Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for blackberry production will vary depending on a grower’s operation size, marketing model and individual preferences. Blackberry production machinery and equipment needs will evolve based on plant maturity, and depending on the task, producers may prefer using hand labor, not equipment. The following discussion describes basic machinery and equipment needs for producing blackberries, and it approximates costs incurred from operating machinery involved in the process. Growers may operate owned equipment or engage a custom service provider depending on their access to equipment, expertise, time available and machinery costs.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

The following table lists typical equipment and machinery that growers may use during blackberry establishment and production. In addition to these basic equipment needs, the following discussion describes other equipment that blackberry growers may use.

Preparing a site for blackberry production begins at least as early as the year prior to planting. During site preparation, blackberry growers have several machinery and equipment options. Using herbicides, growers can eliminate perennial weeds and wild brambles from the planting site. Tillage is another option. Next, producers will use plowing or disking operations to cultivate the site. Subsoiling may be helpful if the planting area has a plow pan. As an alternative to tilling an entire field, producers may choose strip tillage, meaning that they only till within the planned planting rows. Planting a cover crop in the prepared site can help to manage soil erosion and weeds. To adjust soil fertility levels to match blackberry needs, apply amendments at least six months before planting blackberries.

Before planting blackberries, the last plowing should target a 6- to 9-inch depth, and then the area should be disked. Producers may benefit from creating raised beds – those with a 6- to 10-inch height and 2- to 3-foot width – in areas where drainage could present a challenge. Building a raised bed could involve machinery including a disk plow or moldboard plow. To address drainage, producers could also consider tiling.

For producers to extend the blackberry growing season, they may consider constructing high tunnels for blackberries instead of planting them in an open field. As plastic-covered hoop houses, high tunnels open along the sides and ends to help with adjusting the temperature and ventilating the tunnel. Relative to greenhouses, high tunnels are less expensive, but they also don’t offer as much protection from environmental elements.

When establishing blackberries, producers may choose from planting root cuttings, conventionally propagated plants and tissue-culture propagated plants. Blackberry growers also usually plant a permanent or semi-permanent cover crop between the rows.

Maintenance requirements for blackberry production tend to be high. Typically, blackberries will need irrigation to have access to enough water throughout the year. To irrigate blackberries, producers could install drip irrigation systems that use drip tape or plastic tubing and emitters. Alternatively, they could use sprinkler systems, but sprinklers can also dampen blackberry fruit and foliage and potentially lead to increased disease issues.

To maintain the row middles, producers can regularly mow them. Blackberry pruning and trellising needs will vary by cultivar. For erect cultivars, tipping the primocanes can involve using hand tools or mechanized equipment designed for that purpose. Pruning will also involve removing diseased, damaged and dead canes. If producers don’t regularly remove dead canes, then they may mow blackberry plants with a sickle bar mower every fourth year; the mowing can also help to manage disease and insect pressure. Some producers choose to mow half of a field every winter as a pruning practice. Mowing will lead to skipping a production year in the mowed area, however. Semi-erect cultivars require a trellis. Maintaining semi-erect blackberries will include tying canes to the trellis and trimming and removing canes as needed. To mechanize the tying process, producers can use tying or banding equipment. After pruning, removed canes can be shredded and then incorporated into the soil by disking. If constructing a trellis, then producers have the shift arm trellis system as an option. This trellis configuration can be expensive and labor-intensive; however, it may protect plants from winter injury and protect blackberry fruit from solar injury.

Weed control methods will vary somewhat depending on the cultivar. For cultivars that grow as separate plants in a row, weed management methods may include hoeing, mechanized cultivating, mulching or applying herbicide. For erect cultivars that grow to create a hedgerow, applying herbicides or mulching along the row may be the preferred methods as the hedge would make weeding by hand or using cultivation more challenging. If using mulch, it can not only reduce weed pressure, but it also can help with keeping the soil moist and protecting blackberry crowns from cold weather. Any cultivation used to control weeds must be shallow to avoid disturbing the root system. Cultivation could also lead to erosion or heat buildup. As an alternative to manage weeds, producers may lay black plastic or weed barrier fabric along blackberry row perimeters.

When producing blackberries, growers may need to apply products to manage pests and diseases. For spraying to control disease, an air blast sprayer works well. To maintain soil fertility in blackberry planting areas, producers should apply fertilizer as the plants bloom and after fruit harvest. When spreading fertilizer, avoid applying it in the furrow near roots. Fertilizer could also be applied through irrigation lines.

In Missouri, blackberries usually are hand-harvested. Mechanical harvesting is another option. However, mechanical harvesters are expensive, and they may be too rough on the fruit, depending on the cultivar. Typically, machine-harvested blackberries are best for processing. Soon after harvest, blackberries need refrigeration. For operations that offer a pick-your-own experience, they rely heavily on customers to harvest berries. Depending on the cultivar, harvesting an acre of blackberries would typically require between 300 customers and 450 customers.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Blackberry Production

Establishment Production
Tractor X X
Subsoil X
Chisel plow X
Disk X
Sprayer X X
Broadcast seeder X
Fertilizer side-dresser X X
Lime application X
Irrigation system X X
Air blast sprayer X
Sickle-bar cutter X
Mower X
Refrigeration system X


Owned and Operated Equipment or Custom Hire Services

Machinery and equipment size and capacity needs will depend on operation scale and influence the related operating or custom hire expenses. The following table compares projected costs for two scenarios. In the first, a grower owns and operates equipment. In the second, a grower hires a custom service provider to carry out equipment-related work. The machinery costs are meant to represent total costs incurred for operating equipment used in blackberry production.

Estimated Machinery Costs and Custom Rates, Per Pass Per Acre





Subsoil $20.60 $17.06
Chisel plow $14.50 $15.23
Tandem disk $12.60 $12.74
Drill $12.80 $14.07
Sprayer $4.30 $6.17
Disk bed $8.74 $12.99
Harrow $8.50 $8.83
Broadcast seeder $6.90 $12.30
Fertilizer side-dresser $12.25
Lime application* $9.34
Irrigation system** $241.00
Air blast sprayer $28.90
Sickle-bar cutter $17.60 $9.40
Mower $23.60 $16.38

* Cost per ton, not including cost of lime

** Cost per acre, not cost per pass per acre per year


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