Extension tours feature improved blackberry varieties and production techniques

The University of Missouri Extension, along with the Webb City Farmers Market, is reaching out to blackberry farmers throughout the state by offering a series of four educational tours and workshops. The first workshop is 1 to 4 p.m. on April 20 at the Southwest Research Farm in Mount Vernon. Other workshops will take place in June, September and November.

Blackberries have been a part of Missouri’s fruit production since the 1900s. They have become substantially more popular over the years, requiring plant breeders and engineers to invest time in how to better produce this fruit. The first tour will demonstrate the planting methods at the Southwest Research Farm.

“This project is designed to promote blackberry growers in Missouri,” said Pat Byers, associate extension professional and horticulture specialist for the Greene County Southwest Region. The event was created because of the huge economic opportunity for farmers, Byers said. Recently, there have been new developments in production technology along with new blackberry varieties. A new trellis design will keep plants and fruit farther off of the ground, but also be flexible so that the plants can be trained to grow in certain directions. The new varieties that have been introduced are thornless, and producers will be able to harvest them from June through September. According to the article “Growing Blackberries in Missouri” published by the State Fruit Experiment Station of Missouri State University, the usual harvest time is in July. It’s a huge game changer in the industry.

“Now that we have the new trellis design and the new varieties, we hope this will make the crop more productive for our farmers,” Byers said.

In the past, Missouri farmers have struggled to produce blackberries because they can be damaged by weather and freeze to the ground. Professionals and specialists are excited about some new aspects spreading through the industry.

“Producers will be able to have higher yields, better quality fruits, less stress on the plants and many more benefits,” said Roland Lenzenhuber, vice president of Forest Lawn Nursery in Jonesburg.

Now the blackberries can be “trained to grow on the new trellis design to essentially have them harvested in the shade,” Byers said.

Each of the tours will feature local and national specialists in blackberry production. Tour leaders will present information about blackberry disease management, insect management and new blackberry varieties.

“In blackberries, different varieties will leaf out and flower at different times,” Lenzenhuber said. “Some bugs don’t become active in a given year until there have been a certain number of days over a specific temperature. They are not biologically matured until that time. Being able to calculate this can help producers know when they will be able to harvest.”

The dates for this project may only be listed for this year, but it takes more than one year to put a project of this magnitude together.

“This is a three-year project, so we will be doing these activities for three years,” Byers said. This is because the demonstration plantings will not bear fruit until next year.

The workshop in June will be held in St. Joseph, and the remaining workshops will take place at the Southwest Research Farm.

Anyone interested in this event should contact the Webb City Farmers Market at 417-486-8139 to register. Registration is $10 per person. Contact the MU Extension in Greene County at 417-881-8909 for more information.

Editor’s note: Roland Lenzenhuber is the reporter’s father.

Cassie Lenzenhuber

About the Author Cassie Lenzenhuber

My name is Cassie Lenzenhuber. I was raised in the small town of Jonesburg, Missouri, about 50 miles east of Columbia. The town may be small, but growing up there has taught me many big lessons. It instilled in me a love for agriculture and a love for people. Graduation is not far off; I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! In May, I will be graduating with a degree in Agriculture with emphases in agricultural journalism, agricultural economics, and animal science. I am excited to see what the next chapter of life has in store for me!