Shade cloth for fall bearing blackberry druplet abortion/malfunction problems in southeastern USA

2014 Annual Report for FS13-276

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $6,458.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Walker Miller
The Happy Berry Bunch

Shade cloth for fall bearing blackberry druplet abortion/malfunction problems in southeastern USA


A fully executed agreement was completed May 7, 2014 and work was begun. The spring blackberry season (growth of fruit buds and flowering) had already begun. Materials were purchased by the project leader, normal extra seasonal help hired and installation of the trellis system commenced. This is a busy time of year and we started out way behind the proposed timeline of the grant proposal. This meant a loss opportunity to use sweat equity of the project leader for installation. The trellis was up and in place by the end of June despite the fact that is a very difficult time of year because of low cash flow (harvest has not started) and the project proposal does not cover these costs.   The trellis system handled very nicely the hilly uneven terrain of the western inner Piedmont plateau. A loan was obtained through Farm Credit (Ag South) to purchase the shade cloth and max-min thermometers weather boxes and etc. Despite communication problems shade cloth was obtained and up by early August with everything in place by August 18, 2014. Data collection commenced.

Because spring/early summer harvest was done by this time, no data was collected on spring/early summer harvested berries. In addition there was 50 percent crop loss due to late spring freeze on April 16. The primocane bearing berries Prime Ark and Black Magic were in their third leaf from plug starters. Primocane production was vigorous with lots of fruit terminals. Typically, as reported by the breeder, Dr. John Clark of the University of Arkansas, fall yields are 10% of spring yields. We were only getting 1 plus quarts of berries per 500 feet of row per day which was further compromised by spotted wing drosophila and a undiagnosed malady we called “blackberry etch.” Conversations with another grower that had a planting that is in its’ fourth leaf is getting 20 quarts a day from 600 feet of row so we are optimistic that we will get much better yields next year.  Because of this an “executive decision” was made to use phenotypic indicators, measuring floral competence as a predictor of berry normality, to evaluate the performance of the shade cloth. This data, along with temperature data, was collected daily till frost on November 2 and 3, 2014. The results to date were reported at the Southeastern Fruit and Vegetable Conference (SEFVC) in Savannah Georgia, January 8, 2015 In the Bramble Session of this conference and are attached here as a Power Point Presentation.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Develop a trellis system for shade cloth deployment and retraction that would enable normal tractor operation for mowing, air assisted spraying and directed weed management sprays using locally available supplies. The second objective is to verify hypothesized impacts of lower summer temperatures improved quality berries and reduced heat loss in frost events.


The farm is visited each year by about 6000 families/clients. By the time we got the trellis up we had the explanation of what a SARE Producer Grant Project was and what we were trying to do “down pat.” Therefore a lot folks learned about SARE. We were a featured tour during the September 15 to 17 meeting of the Southeastern Professional Fruit Workers conference held at the Clemson University Madren Center. The group is made up of horticulturists, entomologist, pathologist, area and county agents. Thirty one were in attendance at the field day and observed the plots. Numerous questions and discussion were held about the objectives and observations to that point in time. As discussed above a status report was given at the SEFVC in Savannah. Although the proceedings are digitally available to all there were about 65 growers in attendance. Normally a thousand or more attend the Conference and trade show. Cooperators Andy Rollins, Clemson University Area Agent, Richard Figlar, local weather observer and Dr. Dale Linville, Retired Agricultural Meteorologist from Clemson University also visited the site for observation and consulting. Results to date have been discussed by phone with growers Dick Perdue, Andy Callaham and George Gray.

See Power Point Presentation attachment: Using Shade Cloth on Blackberries

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The project will be continued in 2015 as planned in the project proposal.