Four species of Currant are known to American gardeners as fruit-bearing plants. Ribes rubrum includes all the red and white varieties. This species is found wild both in Europe and North America. Ribes nigrum the European black Currant, although well known in America, has never become generally popular, although it is much prized by the foreign population. Ribes Americanum more commonly known as Ribes floridum, is the wild black Currant of America. It is very similar in character to the European black Currant, and is now and then transferred to gardens. Ribes am-cum, oftener grown for ornament, has also been planted for fruit, having been sold from time to time under various varietal names, the most recent being the Crandall. See Ribes. To the commercial fruit-grower only the first of these species is of great importance. It is a native of cool climates, and its profitable culture is con fined to northern latitudes. It does not thrive in the Gulf states and, except under irrigation or in special favorable locations, makes but a partial success in t e drier
region of the Plains.
- albillbra, Thwaites. differs from the others here described in having its spikes sunk below the levels instead the Currant needs a rich soil and an abundance of plant-food. It will endure much neglect, but responds quickly to liberal treatment. Stable manure, applied in
the fall, is excellent, and this may be supplemented with applications of potash, which will improve the quality of the fruit. Propagation is best effected by means of long hard wood cuttings taken either in fall or spring. in nursery practice they are commonly taken about September 1, as soon as the leaves fall. The leaves are sometimes stripped from the plants a week or so before taking the cuttings, if they have not already fallen. The cuttings may be planted at once, or tied in bundles and buried upside down, with 2 or 3 inches of soil over the butts. This is thought to favor the production of the callus and to aid the formation of roots. At the approach of cold weather, they may be taken up and planted in nursery rows and covered with a mulch of soil or other material during the winter, this mulch being
raked away to expose the tips early in spring. Planting may be delayed until spring, the bundles being taken up and stored in sand or moss in the cellar, or being more deeply covered and allowed to remain where they are. The commoner practice is to plant the cuttings in nursery rows soon after they are taken. They are said to root more quickly if packed in damp moss a week or two before planting. Mulching of some sort is essential during the winter. Probably nothing surpasses the soil itself for this purpose, certainly not in the drier climate of the Plains. If the cuttings are kept until spring, planting must be done very early, as growth begins at a low temperature. This makes spring planting undesirable in nursery practice. Cuttings vary in length from 6 to 10 inches, according to soil and climate; the drier firmly about the base. Rich, moist soil should be selected. A former practice was to cut out all lower buds in order to insure a tree form of growth. This is
seldom practiced now, and never for commercial planting. Single-eye cuttings under glass, greenwood cuttings and layers may be employed, but have little to recommend them. Seeds may be used as a source of new varieties, and are best sown or stratified as soon as
taken from the pulp.
For the final planting either 1- or 2-year-old plants may be used, set at distances varying to suit the convenience of the cultivator. Four by 6 feet is a convenient combination, allowing cross cultivation at intervals. The land should be in flue, mellow tilth as deep as plowed, and if the underlying layers are hard and impervious, it should be subsoiled. Setting is most conveniently done by marking the land in each direction, plowing furrows one way and planting at intersections.
The soil should be closely firmed about the roots, with a loose layer left at the surface to act as a mulch. Where fall planting succeeds it is desirable, since the Currant starts so early into growth in the spring. In many parts of the country fall planting is too uncertain, while spring planting, if done early enough, is always safe. Subsequent tillage should be frequent but shallow, as the roots run near the surface and are easily injured by deep cultivation.
Good results are obtained by mulching, which is sometimes more convenient in garden culture. Refuse material of any sort may be used; even coal ashes, especially on heavy soil, give good results. Mulching is seldom, if ever, desirable in commercial
Pruning is simple, but important. Fruit is borne on both old and young wood, but the best of it is near the base of 1-year-old shoots and on short 1-year-old spurs. The younger the wood the finer the fruit, but a fair supply of old wood must be left to insure productiveness. From 4 to 8 main stems are desirable, and these should be frequently renewed. No wood over three years old should be allowed to remain. Superfluous young shoots should be cut away, though the buds at their base may be left to develop fruit-bearing spurs. Shortening-in vigorous, straggling shoots may be called for. especially with young plants, but the most important thing is a judicious thinning out of the old wood, and replacing it with young. The older plan of training to a tree form (Fig. 616) gave less productive
plants. more subject to damage from the Currant borer, with no opportunity for renewal.
