UACES Facebook June 9 blackberry tour offers insights into harvesting, breeding, trellis techniques
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June 9 blackberry tour offers insights into harvesting, breeding, trellis techniques


May 21, 2021

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts

  • Tour is co-hosted by Ark Blackberry Growers Association
  • Registration deadline is June 4
  • Register here: ly/abga2021

(470 words)

(Newsrooms — With file art – closeup of blackberries and image of Amanda McWhirt with cross arm trellis

LITTLE ROCK — The June 9 Summer Blackberry Tour at the Fruit Research Station near Clarksville will provide growers with insights into trellis techniques, mechanized harvesting and breeding efforts for a fruit that’s growing in popularity among consumers.

According to the Produce Market Guide, blackberry sales increased 5 percent in 2019, the fourth straight year of growth.

Amanda McWhirt with rotating cross arm trellis.
Amanda McWhirt, extension fruit horticulture specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, demonstrates a rotating cross-arm trellis, which is used to grow blackberries

The tour is co-hosted by the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association and the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

The tour runs from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. and includes dinner. Cost to attend is $25, payable the day of the field tour. The tour is free for members of the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association.

The deadline to register is June 4.

Find registration and other information:

“The tour will offer Arkansas blackberry growers the opportunity to see current research and breeding efforts up close and learn about the latest research-based recommendations for improving blackberry production in Arkansas,” said Amanda McWhirt, extension specialist-horticulture crops for the Division of Agriculture. “We are glad to be able to partner with the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association who lead efforts to promote blackberries to consumers in the state. They are a great resource for both new and established growers.”

The tour will also feature updates on breeding efforts within the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, which will be important for consumers wanting to buy local produce.

“These fresh-market blackberries developed by the UA System are in the forefront of a potential surging market of consumers that want locally grown fruit with unique flavors beyond the basic tastes of sweet or sour,” said Renee Threlfall, enology and viticulture research scientist for the Division of Agriculture.  “Current and future blackberry growers in Arkansas have the opportunity learn about new cultivars and their marketability.”

The agenda includes a pre-meeting taste testing plus a lineup of Division of Agriculture researchers and extension experts:

  • Soft-touch robotics prototype display — Renee Threlfall, enology and viticulture research scientist, and Andrea Myers, master’s degree student at the University of Arkansas
  • Experience Arkansas Agriculture — Ron Rainey, director of the Southern Risk Management Education Center
  • Rotating cross-arm trellis training method updates — Amanda McWhirt
  • Broad mites — Aaron Cato, extension horticulture integrated pest management specialist
  • Long-cane blackberries — Ryan Dickson, assistant professor-horticulture
  • Pre-emergent herbicides in blackberry — Matt Bertucci, research scientist-weed science
  • Blackberry breeding trials — Margaret Worthington, assistant professor/fruit breeder
  • Blackberry breeding updates — John Clark, fruit breeder/distinguished professor

The Fruit Research Station is operated by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, part of the Division of Agriculture. Support for this meeting is provided in part by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. 

Coming to a farmers’ market near you

To help connect consumers with locally grown blackberries, the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association is planning a promotional campaign for late June. Details are forthcoming.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit

Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk, @uaex_edu or @ArkAgResearch.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.  If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. 

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Media contact:
Mary Hightower