Courtesy Ohio State UniversityOhio State University researchers want to increase the production of raspberries and blackberries in their state, but that will mean extending the season either with hardier varieties or with protective structures.
The group, led by Extension specialist Gary Gao, is in the middle of a multi-year project funded in part by a U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop block grant, according to a news release.
The goal is to increase brambleberry plantings in Ohio by 150 acres during the next five years and to improve yields of brambleberry plants by 15 percent.
The grant also allows work to expand the season by at least two weeks and educate at least 200 brambleberry growers on season-extending technologies.
The major challenge in Ohio is the lack of winter hardiness in current varieties.
"If the region experiences a mild winter, such as last winter, the plants will come through winter fine and produce a good crop," Gao said in the release. "But if the winter is too cold, as are many Ohio winters, the harsh weather can cause severe injuries to blackberry crops."
One option is to test to find hardier varieties.
The other is to promote high tunnels or hoop houses to protect the plants from cooler temperatures.
Raspberries grown in the field may yield 5,000 to 6,000 berries per acre.
Under protection, they can yield up to 19,000 per acre, according to the release.
In addition, the structures shield plants and berries from rain and birds.