shade for better plant growth, fruit growth, southern region


Primocane fruiting blackberry production in Arkansas is limited by heat during the flowering and early fruiting season. Shade could be used to delay flowering and fruiting to more favorable growth period. This study was designed to test three levels of shade (0% [control], 30% and 50% shading) applied at three times during the growing season that examined the growth, development, physiology of flowering, and fruiting of ‘Prime-Ark® 45’ blackberries. The seven treatments were as follows: 1) an untreated control (CK), 2) early shade 30% (ES30), mid shade 30% (MS30), 4) late shade 30% (LS30), 5) early shade 50% (ES50), 6) mid shade 50% (MS50), and 7) late shade 50% (LS50). The 30% and 50% treatments were implemented 16 June (ES) and left on for 95 days, 1 July (MS) and left on for 80 days, and 15 July (LS) and left on for 66 days. All shade was removed 19 Sept. 2014. Foliar gas exchange using CIRAS®-3 portable gas exchange monitor and estimated chlorophyll content (Minolta SPAD®) were measured weekly. Beginning at maturity, fruit was harvested biweekly to determine fruit yields per plot. Plant growth was measured destructively at the end of the study period. The cumulative berry weight was greatest for LS50 and LS30 which was not different from the CK or MS50, while ES30, MS30, and ES50 berry weights were significantly less. The cumulative marketable weights were greatest for LS30 and CK, while ES30 and MS30 were less than the CK. Shade altered flower and fruit production, but was not found to result in higher fruit quantities compared to the control. Some ES treatments reduced cropping compared to LS treatments.