Picking the appropriate varieties for your operation is one of the most important decisions a grower can make.
Given these are primarily perennial crops, small fruit can be a long-term investment, making it difficult to change varieties once established. At Nourse Farms, the #1 question we field from growers is “What varieties should I grow?”. This article outlines for strawberries and brambles the common questions we ask growers regarding their variety needs and any additional factors to consider.
STRAWBERRY VARIETIES - One key suggestion we give growers is the importance of trialing a variety at their location before planting on a large scale. Variety performance is indicative of the conditions under which they are grown – a “dog” for another grower might be your “Blue Ribbon” variety. With over several dozen strawberry varieties available in the marketplace today, there are many options to consider.
COMMON QUESTIONS WE ASK:
How do you plan to market the berries? Wholesale growers require a large berry which is not only firm but will hold in refrigeration for a time. For many pick-your own farms, flavor and fruit quality are top considerations. Some varieties, like Jewel, can meet both needs.
What are the Field conditions? A good disease resistance package is a priority for farms that have grown berries for many years with limited land for rotation or that have heavy, wet soil.
How long do you want to be picking berries? Some growers want the longest season extension possible. In those cases, we not only recommend very early varieties like AC Wendy, a mid-season variety and then our very latest June-bearing variety Malwina (ripens in mid-late July in many areas). To extend it even further, day-neutral varieties, like Albion and Seascape can keep you picking strawberries in the late spring as well into the fall. On the flip side, there are operations that due to the various crops they produce, prefer strawberries for a shorter window of time. In those cases, highly productive varieties like Galletta, Honeoye and Jewel are options.
Where are you located? In more northern locations (zones 3 & 4) with very cold winter temperatures, hardiness is a key priority. Annapolis, Cavendish and Honeye are varieties often considered. In southern locations, varieties that can withstand high temperatures, like Chandler are necessary.
Are you growing on a matted row or plasticulture system? Most varieties we sell should grow well in either system. AC Wendy, Galletta, Darselect, Flavorfest & Cabot are varieties that have performed particularly well in the plasticulture system. In the matted row system, varieties that are vigorous and runner well are of interest, from a plant stand perspective, for filling out the row.
BRAMBLE VARIETIES - Like strawberries, many options are available for bramble varieties – red, black, yellow and purple raspberries, blackberries and many at different ripening times. Nourse Farms offers 29 varieties of raspberry and blackberry plants for your choosing.
COMMON QUESTIONS WE ASK:
Are you looking for summer production, fall production, or both? Let’s start with a review of raspberry terminology. Floricane varieties are a perennial raspberry that bears fruit on the second-year canes that survived the winter. Primocane varieties are also a perennial raspberry; the key difference is they bear fruit on first year canes. Also known as everbearing, they can produce berries the following summer on canes that survived the winter. In many years past, while berries were produced, not every variety would yield fresh market quality. In recent years, newer primocane varieties have been released that will produce two marketable crops per year. These include Prelude, Himbo Top® (RAFZAQU), Joan J, and Polka.
How do you plan to market the berries – wholesale, retail, or pick-your-own? A marketing plan is vital when you begin planning! Where red raspberries have always been the mainstay, particularly in the wholesale and retail sectors, we see an increasing interest in black and yellow raspberries. At our Nourse Farms fruit operation, we consistently sell out of black and yellow raspberries to our commercial market customers. The various colors really add to local farm stand retail sales as it’s something your competition will likely not have. Different colors also = different flavors! Pick-your-own operations are also interested in these different variety of color options for increasing overall sales per customer.
Where are you located? In northern areas, winterhardiness is a key factor in choosing a variety. As an example, in zone 3 locations, your best options would be Boyne, Nova and Polana. Variety options open up significantly in zones 4 and higher. Black raspberries and blackberries should only be grown in zones 5 and higher unless swing type trellises are used which allow canes to be mulched for winter protection. On the flip side, in zones 7 & 8, care should be taken in variety selection to ensure the fruit can handle intense summer heat.
What are the field conditions? Disease resistance is an important factor in variety selection. Planting in a rich, well-drained soil with drip irrigation on raised beds will yield the best results. In cases, though where the fungus Phytophthora root rot may be present or if you have poor drainage, choosing a tolerant variety like TulaMagic is a good option. Blackberries and black raspberries are less susceptible than many red and purple raspberry varieties.
Please always contact us with questions you may have about variety selection and what may work best in your specific situation.