high temperatures and intense sunlight, which can cause fruit to sunburn.
The RCA trellis system consists of a long cross-arm that is attached to the top of a short post and can pivot, allowing it to be set at different positions. The system allows the canopy (top part) of the blackberry plant to be rotated so that the canopy can be positioned horizontally, diagonally or vertically.
To limit damage from harsh winter temperatures, growers can use the new trellis system to reposition the canopy close to the ground in winter and protect it. Similarly, growers in the southern part of the country can position the fruit away from direct sunlight to protect it from high temperatures and intense sunlight.
In Georgia, the adoption of the RCA trellis and cane-training system has reduced sunburn damage in the Apache blackberry from about 35 percent in the conventional system to less than 5 percent. It has helped increase the volume of fruit that can be packed and can reduce harvest costs, resulting in increases in grower income.
The fruit of conventionally trellised blackberry plants is harvested from both sides of the plant row and in the middle of the wide plant canopy. Harvesting fruit on one side of the row of plants trained to the RCA trellis was 30 percent faster than harvesting fruit from both sides of the row.
Read more about this research in the August issue of AgResearch. ARS is the USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.