Farmers interested in learning more about growing blueberries or blackberries can learn from the experiences of other growers and University of California researchers at two days of berry-themed events this May. Highlights of the events include a tour of blueberry packing houses and a demonstration of blackberry trellis systems.
This year's blueberry field day events will begin May 19, with the Blueberry Field and Packing House tour. The tour starts at 1 p.m. at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., in Parlier, and will visit different blueberry farming operations. The tour will focus on the packing operations used by different growers, from automated systems used by larger-scale producers to other options used by smaller-scale growers in their blueberry packing houses.
The Blueberry and Blackberry Field Day will be from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., May 20, at the Kearney center. Final results of several of the blueberry field trials originally planted in 2001 will be discussed, including trials focused on variety, mulch, irrigation, plant spacing and plant size.
Manuel Jimenez, small farm program advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Tulare County, is organizing the event that has become an annual gathering for potential and successful blueberry growers of all sizes.
"My focus for small growers is really trying to find cultivars that are conducive to resale and farmers markets," Jimenez said. "Large growers are looking for high yield, but the really good-tasting varieties don't yield as much."
Blackberries will also be on the agenda for the day. Jimenez noted that a primary topic for blackberries will be a rotating trellis system to prevent sunburn for late-season blackberries.
"Historically, we've grown early varieties of blackberry pretty successfully, like ollalie and sylvan. Varieties that ripen in June and July usually sunburn," he explained. "We have a system that we think may prove to help minimize the sunburn on blackberries, especially if they're looking to produce later in the season." Registration for the Blueberry Field and Packing House bus tour on May 19 is $20, due by May 13. Registration for Blueberry and Blackberry Field Day on May 20 is $25 until May 13; after May 13 registration is $35.
To register, contact Mary Bejarano at [email protected]  or (559) 685-3309, ext. 202.
Details about the event — including post-event wrap-up — are available at www.sfp.ucdavis.edu/events/09blueberries/ .