New Tool Makes Annual Berry Pruning Easy

Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to field-test newer electronic hand-held pruners from Pellenc America, Inc. that use lithium-ion battery power. At first, I admit to being dubious of such a lightweight, battery-powered pruner really being able to cut through older, tough stems of blueberry plants. For sustaining top production of heaviest yielding blueberry plants, each year some of the oldest, gray-bark stems should be removed near the base of the plants.

Dr. Gary Pavlis at Rutgers University is widely known and recognized as a leading blueberry Extension/research scientist. He developed the “1 to 6 rule” that has served blueberry growers so well: For every six old stems in a blueberry plant, annually remove one of them as a minimum guide for renewing these long-living perennial plants. These low cuts removing old, less fruitful stems stimulate crowns to produce new, vigorously growing, strong, young replacement stems. Our field experience with this rule proved over and over that such annual pruning of blueberries by selective annual removal of basal stems does wonders to improve yields and berry size! Even on young plants that do not have six stems by year four after planting, we begin that year to remove one old stem, the original stem that was the main stem at planting. Such basal stem removal stimulates new stems.

You cannot obtain blueberry plant vigor and sustain or improve yields without annual stem removal! Don’t “rest” on your laurels and skip a year once your plants reach four years of age. Conversely, what if you have older plants that still do not have six stems? Get stern with them and cut one out of each such plant. Only basal pruning generates new stems with higher yields and larger berries. What if you have old plants with only one or maybe two large stems and no younger stems? Cut those plants down completely with a chain saw. You will lose the next year’s crop, but by the second year many new stems will be fruiting because you gave those plants a new life.

Time And Effort Savings

As I visited and worked with growers as an Extension horticulturist in Virginia before retirement, I noted that many growers just never found the time and energy to get their pruning job done each and every year. As I grew older, and with commercial blueberries at our berry farm, I too found this job, each and every winter, to be more difficult to complete because it is hard, slow work using hand loppers.

Recently I received a demonstration loaner electronic hand pruner from Pellenc, which is headquartered in France but has manufacturing plants and sales/service offices in most countries of the world. These pruners are widely accepted and used by table and winegrape growers as well as by nursery growers of landscape woody plants as they prune and shape their plants annually. When I asked one of Pellenc’s U.S. distributors if they had sold one of these newer, lithium-ion battery-powered hand pruners to blueberry growers, they said no, not yet. So, I was skeptical, knowing first-hand how hard and tough it is to cut such older blueberry lower stem wood.

I decided to give the demo unit a trial, and I became a quick believer in its power to cut through old blueberry stems up to almost 1½ inches in diameter, like they were matchsticks! In 30 minutes I had cut out more tough, old blueberry stems with the electronic pruner than I would have cut in more than two hours with hand loppers. To my amazement, this lithium-ion battery will go at full cutting power for more than eight hours of continuous pruning before needing a recharge. That is far longer than I can run without food and rest in an eight-hour span. Next I waded into our thornless blackberries we grow on the remaining portion of our small farm, growing for family and close friends, not commercially. Each year, the two-year-old canes that bore fruit the past summer die back and must be removed by basal cuts near the crown, similar to the type of stem cuts made on blueberries. They offer no resistance to the electronic pruner, making this formerly dreaded job fast and easy, almost fun!

I thought I might need an extension handle because of the bending over with this hand pruner, but the pruner head only weighs about a pound and a half, so no weight lifting is done. Likewise, the well-padded shoulder and back harness cradles the small lithium-ion battery that also is very lightweight, only about 2½ pounds. It’s like magic what you can easily accomplish with such a pruner. If desired, a 45-centimeter as well as a 90-centimeter (about 3 foot length) extension handle model is available to reduce bending over.

Some growers may justify the use of both models, one a hand unit and one an extension handle unit, for those down-low basal stem cuts and for use with fruit trees. Time, labor, cost, and effort reduction with such electronic pruning aids would allow for them to quickly pay for themselves. I sincerely believe that every blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry growing farm family needs such an electronic pruner. Timely, correct annual pruning is a fundamental key to sustaining a profitable berry growing farm. Now you can finish the job on time and with a heap of less effort. Why should grape growers have all the fun?

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “New Tool Makes Annual Berry Pruning Easy

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

Weed ControlNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
FruitsFlorida Organic Group Dedicated To Serving Growers, Com…
August 27, 2014
Education and development programs are plentiful for interested producers. Read More
VegetablesExperimental Herbicide Technology Blasts Weeds In Rows
August 27, 2014
The technology uses an air compressor to spray corncob grit on both sides of a crop, killing young weeds. Read More
Disease ControlFungal Disease Outbreak Hits Pacific Northwest Vegetabl…
August 27, 2014
An outbreak of blackleg, light leaf spot, and white leaf spot can be significant problems in several vegetable crops.   Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myth…
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
BerriesMichigan State University Extension Offers Tips To Prev…
August 26, 2014
Humidity, rainy periods conducive to disease development. Read More
FruitsSpotted Wing Drosophila Populations Rising In Michigan
August 26, 2014
Extension researchers advise berry growers on trapping, salt testing to take stock of pest population. Read More
Apples & PearsNorthwest Pear Crop Estimate Revised Upward
August 26, 2014
Washington and Oregon pear growers forecast a larger size crop than that originally estimated. Read More
VegetablesAgrium Acquires A Controlling Interest In Biotech Compa…
August 26, 2014
The company also acquires stake in Agricen Sciences as part of strategic effort to expand their offering of integrated, next-generation plant health technologies. Read More
Insect ControlCover All Angles When Taking On Threecornered Alfalfa H…
August 25, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, and management methods for this insect pest. Read More
GrapesEarthquake Shakes Up Napa Wine Industry
August 25, 2014
Sunday’s early morning quake was centered just six miles from the city of Napa. Read More
OrangesNew Orange Pipeline Full Of Juice
August 25, 2014
Industry stakeholders are working on a rapid release model for processed varieties. Read More
CitrusCalifornia Citrus Cleared For Chinese Export
August 25, 2014
New agreement addresses concerns over brown rot. Read More
CitrusConsolidated Citrus Eyes Giant Planned Agricultural, Em…
August 25, 2014
South Florida real estate endeavor includes a 5 million-square-foot industrial park, including 200,000 square feet of retail space and 500 hotel rooms. Read More
Pest ControlManaging Lepidoptera In Tomatoes
August 22, 2014
This video provides information on how to best identify and control Lepidoptera in tomatoes. Read More
GrapesMichigan Conference Focuses On Impact Of Climate Change…
August 22, 2014
Experts from Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and Northwestern Michigan College to discuss Polar Vortex, technology, and unmanned systems at one-day conference. Read More
GrapesNew York Grape Grower Survey Reveals Huge Losses
August 22, 2014
Cornell Cooperative Extension publishes results of a grower poll of winter injury damage. Read More
GrapesOregon Anticipates Large Grape Harvest
August 22, 2014
Growers keep fingers crossed that late-season rainfall doesn’t ruin crop. Read More