Every producer of raspberry plants knows this: there are complaints from end consumers and, based on these, also from retail outlets. Raspberries are among the plants for which a certain rate of complaints can be expected, even if one has completely fulfilled one's task as a young plant producer and of course as a plant producer. What is behind this phenomenon? When is the main complaint made, and could this not also be used as a sales argument? We have analysed and evaluated the complaints at lubera.com, the online sales site of our breeding partner Lubera.
Why raspberries are perhaps more delicate than many other berry bushes
Of course you have already asked yourself this question: why are raspberries complained about more often than other plants? Are they really more delicate, more sensitive? Are we doing something fundamentally wrong? The first answer is certainly a purely mathematical one: we sell 10-20 times as many raspberries as currants, for example, so it is certainly not entirely wrong to assume that complaints are also more frequent. A look at the complaints statistics via lubera.com shows, however, that this reasoning is not quite correct: also relative to the number of plants sold, complaints about raspberries are significantly more frequent. Interestingly, they are – relative to the quantity sold – at about the same level as for blueberries. In the case of this type of fruit, however, the reasons for complaints are quite obvious and are based on the nature of the plant: blueberries cannot survive without acidic bogwood and boggy soil. If you add to this the problems with over-fertilisation and salinisation, you quickly realize that there are objectively good reasons for the relatively high level of problem cases. Although we are still talking about a small single-digit percentage, the differences are striking.
And why raspberries have nevertheless become evolutionary as they are
Back to the raspberries: what makes them – at least relative to other fruit and berry plants – a more difficult fruit species? Of course, the root system, which is susceptible to fungal infections (Phytophthora and Verticillium), is quickly revealed. But the actual physiological reason is even more fundamental: raspberries bear fruit on an above-ground woody body that only becomes two years old; the plant has to produce this again regularly in order to be able to provide for its own reproduction (and to produce fruit for us). This also makes the whole system more unstable. The canes themselves are not designed for decades of stability and are therefore more susceptible than the woody body of an apple tree or even a currant that is designed for longer periods of time. Against this argumentation one could of course ask how a plant that is basically so "badly" positioned can survive? The answer lies again in the roots, which here prove to be the strength of the raspberry: if the above-ground organs of the raspberry ever fail, it can still reproduce itself via the roots and produce new shoots, and at some point new fruit.
Picture: primocane raspberries form new shoots all year round and produce fruit directly; here: Schlaraffia® Plentiful®
What are the top five most important reasons for complaints?
Let's take a closer and more concrete look now. At lubera.com we have analysed the five most important reasons for raspberry problems and can summarise them in five groups. In doing so, we try (on the basis of e-mails and based on photos sent in) to name the effective reasons for the raspberry problem:
- The plant was planted in an old raspberry row or in an obviously polluted soil; it grows for a short time, then collapses. Presumed reasons are reproduction, Phytophthora.
- The root ball was not torn open at all when planting; the plant has not rooted out within two months. Then the plant drowns in a wet spring; in a dry phase it dries up, especially if the above-ground cane is left long and if it has been planted high.
- The plant sprouts, but collapses in early summer, usually starting from the tip, then moving downwards. Reason: root rot (see also #1.)
- The fresh planting is covered with a thick layer of mulch material; the young plants do not grow at all or collapse. The mulch material makes the soil wetter and colder, so there is more Phytophthora, the plant roots rot away.
- The plant is yellow and chlorotic; this symptom is often associated with mulch material or wet soil. This chlorosis occurs more often in yellow raspberries and more often in autumn raspberries than in summer raspberries.
Picture: double mulched, no raspberry can survive this
When is the main time for complaints?
Not that you think now that we at lubera.com only have raspberry complaints. Not by a long shot. By the way, we also have complaints about raspberries of a completely different kind: once they start growing, you can't get rid of them so quickly. Exactly this question (how can you get rid of raspberry plants again?) is often asked; or how to prevent runners in the neighbouring bed. It is not uncommon for the plant seller to answer the question of how to propagate and transplant healthy raspberry plants...
However, the most important result of the analysis is the timing of complaints and problem cases: raspberry plants are mainly complained about in May and June; they were planted in autumn or spring. In the case of summer-planted raspberries, there are practically no problems or complaints.
The sales hit: selling and planting raspberry plants in the summer
I believe that we should use this argument more frequently and more decisively in our communication with end customers, but also with resellers (and if necessary adjust our production accordingly): there is no more reliable planting date for raspberries than summer. Freshly propagated plants, potted a few weeks ago and just rooted, will immediately continue to grow in warm and relatively dry soil, their root system will reach astonishing dimensions in a very short time, and the growth of the canes can even lead to the first trial fruits in autumn when the plant has been planted in early summer. In warm and dry soil, even the dreaded and widespread Phytophthora fungus cannot or can hardly reproduce at all and the roots can thus spread unhindered.
Picture: Raspberry plants in a 12-centimeter pot. The ideal time for planting is in the middle of the growing season, i.e. in summer
Other reasons for pushing summer actions with raspberries
Raspberry plants for summer sales not only have the best chances of survival with the end consumer, but they are also produced very quickly. In C1 or 12-pack pots they can be sold after 4-6 weeks; in 1.5 to 2 L pots, it may take 7-8 weeks with one trimming. The short production time would also make it possible to offer attractive prices if the reseller passes them on to the end consumers and thus boosts the quantities.
Prerequisite: production in sets
A prerequisite for taking advantage of this summer sales opportunity is to move away from the one-dimensional production strategy: all raspberries are potted at one time and are then also sold fairly compactly in the spring in March and April. A prerequisite for conquering and expanding further sales windows is producing the plants in sets, which also optimises production methods, costs and time requirements.