Bush Fruit Production in Manitoba


Small fruit has been a staple for indigenous peoples and wildlife for centuries anywhere small fruits were found. In recent years, the popularity of many small fruits has resulted in financial opportunities, such as with saskatoons. Following the success of saskatoons, many people are now looking toward planting and harvesting many other small fruits. Some of the more popular small fruits being grown in the province include currants, gooseberry, highbush cranberry, pincherry, silver buffaloberry, and sea buckthorn. Most of these species, with the exception of sea buckthorn, are native to the prairies and, therefore, have adapted to growing in this climate.

Economics and Marketing

Currently, there is not much of a market for small fruit products. Most of the interest is from people who grew up on the farm eating the various fruit preserves or from people interested in eating a more healthy diet. Much of the fruit is processed on the farm or by small processors. The fruit is sold in small specialty shops, farmer markets, and other places where fresh local produce is sold.

People interested in growing fruit need to consider how the produce will be harvested, what the produce will be used for, and who will be interested in buying the product. In the past, fruit growers have relied mostly on U-Pick to sell their product. With the current trend away from U-Pick, growers will have to consider other ways of marketing the fruit. However, small fruits are not likely to be sold fresh, but rather as a processed product. Growers need to work together and with processors to develop a market for their product. The lack of market development is important for the expansion of the small fruit industry.


Irrigation is usually considered supplemental, as natural rainfall is usually adequate. However, during periods of drought, early orchard establishment and during fruiting periods, irrigation is essential. Most fruit trees require one inch of water per week throughout the growing season. Ensuring this requirement is met will result in improved yields. Proper drainage and topography are important considerations for determining suitable orchard sites that will not become susceptible to salt buildup or water-logging. Irrigation water quality is critical since accumulations of salt and mineral in the water will cause problems with the irrigation system and, over time, reduce the quality of the soil. There are many types of irrigation available. Trickle irrigation uses less water than other application methods; does not wet the foliage (reduced disease incidences); and provides water where it is required by the plant. It also allows for fertilization through the system; does not require system movement; allows for other field operations to continue; and is the most cost-effective for an orchard.


Specific fertilizer recommendations for small fruit are currently not available. However, since fruit production results in the removal of nutrients from the soil, these nutrients should be replaced in order to maintain soil fertility. In order to determine the current fertility level of the soil, a soil test should be done. This will indicate which nutrients should be added to prevent future nutrient deficiencies. Small fruits, like any other crop, require adequate levels of soil nutrients for a high yield of good-quality fruit. Buffaloberry and sea buckthorn should not require nitrogen fertilizers as these plants are capable of "fixing" their own nitrogen. These plants should respond well to the addition of phosphorus fertilizers, especially when grown in soils low in phosphorus. Nutrients should not be applied in the fall because it may delay the development of winter hardiness and result in winter injury.

Weed Control

Weed control in an orchard is essential. If weeds are not controlled during the early stages of orchard establishment, the future viability of the orchard is affected. Proper site selection and preparation are, therefore, essential to eliminate as many possible weed problems before the orchard is established. Hand weeding around plants may be required, as young plants are not good competitors with weeds, and there are very few herbicide options.


Insect pests that may occur on some of the smaller berry crops such as gooseberry, buffaloberry, pin cherry and others will likely be similar to those that feed on other small fruits such as saskatoon, chokecherry and raspberry. Leaf feeders will include various caterpillars, beetles and sawflies. Examples of these are: the imported currant worm, cherry leaf beetle and currant sawfly. Both of these insects feed exclusively on the foliage and may entirely strip the plant. Fruit feeders may include the larvae of flies and beetles. The currant fruit fly lays its eggs in the developing berries and the maggots feed inside the berries causing a premature ripening and fruit drop. Beetles similar to the apple curculio, which feed on apples, saskatoon and chokecherry are also possible pests as are cane borers. The currant borer is also a recognized pest of various currants and gooseberries. It causes damage by boring into the canes. The canes will appear stunted and yellow with foliage above the damage wilting and eventually dying. Smaller pests including scale insects, aphids and mites are likely to be occasional pests as well.


There is limited information concerning which diseases may be a problem under mass plantings. Diseases such as powdery mildew, various leaf spot diseases, and root rots along with other fungus, bacterial and viruses can threaten to damage or kill the plants. No chemical controls are available. Cultural controls such as pruning, proper air flow and plant densities can help to control many diseases.