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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Row Covers Ensure Earlier Crop of Raspberries

LAS CRUCES--Few fruit crops can match the flavor of red raspberries, especially in the fall when cooler weather boosts the fruits' sugar content. However, at higher elevations in New Mexico, the raspberry growing season often in cut short by early fall frost.

"Traditional red raspberries produce their crops in the summer on canes developed the previous summer," said George Dickerson, horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "Traditional berries tend to be more bland and may sunburn since they mature in the summer." Canes also may be damaged by late spring freezes.

Everbearing red raspberries bear fruit in the fall, when it's cool, on canes produced during the same growing season. "Early frosts in the fall can limit production," Dickerson said.

Working with Lincoln County raspberry grower Hershel Anderson, Dickerson has found that promoting earlier growth of canes in the spring using row covers also promotes earlier fruit production. "This increases yields and profits," he said.

The woven polypropylene row covers are placed over the dormant canes in early spring, using wire hoops for support and fabric pins to anchor them to the soil. Although the greenhouse-like structures warm the soil and promote early growth, temperatures rarely become excessive because the fabric is porous.

Outside temperatures can drop several degrees below freezing and the row covers will still protect the plants.

"We've had a lot of success with these row covers," Dickerson said. "Last year, we increased cane height by 40 percent and early production by more than 200 percent. Results this year look excellent."

Anderson's Serendip Orchard is located one mile west of Lincoln. Besides raspberries, he sells blackberries and processed jams.

"Raspberries are becoming very popular with New Mexico growers," Dickerson said. Along with Anderson, Allan Robinson and Apache Creek near Reserve sells fresh raspberries and jams at the Albuquerque Growers' Market. In Old Mesilla near Las Cruces, Lowry Farms and Jim Hawman's Truck Farms specialize in both raspberries and blackberries.

The oldest and largest grower of raspberries in the state is Salman Ranch, located in La Cueva five miles east of Mora.