Evan Elford, OMAFRA New Crop Development Specialist
Pruning is an important part of bushberry management. Like many other bushberry crops, it is important to prune mature haskap plants to increase yields and fruit quality while improving plant vigour and harvesting efficiency. In Ontario, pruning usually occurs on dormant plants (January-March). The later the pruning activities can be scheduled, the better it will be for removing winter damaged material. Pruning can also be performed after the plants have broken dormancy if needed (i.e. typically by late April in Ontario) which can make it easier to determine which branches have winter damage or are diseased and need to be removed (Figure 1). Avoid pruning in the late summer or early fall as this practice can promote the development of new, tender growth which is more susceptible to winter damage.
General guidelines for pruning haskaps:
- Only prune established, mature plants that are 4 or more years old.
- Never prune out more than 25% of the plant canopy in one year. Aim to remove 1 in 4 to 1 in 6 branches.
- Prune haskap branches from the base of the plant whenever possible (Figure 2).
- Remove branches in the centre of the plant to increase light infiltration into the canopy.
- Remove lower branches from the sides of the plant that crown towards the ground (Figure 3). This will minimize fruit loss and increase harvest ease from higher branches.
- Remove dead or diseased branches.
- Practice renewal thinning once the plants are 2 m tall (Bors, B)
Some lessons from other bushberry crops (ie blueberries) to consider for haskaps:
- Younger canes [or branches] are typically more efficient than older canes [branches] (Pavilis, G).
- Regular, moderate pruning equals highest yields on the least amount of canes [plant material] (Pavilis, G).
Sources and References:
1. Bob Bors, University of Saskatchewan. Haskap Workshop, Canadian Society for Horticultural Science, Niagara Falls, 2018.
2. Erica Pate, OMAFRA Fruit Crops Specialist.
3. Gary Pavilis, Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Highbush Blueberry Site Selection and Pruning, 2019 (presentation).