Berries Can Be Profitable Texas Crop


An expert with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has stated that berries can be a profitable business in the state, provided growers plant suitable varieties.

"Berries are a great crop in Texas," said Monte Nesbitt, AgriLife Extension horticulture program specialist. "They can be grown for fun or for commercial purposes."

Nesbitt was addressing an audience of about 100 at the recent Texas Fruit and Nut Orchard Conference that took place in Bryan.

Blackberries generally do well in Texas, as wild forms grow in the state, ensuring that they are perfectly equipped to deal with conditions there. Nesbitt pointed out that several commercial forms had been developed and could be cultivated with relatively little trouble.

He also pointed out that location was important and that berries grow best in sandy soils and USDA hardiness zones 7, 8 or 9.

One of the biggest costs associated with berry cultivation--responsible for 70 percent of involved expenses--is labor. Berries must be picked when ripe, since they do not continue to ripen once plucked from the plant. This necessitates paying for labor throughout the harvest season.

A way around this is to offer "pick-your-own" facilities. A pint basket may sell for $2.50 to $4.95 each.

However, the biggest issue, Nesbitt said, is the soil.

"It must have the right soil, an acidic soil with 4 to 5 pH," he said. "And that can be a challenge."

Rabbiteye blueberries, he said, were a good plant to grow in eastern Texas, whereas the blackberries do better in southern parts of the state.

"Most rabbiteye blueberries need cross-pollination for good fruit set, so two varieties that bloom around the same time should be planted," he added. "The harvest season can extend from late May to August, depending on the number of varieties planted."