Beginning Berry Production

Download 165K pdf file ("230_20-3.pdf")PDF
     Subscribe to our free E-Newsletter, "Agri-News" (formerly RTW This Week)Agri-News
This Week
 Things to consider | Varieties | Information sources

Alberta’s commercial berry industry centers around four crops:

  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • saskatoons
  • black currants
Interest in sour cherries and haskap is increasing, and plantings of these berry crops are also being established.

Things to Consider

The location of a berry farm is important. Consideration should be paid to the proximity of urban centers (if selling direct to consumer), the climate (heat pockets, chinook wind, etc.), soil conditions, air/soil drainage, and shelter.

All berry crops prefer soils with a high level of organic matter. Strawberries perform best on sandy loam soils, raspberries on loam to clay loam, and black currants and saskatoon on most soils.

Adequate shelter is very important to berry production. Shelter should be placed to reduce the prevailing winds of summer and winter. Shelter reduces desiccation (drying), improves snow coverage and provides winter protection.

Permanent shelters should be spaced 122 to 152 m (400 - 600 ft) apart. Supplementary shelter provided by silage corn or sunflowers should be planted every 9 to 15 m (30 - 50 ft) in rows, also perpendicular to prevailing winds. It is important not to plant raspberries directly south of an east-west shelterbelt due to the possibility of warm air pocketing during winter (dormant) months.

The majority of Alberta’s berry production is presently sold through u-pick operations. Requirements for u-pick operations include the proximity to large population centers, all-weather roads, adequate parking, and adequate signage.

A neat, clean, attractive sign is a definite asset. It is the customer’s first impression of your farm, your product, and you. Signs should give directions, instructions and information.

The equipment required for berry producers includes the following:
  • transplanters
  • sprayers
  • rototillers
  • irrigation
  • straw spreaders/rakes (strawberries)
  • pruners (raspberry/saskatoons/currants)
Optional equipment:
  • fertilizer spreader
  • pipe trailer
  • frost alarm
  • sub-soiler
Irrigation is a must for berry growers to obtain the maximum production potential from plants. Trickle or drip irrigation is effective and cost-efficient for saskatoons, raspberries and currants.

Strawberry growers should investigate sprinkler irrigation if at all possible. Due to the close row spacings of strawberries, trickle irrigation can become costly. Sprinkler irrigation also assists in the incorporation of herbicides, field cooling, and frost protection of strawberries. If water is limited, a trickle system should be installed. Water sources, quality and quantity should be evaluated before planting.

Production factors to note:
  • temperature and climate
  • soil characteristics
  • plant nutrition
  • insects
  • diseases
  • weeds
All these factors will have an influence on plant health and production.


Growers are encouraged to use recommended varieties of berries. Variety trials are conducted yearly throughout the province. Results from these trials, along with grower input, form the basis for varietal recommendations. Here are the present varietal recommendations for berry crops:

Junebearing: Kent, Glooscap, Cavendish, Honeoye
Day Neutral: Albion, Tristar, Seascape

Boyne, Killarney, Festival, Souris
Primocane Raspberry: Red River, Double Delight

Smoky, Northline, Theissen, Honeywood

Black currant
Ben Lomond, Ben Alder

Plant spacing will depend on the cultivation and spray equipment that will be used between the rows. Here are some general planting recommendations:

June-bearing strawberries:
- between plants 0.3 - 0.5 m
- between rows 1.2 - 1.5 m
- between plants 0.6 - 1.0 m
- between rows 3 - 5 m
Saskatoons/black currants:
- between plants .6 - 1.0 m
- between rows 3.5 - 5.5 m
Crop yields vary yearly and may be influenced by a number of factors such as winter survival, sunlight, temperature, soil fertility, water, etc.

Average Alberta yields of crops grown under irrigation with proper nutrition are shown below. Individual yields will vary depending on climate and management.

Strawberries: 5,000 - 10,000 lbs/acre
Raspberries: 4,000 - 7,000 lbs/acre
Saskatoons (mature 7 yrs): 2,000 - 4,000 lb/acre
Black currants: 4,000 - 8,000 lb/acre.

Information Sources

Compendium of Strawberry Diseases
(includes insects) Second Edition
The American Phytopathological Society
3340 Pilot Knob Road
St. Paul, MN 55121-2097 USA
Tel :1-651-454-7250

Commercial Strawberry Production on the Prairies
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
7000 - 113 Street
Edmonton, AB
Tel: 780-427-0391

Integrated Pest Management for Strawberry
Publications Division of Agric & Natural Resources
University of California, 6701 San Pablo Avenue
Oakland, CA 946608-2431 USA

Compendium of Raspberry & Blackberry Diseases & Insects
American Phytopathological Society
3340 Pilot Knob Road
St. Paul, MN 55121-2097 USA
Tel :1-651-454-7250

Saskatoon Berry Production Manual
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
7000 - 113 Street
Edmonton, AB
Tel: 780-427-0391

Dwarf Sour Cherries
Dwarf Sour Cherries: A Guide for Commercial Production
University Extension Press
University of Saskatchewan
#237-221 Cumberland Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7N 1M3
Tel: (306)966-5565, Fax: (306)966-5567

Videos or DVDs
Fruit: A Growing Industry in Alberta includes both Ins and Outs of Saskatoon Production and Pick of the Crop
$20.00 plus GST, shipping and handling
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Call toll-free (Canada only) 1-800-292-5697

Provincial Organizations*
Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association

*provincial organizations sponsor a Berry Production School yearly

Hort Snacks (a horticulture crop production and marketing newsletter)
published by Commercial Horticulture Specialist

Prepared by:
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

Source: Agdex 230/20-3. Revised November 2016.

Share via
For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on June 26, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on December 19, 2018.