BLACKBERRIES are meant to be black, but sometimes nature intervenes to create a multi-coloured problem for blackberry growers.
A microscopic pest known as redberry mite is thought to cause this uneven ripening of blackberry fruit, typically creating a berry that is half-black and half-red.
The pest poses a significant challenge for Australia’s blackberry industry as damaged fruit is unattractive to consumers, leading to lower marketable yields.
Researchers at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) have commenced a three-year project to identify effective integrated pest management tools and strategies for redberry mite.
TIA researcher and project lead, Dr Stephen Quarrell said commercial blackberry production in Australia is expanding rapidly.
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“We want to support the industry’s ongoing productivity and sustainability,” Dr Quarrell said.
“We are undertaking desktop, laboratory and field-based research to identify tools to prevent and manage redberry mite.
“As part of this, we will trial integrated pest management programs in select locations over two growing seasons.
“The project will include extension activities to share findings with growers and facilitate adoption of new strategies to support industry success, with the aim of enabling an increase in the yield per hectare of marketable blackberries.”
Dr Quarrel said the project would assess the impact of redberry mite on different varieties, climatic regions and blackberries grown outside compared to protected cultivation in tunnels.
“We hope to identify the natural predators of redberry mite and how these can be encouraged, as well as other integrated pest-management solutions,” he said.
The $260,000 project is funded by Hort Innovation using the research and development Rubus industry levy and funds from the Australian Government, supported with in-kind contributions from TIA.