Blackberries are brambles or caneberries, fruits in the Ru-bus genus, and are actually cultivated as an improved form of wild southern “dewberries” which grow all across Texas. Blackberries, unlike raspberries and many other brambles, tolerate the high summer temperatures of the Southwest as well. Blackberry varieties are available today which bear large-sized fruit, have an extended period of harvest, can be thorned or thornless, and have improved firmness for transporting to more distant markets.

"The University of Arkansas has an active blackberry breeding program and has released the latest varieties on the market like the Kiowa, a recommended thorny berry variety that produces very sweet berries. One of the latest varieties they released is the Natchez, a thornless berry, designated a Texas superstar, which produces a very large berry and can be very productive, But it can actually be a little over-productive, meaning it produces too many berries one year but may not produce as well other years," he added.

Although blackberries do have some challenging insect pests and diseases, Stein says they work well for growers who wish to grow a specialty crop that is environmentally friendly. Potential growers should be aware that picking berries can be labor intensive. Machine harvesting blackberries is possible, but not practiced in Texas. That may be why many small commercial blackberry farms have enjoyed success with Pick-Your-Own operations.

Blackberries are biennial plants having two types of canes. Current-season canes are called “primocanes” and one year-old canes are called “floricanes.” Floricanes are flower-bearing canes, which die after the fruit crop matures. Cultivated blackberries today are classified into two fruiting types: floricane-bearing, which only flower and set fruit on floricanes; and primocane-bearing, which flower on primo-canes late in the growing season, and then bear on floricanes also.

Fruit production of blackberries is directly related to primocane growth and vigor. Primocane bearers are capable of producing a small crop the first year, and floricane bearers can bear a crop of 2,000 pounds per acre the second year if primocanes grow well the first year. Plants may produce for 15 years if managed well, but the best production is usually during years 3 through 8, depending on the variety. Good yields on healthy mature plantings range from 5,000 to 10,000 pounds per acre.