Small Fruit News Editors: Amanda McWhirt, Doug Pfeiffer, Jayesh Samtani, and Rebecca Melanson

Over the last year, there have been multiple efforts to identify the major issues affecting blackberry production in the Southeastern U.S. and priorities for research in this area. In an effort to clearly make some of these issues/priorities known to stakeholders throughout the region, we decided to make the April 2021 issue of Small Fruit News a “focus issue” on blackberry in which we define the issues and discuss current research and/or Extension efforts to address those issues.

One of the efforts, conducted in January 2020, was to update the Pest Management Strategic Plan (PMSP) for Blackberries in the Southeastern U.S. Dr. Sara Villani, an Extension Specialist with North Carolina State University, wrote about this effort in the July 2020 edition of Small Fruit News. Part of the reason for updating the PMSP is to identify priorities for research regarding pest management of the crop. Some of the priorities identified for the blackberry PMSP include identification of virus vectors and management of blackberry yellow vein disease and identification/clarification of pathogens causing cane blight and cane blight management. Both blackberry yellow vein disease and cane blight are discussed in this focus issue.

In late 2019 and early 2020, Dr. Margaret Worthington, Assistant Professor with the University of Arkansas, conducted a survey of the blackberry industry nationwide as well as a meeting to identify priorities for breeding, production, and pest management. The results of this work are included in this issue as well as articles addressing some of the priority issues and pests identified from these efforts including labor, weed control, and spotted-wing drosophila (SWD).

In addition to the previously described efforts to identify priorities for research, members of the Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium, which produces Small Fruit News, are currently seeking input from growers on fertilization practices to help direct research in the coming years. To provide input, please complete the short survey.