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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


New Blackberry Varieties Can Overcome Winter

February 14, 2005

PIKETON, Ohio — New blackberry varieties are now available to Ohio fruit growers that erase the production limitation associated with crop overwintering.

Primocane blackberries are a new kind of plant designed specifically for temperature-sensitive areas. Whereas traditional blackberry varieties grown in Ohio face limitations because of winter kill, primocane blackberries can survive winter conditions with temperatures dropping as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit.

"Fluctuating temperatures during winter limits production of less-hardy blackberry varieties," said Shawn Wright, an Ohio State University horticulturist with the South Centers at Piketon in Piketon, Ohio. "Primocane berries, because of their winter hardiness, may have potential in Ohio."

Wright will discuss primocane blackberry production and cultivars that are available at the Berry Growers School, being held Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ohio State's South Centers at Piketon. Pre-registration for the conference is $50, due by Feb. 18. At-the-door registration is $60. Fees include a lunch.

Research on primocane blackberries has been led by John R. Clark with the Department of Horticulture at the University of Arkansas. South Centers is in its first year of evaluations of the fruit, and the Ohio studies mark the first use of the berries in the state.

Wright said that primocane blackberries are an attractive alternative for fruit growers because of their low maintenance. They are meant to be mowed back in the fall, resulting in little pruning labor. Additionally, unlike most traditional varieties that bear fruit on the second year canes, primocane blackberries will bear fruit the first year the cane becomes established. One drawback is that primocane blackberries are very thorny.

Two cultivars of primocane blackberries are currently available: Prime Jim and Prime Jan. They were made available for purchase through nurseries just last year.

Other topics of discussion at the Berry Growers School include management of berry crop pests, raspberry production, plasticulture strawberries and disease management. Presenters include researchers from Ohio State Extension and research and Penn State University.

For more information on the event, contact Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State University Extension horticulturist, at (740) 289-2071 or e-mail To register for the event, contact Kelly Roberts at (740) 289-2071 or e-mail

For more information on primocane blackberries, contact Shawn Wright at (740) 289-2071 or e-mail

Candace Pollock
Shawn Wright