Blackberries: a model for integrating research with outreach and education to farmers and the public
A research project to evaluate the performance of seven thornless blackberry (Rubus sp.) cultivars grown on an innovative rotating cross arm (RCA) trellis was established at the University of Missouri Southwest Research Center, Mount Vernon, MO, USA in April 2016. The project presented a unique framework for outreach education activities to farmers, home gardeners, and the public. Nine farmer workshops centered on the planting focused on blackberry production practices through the growing season, highlighting the use of thornless cultivars and the RCA trellis. A demonstration project in the planting highlighted monitoring and control of spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), a devastating invasive insect pest. Three taste-testing events encouraged farmers and the public to evaluate characteristics of blackberry fruit from the project. Several hundred youth learned integrated pest management practices during events in the planting. Local food pantries and a child-feeding program distributed blackberry fruit from the planting, increasing awareness of locally grown blackberries to over 500 members of a new demographic rarely reached through research projects. Tours and blackberry processing demonstrations increased awareness of blackberries to several hundred members of the general public. A volunteer program instituted at the research site allowed home gardeners to gain skills in growing blackberries while becoming fully engaged in the research. Yield, pest incidence, and fruit quality data from the study will form the foundation of a revised Blackberry Grower Guide that will further benefit established and potential new farmers.
Byers, P.L., Thomas, A.L. and Nichols, E. (2019). Blackberries: a model for integrating research with outreach and education to farmers and the public. Acta Hortic. 1265, 55-62
andragogy, result demonstration, rotating cross arm trellis, floricane, primocane