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Hoophouse system extends bramble harvest

Grow raspberries and blackberries in high tunnels to capture local markets.

ITHACA, N.Y. – Northeast growers can capture more of the lucrative local market for fresh berries by growing brambles (raspberries and blackberries) in high tunnels, according to researchers at Cornell and Pennsylvania State Universities.

These relatively low-cost, usually unheated, plastic-covered hoophouses can help growers fill late-spring and late-fall gaps in the market. Instead of mid-June, high-tunnel berries can be harvested in May. The field-grown season for brambles usually ends in early October. But growers using high tunnels continue to harvest berries through November.

Other benefits of high tunnels include:

  • Floricane-fruiting raspberries and blackberries can overwinter in climates where they would otherwise be killed.
  • Primocane-fruiting blackberries ripe where the growing season is otherwise too short.
  • Berry yields from tunnels can be two to three times greater than field-grown, and the berries can be significantly larger.
  • Tunnel-grown berries also have longer shelf life with reduced pesticide inputs.

A new publication, High Tunnel Raspberries and Blackberries, spells out in detail how it’s done. The 29-page guide is available online at http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/berry/production/pdfs/hightunnelsrasp2012.pdf.

Topics covered include:

  • Site selection
  • Tunnel types and construction
  • Choosing and establishing plants
  • In-ground and container plantings
  • Care and management
  • Season extension and harvesting
  • Budget for in-ground high tunnel raspberries

If coupled with brambles grown in heated greenhouses, Northeast berry growers could produce brambles nearly year-round. (An earlier publication, Greenhouse Raspberries, describes those growing practices: http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/berry/production/pdfs/ghrasp.pdf) Rising energy costs make greenhouse berries more expensive to grow. But these two practices could help shift market supply along the Atlantic seaboard to local sources instead of berries imported from other regions or hemispheres.

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