The black ones can be picked now. The dark pink ones need another day or two. Russ Wallace’s greener blackberries will be there before you know it, too. The Texas A&M AgriLife fruit and vegetable specialist is satisfied with his quickly growing blackberry crop. “I think they’ve held up pretty well,” he told a group of visitors during a field day Friday morning. “I didn’t realize blackberries grew that fast, but they do.” Actually, the entire project is about learning. The berries grow in 30- by 96-foot-high tunnels outside the AgriLife research station a few miles north of Lubbock. Similar structures have held Wallace’s tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. Success with the strawberries was a main source of inspiration. That fruit produced better than he expected — after its first year, at least — leading him to try another berry. “I thought, ‘I’m gonna throw some blackberries in the tunnel and see what happens,’” he said modestly. He’s not the only one growing blackberries with some success in the Lubbock area, as visitors to the field day attested.
They’ve brought their share of trouble — think constantly pruning, fertilizing and avoiding painful thorns while you hand-harvest — but can be worth the effort. Like strawberries, blackberries have a high profit margin. Part of the project involves a cost-benefit analysis to help Wallace determine whether to recommend them to other growers.
At least one grower can’t wait to get started.
Lucinda Mann raises chickens, tomatoes and a host of other commodities in East Lubbock County. A familiar face at local farmers markets, she’s planning to build a high tunnel of her own and add some blackberries. “It’s different, and I like growing stuff that’s different,” she said. “They’re beautiful, and I think they’ll be a great addition to my operation.”
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