By Gary Gao, Professor and Extension Specialist
Ryan Slaughter, Research Assistant
Paul O’Bryant, Research Assistant
The Specialty Crops Small Fruits team is in the midst of a two-year long-cane raspberry project funded by Ohio Department of Agriculture through a Specialty Crop Block Grant. Our project officially started late last year.
What is long cane raspberry production?
Long cane raspberry production is a relatively new raspberry production method where raspberry bushes with long floricanes (5 feet and 10 inches) are produced in greenhouses, stored in coolers in autumn and winter, and then shipped to growers in spring for planting and fruiting in summer.
Growers can plant these “ready made” plants with fruiting canes in a soilless media and a protected environment like a high tunnel or an unheated greenhouse, or even under solar panels for fruit production in summer. This new and innovative system could help growers solve problems such as poor soil drainage that limits new cane growth and fluctuating spring temperatures that damage floricanes. The long cane production has been very popular in Europe and Canada. This approach has not been viable in the United States since there was not a nursery that grows and sells long cane raspberries.
There is a major shortage of Ohio-grown raspberries due to a strong demand for raspberries and limited raspberry acreage and low yields. Based on the 2017 USDA Agricultural Census, Ohio had 487 raspberry farms with a total acreage of 343. Poor soil drainage, polar vortexes, fluctuating temperatures, labor shortage, and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic, have greatly limited the expansion of raspberry production in Ohio. Numerous improvements to the raspberry production systems have been tried with some success. However, a totally different production system may need to be developed for raspberry growers in Ohio.
Only about 5% of the berries consumed by Ohioans are produced in Ohio. Flavor, healthfulness, convenience, and year-round availability have contributed to increasing consumer demand for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other berries, with per capita loss-adjusted availability growing from an average of 4.5 pounds per person per year during 1994-98 to 6.6 pounds during 2007-08 and to 9.9 pounds in 2014 (USDA Economic Research Service, 2017). Hence, there is an excellent potential for Ohio growers to get a much bigger “slice of the pie,” if more effective raspberry production systems are developed for Ohio growers. The long-cane raspberry production system may be the innovation that Ohio growers needed.
The “bottleneck” of long-cane raspberry production has always been the lack of available raspberry with long canes from nurseries. A March 2021 news release entitled “Strawberry Tray Plants & Long Cane Bramble Plants” by Nourse Farms (Whatley, MA) caught the attention of the Small Fruits Team since raspberry bushes come with long fruiting canes for growing in soilless media.
In addition to a trial plot in a high tunnel, the team also set a separate trial outside in the container production yards. Researchers will compare the yield, fruit quality, and growth rate to see if open field production method is a viable approach.
Three separate grower trials have been set up as well. Containers, media, and plant materials are identical. Fertilization program and watering intervals are different since each site is different. The study will summarize the information from all the trials and the end of the season to determine which approaches will be good for growing conditions in southern and northern parts of the state.
“It was exciting to see flower buds on June 28 on the raspberry bushes that were put out on June 16,” said Professor and Small Fruits Specialist Dr. Gary Gao. “As expected, the flower buds came with the lone canes and are ready to turn into tasty raspberries. We will need both honeybees and other pollinators to help with pollination.”
At the 2022 Farm Science Review (FSR), Ryan Slaughter, Paul O’Bryant and Gao will present a talk on long-cane raspberry production at the small farm tent on September 20.