by Tim Nourse
Nourse Farms reports on the trends we see with strawberry varieties, key observations on Niwot black raspberry, and our asparagus 14-year trial results.
Strawberry Varieties and Their Performance - There is a reason varieties perform differently from grower to grower. Different growing regions, different soil types and soil management, different results desired by each grower and varying crop management all are factors that influence variety performance from farm to farm. Here are my observations on strawberry performance:
1. EARLY: We have 2 prominent early varieties which are excellent planted in their adapted locations: Galletta and Wendy. Their performance can change with grower location. Earliglow and Annapolis are also important varieties, as they are well adapted for various conditions and requirements.
2. EARLY MID-SEASON: Honeoye remains the dominant variety in this group of varieties. Yambu, a new variety with Honeoye as one of its parents, is recognized for its high yields and excellent flavor, but lacks some berry firmness. Brunswick and Cavendish remain in good demand because of their performance and adaptability to a wide range of conditions.
3. MID-SEASON: Jewel, our #1 selling variety for many years, is known for its excellent characteristics. Growers also now recognize Flavorfest for its great flavor, disease resistance and plant vigor; its demand continues to grow. Darselect remains a popular choice in this category, but demands special nutrient and soil management. It has high yields and berry quality. Sonata and Allstar remain popular where adaptability to certain soil conditions is required or a specific flavor component is desired.
4. LATE MID-SEASON: Cabot is the main variety in this group. Although difficult to grow, Cabot is in high demand because of its very large fruit size, high yield and great taste. Mayflower is the most dependable variety in this ripening season, with good plant vigor and firm berries that resist rain conditions. Flavor changes from site to site. Clancy remains popular in the Pacific Northwest and its other adapted conditions. Dickens, a new introduction, was planted by growers for the first time in 2019.
5. LATE-SEASON: AC Valley Sunset continues to grow in demand as a variety because of its berry size, quality and season extension. Malwina has quickly become very popular, because of its late fruiting into July. Although dark red in color, it has great flavor.
6. DAY-NEUTRAL VARIETIES: Albion and Seascape are the highest demand varieties, but San Andreas and Evie-2 have an important place with many growers. The dayneutral varieties continue to increase in demand but the variety mix remains relatively stable.
Niwot - A Proven Performer - Niwot was introduced in 2014 as the first primocane black raspberry variety available. Over the past several years, growers have discovered its advantages and learned how to grow it. Niwot has established itself as a high-performing floricane variety, fruiting as early as Bristol and sometimes earlier. The fruit size is larger than Bristol, improving harvest efficiency. In addition, the harvest period extends through to the Mac Black harvesting period. Our experience indicates that Niwot is easier to harvest than Jewel--whose fruit are in tight clusters--and the fruit are also firmer. In our next planting at Nourse Farms, we are replacing Bristol and Jewel with Niwot. Hand harvest efficiency is difficult with black raspberries. From our experiences, Niwot will help to decrease our harvest costs. We have experienced poor results with Niwot as a primocane variety. We have tried tipping it to increase the fall crop, but it delayed harvest to be too late. Even without tipping Niwot, its crop is light and too late for our region.
Asparagus Trial Results - Nourse Farms has been conducting asparagus trials for over 20 years. Our trials have consisted of the varieties we offer in our catalog. In our newest trial we added 3 new selections from Europe to test with our established varieties, looking for new and better varieties. This season we terminated a 14-year-old trial, and report our results here. Our trials are not replicated, but we accumulate the daily harvested amounts from year to year to have an idea on the overall yield and yearly performance. For the past 5 years of this trial, we harvested over 6,000 pounds of asparagus each year on an acre basis. For the past 2 years our yields have been just under 7,000 pounds on an acre basis. In conclusion, our results show that Millennium was the highest performing variety in our trial because:
1. The stand of plants when the trial ended was about the same as when it was planted. The stands of Jersey Knight and Jersey Supreme had developed skips.
2. The uniformity of the spears of Millennium was excellent. The other 2 varieties had more variability which influences the speed of bunching.
3. Millennium also out-yielded the Supreme and Knight.
4. We are now in the 5th year of the new trial and we see the same trends of plant stand and spear uniformity.
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