Question of the Week
Answer: Cultivar selection is a very important decision for a bramble grower because it can determine the productivity and profitability of an operation. The best place to start is by talking with bramble growers in your area to see what cultivars have performed well for them. Your Cooperative Extension Service will also be able to recommend proven cultivars for your region and provide resources with additional cultivar information. Selecting cultivars with resistance to diseases that are prevalent in your region, such as Phytophthora root rot, is extremely important, especially for organic growers, who have fewer options when it comes to disease management.
Two important considerations when selecting cultivars include your market and desired season of production. Knowing the preference of your target customers and the market price of various bramble species will help you narrow down to the cultivars that are best suited to your situation. If you are selling direct-to-consumer, taste might be the most important characteristic, but if you are selling wholesale to a retailer or distributor, then shelf life or post-harvest potential might be the most important attribute for the cultivars you select.
Seasonality is also very important. With primocane-fruiting blackberries and raspberries and season extension technologies, it is possible to produce a berry crop nearly year-round in certain areas. Knowing when you want to be selling your crop and the seasonality of your target markets will also help you narrow in on the right cultivars.
When purchasing your plants, it is very important to buy from a reputable supplier to ensure quality planting stock that is disease- and virus-free. There are few restrictions on proximity when planting different varieties and species of brambles on the same farm. One is that black and purple raspberries are much more susceptible to damage from mosaic and leaf curl viruses than are red and yellow cultivars. Because these diseases are vectored by aphids, black and purple varieties should be separated as much as possible and located upwind from red and yellow raspberries.
You can learn much more in the ATTRA publication Brambles: Organic Production, newly updated in March 2017. Focusing on organic practices for blackberry and raspberry production, it discusses cultural considerations including site selection, establishment, pruning and trellising, and it introduces organic practices for fertility, weed, disease, and insect management. It also provides new information on greenhouse production and season extension and addresses economics and marketing.
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