Domestic production of raspberry covers around 50% of the wholesale market, but with more than 90% of the harvest in July and August. Both industry and market want a higher and more stable access to inland raspberry also in June, September and October. Furthermore, there is an ambition to establish a blackberry production supporting the market from June to October. The project 'RobustRubus' will therefore develop new solutions for economically and environmentally sustainable production of raspberry and blackberry. To achieve this, RobustRubus will i) introduce new, high-quality cultivars adapted to Nordic climate and light conditions; ii) improve the understanding of environmental reactions in raspberry and blackberry cultivars for rapid and economically sound adaption to new production systems and environments; iii) introduce new, locally produced substrates to reduce the use of peat and adapt watering/fertilization (fertigation) regimes to such media; iv) introduce automated tools for fertigation; v) introduce sustainable means to replace synthetic chemicals and subsequently reduce resistance development; vi) based on the obtained interdisciplinary results further develop existing platforms for interaction among growers, other industry, advisors and researchers for application of new technologies and achievements; and vii) offer internships and thesis subjects for students and a postdoctoral scholarship.
Over the recent years, the berry industry has received an increasing request for more domestically produced raspberry for fresh consumption outside the current major harvesting season in July and August. There is also a market demand for an increase in blackberry production from near nil today. The primary focus of RobustRubus is therefore to provide the basis for extended-season cultivation in high plastic tunnels of both crops, i.e. harvesting from June to October. However, results from the project may also be used in the traditional open-field production. The project will investigate how we can better exploit high-quality and high-yielding annual and bi-annual cultivars adapted to Nordic climatic conditions. For a rapid and economically sound adaptation of the cultivars, we seek to advance the understanding of their reactions to temperature, light and growth media. To ensure the establishment of wood fibre as a viable growing media, watering and fertilization will be thoroughly adapted to cultivars, growth phases, time of the season and environmental conditions. A life cycle assessment (LCA) will be performed to compare environmental sustainability among growth media and high plastic tunnel vs. open field production. Both in transplant and fruit production of the two crops, it is expected that RobustRubus will contribute to a substantial reduction in current use of synthetic chemicals by introducing several non-chemical means in the control of fungal pathogens and mites. For rapid transfer of new knowledge and ensure economically viable innovation, the advisors in the project will have a continuous communication with the growers and pay weekly to bi-weekly on-site visits at production sites. The project will contribute to recruitment of the industry by yearly offering student internships for work experience and thesis subjects based at research stations and/or regional advisory offices, and a postdoctoral fellowship in plant pathology will also be offered.
FFL-JA-Forskningsmidlene for jordbruk og matindustri