PIKETON, Ohio -- Black raspberries, the first bramble crop of the summer season, are a favorite among Ohio consumers. Research efforts are under way to extend the season so that black raspberries can continue to be enjoyed in the fall.
Ohio State University horticulturists with the South Centers at Piketon are evaluating a new primocane-bearing black raspberry cultivar for production performance, berry size, disease resistance and winter hardiness.
Raspberry varieties, typically thought of as a summer crop, produce fruit on the two-year old canes. Primocane cultivars produce fruit in the first season of cane growth typically from late summer until the first frost or until all potential fruiting sites have flowered.
Shawn Wright, an OSU horticulturist and research associate with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said that primocane-bearing cultivars provide a variety of benefits for both the grower and the consumer.
"Extending the season means higher yields for growers and an extended enjoyment of the fruit for consumers, especially for those who support local pick-your-own establishments," said Wright. "Fall-bearing cultivars are typically more winter hardy since no canes are left that could suffer winter damage, but the low maintenance involved with primocane-bearing cultivars is probably the biggest production advantage."
Traditionally, black raspberries are high maintenance plants that require tedious hand pruning. Pruning is needed to remove the canes that have produced fruit, or that are winter-damaged or weak. With primocane-bearing varieties, plants are mowed right to the ground in the late winter, eliminating 90 percent to 95 percent of the pruning labor. Cut canes still need to be removed from the field, however, to decrease chances of diseases over wintering, but much less fungicide is used.
Wright and horticulturists in other states are evaluating the new primocane-bearing black raspberry variety, ‘Explorer', a product of many years of research based on the breeding and selection work of fruit hobbyist, Peter Tallman, an Colorado resident. While primocane production is not new, there aren't any commercial varieties currently available in Ohio.
In addition to being a healthful fresh snack or an ingredient in a wide variety of desserts, black raspberries are touted for their cancer-fighting benefits. Black raspberries have been the focus of cancer research at Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, and show promise in fighting certain types of esophageal and oral cancers.