The market for small fruits (grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries) is valued at more than $100 million CAD per year in Quebec, Canada. Wood-based biochar is an amendment that improves soil quality, which may boost small fruit growth and production. The objective of this research was to determine if wood-based biochar could increase the yield and quality of grape, blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry in southern Quebec. We evaluated the fruit yield as well as the quality parameters like average fruit weight, fruit firmness, color, juice pH, total soluble solids, total phenolic content, and antioxidant activity. Field trials were established on commercial farms with grape, blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry production systems in plots that received wood-based biochar and no biochar in spring (April–May). Small fruits were harvested at their ripening stage for yield and quality evaluation in the fall (July–October). Biochar application did not improve yield and quality parameters of small fruits, except it gave a marginally higher yield of grape (3.7 vs. 4.4 t·ha−1, P = 0.08) and a higher average fruit weight of strawberry (11.9 vs. 13.2 g, P < 0.05). There was no difference in the quality of the fruit from biochar-amended and control plots in the first year of biochar application, possibly because the quality parameters are affected more by weather conditions, handling, and storage than by soil quality. This work suggests that wood-based biochar (<5 t·ha−1) has a limited first-year impact on small fruit yield and quality in southern Quebec, Canada.
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Vol. 102 • No. 1