Blackberry Flowers in January

Up until very recently, we have not had much cold weather in south Mississippi. In fact, as of last week we had accumulated fewer than 200 chill hours (that will be much higher this week after the recent cold snap).  A couple of days before the cold came sweeping through, I wandered among the ‘Chickasaw’ and ‘Kiowa’ blackberries here on the station in Poplarville.  At first I thought what I saw was an anomaly — a single instance; however, as I walked the field I saw several buds popping open like those in the photos below.

Fully open flower on 'Chickasaw' blackberry in early January 2016 in south Mississippi

Fully open flower on ‘Chickasaw’ blackberry in early January 2016 in south Mississippi

More buds just starting to pop open. They will wish they hadn't when the cold weather sets in.

More buds just starting to pop open. They will wish they hadn’t when the cold weather sets in.

So what is the overall outlook here? The exposed flowers will certainly be damaged in the cold.  We reached about 25 degrees here in Poplarville on Monday morning. That should be cold enough to damage open flowers. What else? Any tissue that was actively growing will get zapped.  Is it enough to worry about in terms of crop reduction? I would say no. Even though there were numerous plants exhibiting these symptoms of budbreak, there were still plenty of dormant buds to pick up the slack later on.

Since this study is used for disease expression, we won’t spray anything to control any fungi that may come about on dying tissue. However, it would be a good idea to keep a close eye on plants and see if evidence of botrytis comes it. Anthracnose, another problem disease, is something else to consider controlling when the bushes are dormant.

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