Experiments in thinning the fruit by clipping oi! the outer end of the clusters have shown an increase in size and in yield. The fruit should be picked when dry, taking special care to prevent crushing the berries or tearing them from the stems. If properly picked it stands shipment well, but if carelessly picked it will quickly spoil. For shipping purposes it must be picked while still hard and firm, though for home use or near market it will be better if allowed to remain longer, especially for dessert use. If protected with netting, it will remain on the bushes until autumn. The fruit is commonly marketed in quart baskets, shipped in crates, like any other berries, though the 9-pound grape basket is now largely
used. This is a convenient package, both for the shipper and the consumer.
Plantations may be kept in bearing for many years with good care, liberal feeding and continuous renewing of the wood, but practical growers generally find it advisable to replant after eight or ten years of fruiting.
The cost of replanting is light, and is more than repaid by the advantage of young, vigorous plants in fresh soil. Yields vary greatly. Many growers doubtless do not average 50 bushels per acre, while others may secure as high as 250 bushels. With good care Currants should yield from 100 to 150 bushels per acre, though even this amount will be obtained only by good culture and careful attention to details. In garden culture 2 to 4 pounds per bush may be expected, though many neglected plants scarcely yield as many ounces. Under favorable conditions they are usually a profitable crop, though, like all other fruits. they are subject to fluctuations in price and market demands. Red varieties are most profitable. Some of the white sorts are sweeter, but find little demand in market. Victoria is one of the most popular all-round varieties. Cherry and Versailles are probably more largely grown than any others and is capricious, succeeding remarkably well in some locations, but proving unsatisfactory in others; its habit of growth is straggling and undesirable. Red Dutch, though small, is still highly prized on the Plains; Prince Albert, a very productive late variety, is popular with canners and for jelly. Among newer varieties the Wilder is promising. White Grape and the newer White Imperial are popular white varieties. Black Currants are little grown in the United States but are popular in Canada. Black Naples is the most popular kind.
The best-known insect enemy is the imported Currant worm (Pier-onus Ribesii), which never fails to strip the leaves from neglected bushes throughout the eastern United States, though as yet unknown on the Plains. It begins feeding on the clusters of leaves close to the ground, the insects have scattered over the bushes. The imported and native Currant borers also cause damage.
They can only be controlled by cutting out and destroying infested canes early in spring, before the perfect insects emerge. The Currant fly (Epochra Canadensis) sometimes causes serious injury to the fruit, depositing its egg just beneath the skin, where the presence of the larva causes the fruit to turn red and fall prematurely. No practicable remedy has yet been suggested. Among fungous diseases, there are several which prey upon the leaves, causing them to fall prematurely, but they all yield to thorough treatment with fungicides. The Currant tubercle, a disease which has recently proved injurious in New York and New Jersey, threatens to be a serious enemy and a difficult one to fight. It is first shown by wilting of the leaves and premature coloring of the fruit. The clusters are small and straggling, and, together with the 43 leaves, soon shrivel and fall, which is followed by the death of the canes. Digging and burning affected plants is the only remedy thus far suggested. The disease may be transmitted in apparently healthy cuttings, so that fields known to be affected should not be used as a source from which to propagate.
The treatment of black Currants does not differ materially from that of reds, except that the plants, being larger, require somewhat more room. The fruit, though possessing a most unpleasant odor and flavor, becomes agree able if scalded for a few minutes in boiling water, and then transferred to fresh water for cooking. It is much esteemed by those who have learned to use it, and is credited with medicinal qualities of value in bowel and
throat affections. The plants are exempt from attacks of the Currant worm. FRED W. CARD