Updates on Fruit Research Projects and Extension Programs at South Centers

By Gary Gao, Ph.D.
Extension Specialist and Associate Professor

Container Fruit Production:

Now in the final year of our project on container berry production, our team has made significant progress.  Among blueberries and brambles, blueberries seem to be the most difficult crop to grow, both in the field and in containers.  Blackberries are next in terms of difficulty. Raspberries, on the other hand, are much easier to grow in containers than blackberries and blueberries.

The pine bark media seem to have worked out well; with a pH level that is perfect for blueberries.  To make sure that water alkalinity is reduced, an injector was installed to add sulfuric acid.  Both macronutrients and micronutrients have been added each year since pine bark media have very little mineral nutrients.  

One of the last stumbling blocks for successful blueberry production is winter storage.  We have used row covers as a way to protect blueberry roots during the winter months.

However, this method is quite cumbersome since row covers may still need to be put on and taken off multiple times.  Dr. Gary Gao, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor at OSU South Centers, learned one neat trick from a company in Holland at the North American Bramble Growers Association’s Annual Meeting; Instead of covering the potted blueberry bushes with row covers, the blueberry containers are buried in preformed raised beds.  Half of the pots are buried in the raised beds.  We are going to test this method in 2018 and beyond.  Hopefully, we will have a truly viable blueberry production system without soil acidification in Ohio.

Hardy Kiwis and Hardy Figs in Ohio

Our research team members are quite busy planting many different fruit crops, such as hardy kiwis and hardy figs.  We are very excited about these two crops as potential cash crops for Ohio.  As with many new or rare crops, growers should be cautious and do their homework before they plant a lot of them.  Stay tuned for more information.

Blueberry Rootstocks

Ryan Slaughter, Lijing Zhou, and Jiangbo Fan have made trips to Indiana and/or Missouri to collect sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) plants and cuttings for our blueberry grafting study. I do not know how many of you have gone to the woods to collect wild specimens; both Ryan and Lijing found out what its like when they went to a national forest in Indiana.  Well, Ryan and Jiangbo had a taste of it in Missouri too … the woods in Indiana take the cake, though.  

Fruit Extension Programs

We offered two major extension programs during the last six months or so.  These were the Ohio Grape and Wine Analysis Workshop in December, 2017 and the Ohio Cane Berry and Wine Grape Pruning Workshop in March.  Both programs were well received by the attendees.  Dr. Gao also gave presentations at the 2018 OPGMA Connect, Ohio Grape and Wine Conference, and Southwest Ohio Fruit and Vegetable (Specialty) Crop Conference, as well as fruit training programs in Athens, Delaware, and Ross Counties.

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Ohio Department of Agriculture and USDA Agricultural Marketing Services for their financial support of research projects and extension program through several Specialty Crop Block Grants.