Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Experimentals...

Near and dear to The Farmer's heart -- and mind -- is the pursuit of research that benefits the growing of raspberries. He is passionate about learning more about how they grow, and what can be done about the conditions and pests that hinder them. He finally found the internet to have some value when he discovered that he could access obscure websites that talk about nematodes, and bushy dwarf virus, and phytophthora, and verticilium wilt, and spotted wing drosophila, and mites, and weeds of various varieties...

So it was only natural that when WSU researchers needed a plot, or two, or three, for their Machine Harvest Trials, The Farmer volunteered.

And thus, The Experimentals, as we fondly call them, came to be a part of Randy Honcoop Farms.

The larger purpose of this particular research project is to develop new varieties of raspberry plants. Currently, we have a fairly small selection of varieties that machine harvest well. For years they have been working hard to develop more. Formerly, they went through years of testing -- for production, disease resistance, flavor profile, growth habit -- and much more -- only to find that many of the most promising selections didn't machine pick worth beans! That is to say, the berries wouldn't come off or were mangled when they did, or the bush was mangled after picking once. That was a lot of effort down the drain.

So a number of years ago, they decided that the Machine Harvest Trial needed to be moved earlier into the queue of research testing, and that is what we do on our farm.

The experimental selections are planted in rows that include many different types. Each post length is a new selection.

It's always interesting to walk through The Experimentals and note the great variety of growth habits, plant health, berry size, and the difference in ripening times.


Lots of large, orange-y berries...


Smaller, dark red fruit...


As you look down this row, you can see the different heights  and color of the foliage...
We grow them up just as we do our normal commercial plants, and after two years, we harvest them, just as we do our normal commercial plants.
Well -- except that it's a very slow process because as the picker goes down the row, it must be stopped after each post-length to wait for that selection's berries to clear the belt. The researchers assess the condition of the fruit, and the amount of sort-outs each generates as well. Color is noted, and the condition of the bush after picking too. And then they go on to the next post-length.

It's all very interesting, and every year, we have a Field Day where other researchers and growers can come and see what is growing out there.


The flats into which each selection was picked were laid in order of their position in the row. So if you liked the berry, you could locate the bush it came from and see what it looked like.



An example of the spectrum of red colors that exist in the raspberries....
It's also interesting to taste test the different berries. There is a suprising array of flavors...some strong berry flavor, some mild, some with decidedly un-raspberry flavor (one reminded me of apricots!), and a few that don't even taste good!


...a rousing discussion of the evidence of the presence of verticilium wilt vs. phytophthora...


...and, by the way, we provide lunch, and our own "selection" of raspberry desserts! And even though most people have just tasted a lot of different raspberries, the desserts are pretty popular. This year we had Brownies with Raspberry Vanilla Frosting, Lemon Raspberry Shortbread Tart, and the ever popular Raspberry Braid. Someday, I'll get those recipes on the blog...

...my contribution to the pursuit of acquisition of scientific discovery...

Much more important is The Farmer's contribution, and I am proud of him for his dedication and diligence in helping to discover new information and practices that are a great benefit to the industry.

He's a smart guy, and a good guy, that Farmer of mine.

2 comments:

Tami said...

I was very impressed with the farm and the berries and the varieties. Of course, I'm not a grower or a mucky mucky from WSU, but I do know what tastes good. Your farm is pristine and pretty too.

Can I bring you a meal? I notice you've been eating leftover pizza and Mexican chowder for many, many meals now... :P

songbyrd on the mountain said...

I am still so amazed at the many different types of raspberries there are! This post helped me understand better what was going on on the farm when we visited. Mom is still talking about our day; she loved every minute of it. :)

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Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life (leslieisverbose.blogspot.com) and one where I can vent. (leslievents.blogspot.com)