Ouachita is a mid-season floricane blackberry bred at the University of Arkansas, USA, which has an erect growth habit and strong, spine-free canes. It has good manageable vigour, and compact laterals with large, attractive white flowers. It has a consistent average berry weight of 6-7g in the UK, which is 50% bigger than Loch Ness. Chilling hours required to ensure the correct amount of dormancy has occurred are 300-400 hours which is roughly translated as the number of hours at a temperature of 7°C or below. This cold treatment induces flowers and therefore potential yield for the next season.
Since the plants are erect, the planting density can be increased, so more plants can be planted in the available space, thus increasing yield potential. If planting directly into soil then 0.5m between plants is suitable, meanwhile spacing for potted plants can be slightly less. The traditional varieties often have trailling canes, which take up more space as they need to be trained to wires (see Fig. 1 below where A illustrates the traditional method, and B shows the more upright plant type).
Brix measurements, acidity levels and taste panels are good measurements for flavour, and work carried out last season showed that the number of volatiles and flavonoids in blackberries to build the intense fruit flavour can be as many as 147 different naturally occurring chemicals. The average °Brix for Ouachita is 10-11% in the UK, indicating good sweetness. Tartaric acid was measured throughout the harvest season and the results are shown below.
As shown here the levels of Tartaric acid was highest in Loch Ness, whilst the Brix levels were higher in Ouachita than Loch Ness indicating consistent sweetness. Total volatiles were also measured and Ouachita proved to have the highest number of flavour volatiles in the cultivars tested in this group.
Ouachita fruits have a sweet, ‘fruity, blackberry’ flavour as shown by the information above, which, combined with consistent average berry weight, and high potential yield makes a worthwhile addition to any growers’ variety profile.