Submitted to: Journal Subtropical Plant Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 12, 2007
Publication Date: December 20, 2007
Citation: Makus, D.J. 2007. Use of fabric and plastic barriers to control weeds in blackberries. Journal Subtropical Plant Science. 59:95-103. Interpretive Summary: About 18,000 acres of blackberries are grown in North America. Weed control is a serious problem for organic producers and those who wish to reduce their reliance on herbicides. By using durable landscape fabrics and an industrial white-on-black plastic, weeds were completely controlled in the first fruiting year and fruit yield and berry quality improved compared to the non-fabric control. This should result in lower production cost to the producer and less reliance on chemical and mechanical weed control. Fabrics are expected to last for several years.
Technical Abstract: Weed control in blackberries (Rubus spp.) is a serious problem for organic producers and those who wish to reduce their reliance on herbicides. Three landscape fabrics (Dewitt, Texel, and a white polyester weave) and one industrial grade white on black plastic were used in conjuction with newly planted ‘Kiowa’ root cuttings in Feb. 2006. In the no-fabric treatment, weeds were controlled by hand. The reflectant white plastic and weave weed barriers reduced mid-summer soil temperatures at 10 cm and reduced the magnitude in soil temperature fluctuation. None of the weed barriers had an effect on soil water content measured at 0 to 20 cm. Plant vigor and height were improved by use of weed barriers. White plastic improved the cumulative season yield by 30% in 2007 compared to other barriers or bare soil. Fruit from bare soil plants showed the greatest decline in average fruit size during the picking season. Fruit from plants grown in bare soil were lowest in soluble solids and sugar:acid ratio compared to fruit from weed barrier treatments. Fruit grown over white plastic had the highest mean soluble solids and sugar:acid ratios; both reflectant weed barriers improved berry anthocyanin levels.