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New Blackberry Variety Yields 'Monster' Berries

The new 'Kiowa' blackberry may be just the fruit for people who love blackberries but hate having to pick so many to make a cobbler, said a University of Georgia expert.

"This berry is a real size breakthrough," said Gerard Krewer, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "Kiowa berries weigh about 10 grams each and are bigger than a quarter. Most other varieties are 5 to 6 grams each — about dime-sized."

Kiowa's release from the University of Arkansas is just in time for Georgia bramble-planting season. Krewer said December to March is the best time to put in new bramble plants, including blackberry and raspberry.

Kiowa is one of several new varieties of "erect" blackberries. Growers prune these types into a hedge row without using a trellis.

"We recommend growers prune these types several times during the summer," Krewer said. These prunings result in a thick hedge of blackberries with the fruit on the outside of the bush and away from the thorns.

Developed blackberry plants are less ferocious than the wild types found in woods or fields. Krewer said blackberries are, essentially, weeds.

"And you have to manage them as such," he said. "You have to keep them pruned and the row middles mowed, or they can take over your yard or garden quickly."

Kiowa has several characteristics that make it a great blackberry for Georgia. UA scientist James N. Moore developed it at the Hope, Ark., experiment station, which is at about the same latitude as Griffin, Ga.

"It appears to be an excellent blackberry for both home gardens and pick-your-own fruit operations in Georgia," Krewer said.

But don't look for these monster berries the first year after planting. Blackberries take two years to fruit and three years to produce a full crop.

"Blackberry canes have a two-year growth and fruiting cycle," Krewer said. "Like so many fruits, they produce berries on last year's plant growth. "

From root cuttings or plants set during the winter, the plants grow canes. These canes grow one year, then fruit and die the next year. While that year's canes are fruiting, new canes emerge for the next year's crop.

Though it's still fairly early in the testing phase, Krewer is excited about the prospects for this new blackberry in Georgia.

You can learn more about growing and managing Kiowa and other bramble fruits on the World Wide Web at <pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C766.htm.

(Gerard Krewer is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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