This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The three principal kinds of cultivated Currants have been derived from two distinct species, both natives of the British Islands, but also found in a wild state in Europe, temperate Asia, and North America. The Red and White Currants are descended from Mibes rubrum, while the Black Currant comes from Ribes nigrum. They are not to be confused with the currants of the grocers' shops, which are the dried fruits of a small-fruited seedless variety of Grape Vine from the neighbourhood of Corinth.
Although belonging to the same genus, it is well known that they are quite different in their vegetation. The Red and White Currants produce their flowers and fruits in spurs or clusters on the wood from two to seven years of age, and just at the base of the one-year-old wood. The Black Currant, however, never produces its flowers or fruits directly from the old wood, but from the young shoots of one season's growth. These peculiarities are of some practical importance from the pruner's point of view.
It is impossible to give with any accuracy the total area under Currants in the United Kingdom, as the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries Returns unfortunately have lumped Gooseberries and Currants all together. The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, however, have kept Gooseberries, Red and White Currants, and Black Currants distinct from each other; and from the 1908 returns we find that 183 ac. are under Red and White Currants, and 265 ac. under Black Currants in Ireland - almost a negligible quantity.
The total acreage under Gooseberries and Currants in Great Britain is given in the 1911 Returns as 27,557 ac, of which 1227 ac. are in Scotland, and 129 ac. in Wales. Of the 26,150 ac. in England it may be assumed that about one-third would be under Currants of all kinds, or say about 9000 ac. altogether. It is probable that Kent, Worcester, Cambridge, Middlesex, and Norfolk are the largest Currant-growing counties in the British Islands.
Assuming Red Currants (and White) to be planted 5 ft. by 4 ft. apart, an acre will hold about 2178 bushes. When these are all in bearing, say from the third and fourth year onwards, a fair average crop for each plant would be about 4 lb. of fruit per bush, or nearly 4 tons per acre. The expenses and receipts of an acre of Red Currants may be set out as follows: -
2178 bushes at £4 per 1000, say =
Planting same at 1s. 6d. per 100, say =
Capital outlay apart from rent, prepar ing ground, etc. ... ...
Picking 4 tons at 35s. per ton ...
It will thus be seen that the first year's expenses will be at least £21, 3s., without reckoning rent, rates, and taxes. As the crop will not commence to be remunerative until the third or fourth year, the annual expenditure of about £12 will have to be met by receipts from saleable vegetable crops.
Taking the average crop to be 4 tons per acre per annum, and the average price at £9 per ton (about Id. per pound), the gross receipts would be £36 a year. Deducting the cost of pruning, cultivating, picking, and marketing, say £15 altogether, a balance of £21 would be left, and out of this rent and rates would have to be paid.
The Red-currant crop of the British Islands is probably about 30,000 tons annually, representing, say, £270,000. In the year 1908 the declared value of imported currants of all kinds was £121,852. [J. W.]