Harsh winter regions are not friendly to blackberry production. Cold weather causes poor fruit development and attempts at covering upright canes to protect them have proven ineffective.
A new trellis system, in testing since 2009, is showing positive results because it positions canes close to the ground without the risk of breakage. At the Pacific Agriculture Show, Fumi Takeda of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), explained how the trellis makes productive blackberries possible in temperatures as cold as -25°C.
The system is a fiberglass component trellis with a long cross arm that can be rotated with a crop trained on it.
“With both trailing and erect varieties,” Takeda began, “once the primocanes reach 20 or 24 inches in height, we force those primocanes sideways.”
The laterally trained primocanes are tied to the trellis wires, then the cross arm is rotated below horizontal. This positions tied canes closer to the ground, allowing for effective cover protection over-winter. In early spring the covers are removed, but canes are left horizontal to force blooms to grow upright. When the cross-arm is rotated above vertical, all fruit is on one side, for more efficient harvesting.
“When the canopy is rotated, it is only the bend of the primocane that is shifting, like an elbow,” Takeda said.
The trellis is in use in about 30 states and some farmers have more than 10 acres planted using it.
“This production system allows varieties to grow in areas not previously possible,” notes Takeda.
For more information about this innovative method of growing blackberries, look online at www.trellisgrowingsystems.com.