First-Ever UC Cost Study for Primocane-Bearing Blackberries Released

Primocane-Bearing Extends Production Season

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR

The first-ever cost study of primocane-bearing blackberries in California has been published by UC ANR’s Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension. With primocane-bearing, growers can extend the blackberry production season.

“What differentiates primocane-bearing blackberry from the traditional floricane-bearing is that it bears fruit in the first year rather than the second,” explained co-author Mark Bolda, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor.

“Which, of course, opens a world of opportunity for growers, since they are able to produce fruit in the first year rather than the second, as has traditionally been the case,” Bolda said. “That’s what makes this study so interesting to us.”

Primocanes are the green, vegetative stalks of the blackberry plant, generally the first-year cane. The second year, they become floricanes, flowering and fruiting. 

The study presents sample costs to establish, produce, and harvest primocane-bearing blackberries in the Central Coast region of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties.

The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed farming operation using practices common to the region. The costs, materials and practices shown in this study will not apply to all farms. Growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors, and other agricultural associates provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.

This study assumes a farm operation size of 30 contiguous acres of rented land, with primocane-bearing blackberries for fresh market planted on 15 acres. The crop is hand-harvested and packed into 4.5 pound trays. During the establishment year, there is a four-month harvest: July through August. Primocane blackberries can produce fruit on first-year growth. There is also a four-month harvest for each of the four production years.

The authors describe assumptions in detail and present a table of costs and returns based on those assumptions about production, input materials, prices, and yields. A ranging analysis shows the impact on net returns of alternative yields and prices. Other tables show the monthly cash costs; the costs and returns per acre; hourly equipment costs; and the whole farm annual equipment, investment, and business overhead costs.

The study also has an expanded section on labor, which includes information on California’s new minimum wage and overtime laws.

“This work investigating the economics of a newer cultural system for our area came out of a close collaboration between UCCE academics and area growers,” said Bolda, who serves Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, “so the level of detail and accuracy is outstanding.”

Free copies of this study and other sample costs of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.

The cost and returns studies program is funded by the UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension, both of which are part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact the UC Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or UC Cooperative Extension advisors Mark Bolda (831) 763-8025 or Laura Tourte (831) 763-8005 in Santa Cruz County.

Berry Industry Without Methyl Bromide

Berry Industry Must Now Work Smarter in Post Methyl Bromide Era

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The strawberry fruit production industry, with the exception of plant nurseries, has reached the point where methyl bromide is no longer available under any circumstances, and new alternatives or strategies must be found to protect strawberries from serious diseases.

The University of California is focused on a holistic approach, which includes the tried-and-true method of integrated pest management in this post Methyl Bromide era.

“None of the alternative fumigants are as good as methyl bromide,” said Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor for Santa Cruz County, who is working closely with growers on alternative methods. “So one area that we could focus on is different strategies at the time of planting. For example, strawberries have different chill times. You must add cold conditioning to give the plant more vigor.”

Mark Bolda

There are many questions. Could the colors of the plastic mulch that growers are using manage the temperatures of the soil? How about the amount of fertilizer that is being used?

“We need to start integrating these variables into the way we grow strawberries with the lack of fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide,” Bolda explained. “We need to integrate all these things and others in order to grow berries with the lack of available fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide.”

“It’s a little disappointing that here we are at zero-hour and we do not have this worked out,” he continued. “The University of California Cooperative Extension have had a number of meetings in my office, as well as other places where we get many people in the same room to try to figure out what we know and what we don’t know.”

“There’s a lot of smart people in the industry, and I know we can get on this and find solutions,” he said.

Secretary Ross Joins Ag in the Classroom Event

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

More than 220 California educators and volunteers attended an annual California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference earlier this month to learn about agriculture and connecting Common Core to California crops. The conference, hosted by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC), was held October 16-18 in Santa Cruz County and provided participants with free resources and valuable avenues for teaching Common Core, STEM, and school garden/nutrition lessons.

The program, designed for educators, administrators, and community volunteers, presented opportunities to explore the agricultural industry and enhance existing curriculum with examples and scenarios about food and fiber production.

California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross welcomed the group of educators along with Dr. Jim Painter, professor emeritus at Eastern Illinois University. Renee Shepherd, owner of Renee’s Garden, also spoke to the educators and Michael Marks, Your Produce Man, closed the conference with trivia about the more than 400 crops grown in California. Conference participants were able to experience the variety of agriculture at the conference and were able to learn directly from leading agricultural experts.

In her comments, Secretary Ross shared the importance of California agriculture, emphasizing the many things that stem from from agriculture, and helped teach the educators the 5 F’s of agriculture – Food, Fiber, Forests, Flowers, and Fuel.

From cut flowers and strawberries to artichokes and timber, Santa Cruz County is the smallest agriculture producing county in California in land mass and one of the most diverse.

The California Ag in the Classroom conference empowers attendees to return to their classrooms and school communities confident and capable of sharing the importance of agriculture’s significant impact on California and its economy with their students.