Raspberry plants did not produce this year...

Asked October 25, 2013, 5:37 PM EDT

Raspberry plants near Hartington, Nebraska did not produce this growing season...they were cut back in in a traditional method...as previous years. Previous seasons had good production. The stand in 3-4 years old...what can be done? What should be done? Thank you!

Cedar County Nebraska

3 Responses

Are these a spring-bearing or fall-bearing (everbearing) raspberry? Did you cut them back at the same time of the year as previously? Did they look healthy this year or appear to have a disease or to be smaller or less vigorous than past years? Have you thinned out the patch in the last 3 to 4 years? Do you fertilize? If so,when?

The answers to these questions might help provide an answer. If you did cut these back at the same time of year as previously, and they looked healthy otherwise; then it might be they need thinning to reduce over-crowding; or possibly this was the plants reaction to the previous years drought stress. Hard to say with the amount of information provided. Please send information related to questions and I will try and provide a better answer. Thanks for using eXtension.

Raspberries: http://byf.unl.edu/Raspberry

Here are the answers to your questions:

They are spring bearing raspberrys. They were cut back in the spring as previous years. The plants looked healthy and vigorous, yet produced not a single berry. The plot has not been thinned out. Calcium, phosphorus, liquid fish and mulch is used for fertilizer at least once a year. No pesticides were used.

A wood-chuck lives in the area and loves day lilies. The raspberry plants were not broken down...this animal needs to be considered in the thought process.

What can I do?

Thank you!

When in spring did you cut them back? Only everbearing raspberries are cut back completely in early spring before new growth begins. See following pruning information for early summer bearing raspberries; just in case:

Red or Yellow Raspberries (Summer Fruiting)
Pruning During the Growing Season
Do not pinch back (reduce the height) the current season’s growth. If the canes are too tall to support themselves, it is better to construct a trellis than to reduce the height. Remove floricanes after harvesting the fruit. This is usually in late June through early July, depending on the cultivar and weather. Removing canes allows better light penetration into the hedgerow for the newly developing shoots (primocanes) and will significantly reduce disease problems. Dormant Season Pruning
Prune in late winter or early spring after the danger of severe weather has passed and before bud swell. Pinch back (remove) the winter-killed portion of the canes. Usually, this will be 1 to 3 inches of the cane tip. However, after severe winters or if you have attempted to grow non-hardy cultivars, 3 to 4 feet of the cane may have been killed. If the plants are grown in hedgerows, keep the width of the rows to 18 inches or less and remove all plants outside the row areas. Remove small spindly canes, leaving those that are one-half inch or more in diameter. Summer red raspberries should be pruned twice a year, first in the spring and immediately after harvest. The spring
pruning, in late March or early April, consists of removing all weak canes. The second pruning, right after harvest removes canes that produced fruits. The new shoots or suckers should be reduced in number (thinned) immediately after fruit harvest. Leave four or five strong canes, one-half inch in diameter or greater, per foot of hedgerow. If no such canes are present, leave the two largest canes per foot of row.

More on your plants. If plants looked healthy, I doubt the wood chuck was impacting them. Your fertilizer is not very high in nitrogen. Maybe look at that; however, if N were an issue, the leaves would be a lighter green than normal. Also, too much nitrogen can lead to a lot of vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting.

If not a pruning issue, I would "guess" that this might be related to the extreme heat/drought from the previous year (even if you irrigated well; heat does odd things to plants). If I were you, I follow my usual practices (unless you need to adjust the timing of pruning) and see what happens next year. If they do not bear again; you can try to "stress" them (stress often triggers a plant to reproduce (bloom and bear fruit); or start over with new plants.

A soil test could be tried; but it may or may not be helpful. Most Nebraska soils have plenty of phosphorous and calcium, so a soil test might indicate these are high in your soils. But I do not know that that would affect fruiting.

Let me know if you have more questions. Will be happy to try and answer.