While I love my trellised blackberry bushes, I planted a couple erect (no trellis needed) blackberry bushes a few years ago. I researched different varietals and found that some contained more cancer-fighting antioxidants than others. The berries are smaller, and the seeds seem larger on a few of those I planted. Frankly, we eat so many of the larger, tastier fruit that I suspect the difference in the amount of antioxidants consumed is nil.
Interestingly enough, due to the new, higher demand for these antioxidant-rich berries, there is a shortage of Ohio grown blackberries. The Ohio State Extension office has embarked on a two year study, $55,000 funded through the US Department of Agriculture, to figure out how our blackberry (and raspberry) farmers can improve yields.
Much of the study is focused on season extending techniques, such as the use of high tunnels. The tunnels would protect the plants from harsh winter temperatures, but also from too much rain. Fruit yields improve with tunnel protection by preventing cold weather injury and fungus that often accompanies excessive rain. Sunlight can still reach the plants through the fabric used in the tunnel covers.
Part of the study involves educating bramble farmers as to the benefits of using high tunnels and season extending techniques such as planting bushes that yield berries at different times of the season. The OSU group plans to increase berry fruit producing acreage by 150 acres and yield by 15%. I’m sure Ohio farmers can see the benefits of earning more money from their cash crops. I am pleased for their sake, and also for Ohio consumers who can reap the benefits of more locally produced berries.
I am also exceedingly interested in the hardier varieties being tested. They may only benefit those producers in Northern Ohio, as my berry bushes seem to make it through our winters in SW Ohio just fine. However, I will keep an eye out in case even better varieties come of this study that I could use in my home garden. I look forward to the new knowledge that can increase the harvest, not only in local farmland, but also in my backyard.