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Tips for Berry Production in the Middle Rio Grande

participants at the berry workshop, row close-upSanchez Farms County Open Space in the South Valley near Albuquerque recently hosted a berry workshop.  Approximately 50 participants turned out for the hands-on education, and got their hands dirty planting two 100- foot rows of blackberries and raspberries. 

Dr. Ron Walser lead the workshop.  Walser is the urban small farm specialist and state fruit specialist from NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas.  The following insights and tips for berry production were presented at the workshop:

  • Variety Selection- Semi-trailing blackberries and Triple Crown or Caroline red raspberries were recommended for the Albuquerque area. The dormant bare root plants on hand for the workshop came from Nourse Nurseries, however, they can be found locally at Osuna Nursery, Plants of the Southwest, or other locat nurseries.
  • Planting Techniques- Blackberries and raspberries require different spacing and depth.  Blackberry roots tend to grow downwards and need a deeper hole for planting, while the raspberries roots spread more laterally and perform fine when planted more shallow.
  • Pest Management-  Blackberries are reported to be mostly pest free. Raspberries tend to be vulnerable towards mites, whereupon 1% summer oil can be used as an organic pesticide.  Bird netting is recommended if birds appear to be getting the best of your crop. 
  • Drip Irrigation-  Above ground poly drip lines are recommended and offer fertigation possibilities. (Fertigation is injecting liquid fertilization into the drip lines.) 
  • Trellising- Blackberry canes should be allowed to grow year to year gaining woody growth supported with a two wire trellis. The raspberries, while they thrive best being cut to ground level each season, require just one level of wire.
  • Organic weed control- Punching holes into black plastic mulch is recommended and has been effective for weed management.
  • Fertilization- Berries need nitrogen.  Soil well prepped with broken down aged manure works well. Liquid nitrogen is recommended, and has proven to work well for production over the growing season.

Determining which high-value fruit and berry varieties will prosper in the Middle Rio Grande Valley has been, and continues to be Walser's goal.  According to Walser, if all goes well for the producer, one can earn $15,000 annually for an acre of berries.  For those of you now rushing out to take on berry production, it may help to know that raspberry plants tend to live for 12 years, while blackberries can live upwards of 25 years.  Happy planting!

For more information about this berry production workshop, or other future workshops, you can contact the Bernalillo County Extension Office at 505 243-1386.

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