The trial is being conducted at four locations in Montana, one each at both a University and Community College learning farm, one at a research station, and the final location split between two landowners interested in production.
The project was established in 2015 by a Specialty Crop Block Grant, which offers grant support through 2018.The purpose of the trial is to evaluate cultivars of 6 fruit species commonly known as Aronia, Black and Red Currants, Dwarf Sour Cherry, Juneberry, and Haskap. The trial includes between 2 and 8 cultivars per species. The trial aims to measure the suitability of different cultivars in the harsh Montana environment. Targeted research includes monitoring; cold hardiness and survival, pest and disease incidence, and growth phenology. Fruit quality and yield will be measured by cultivar.
These fruits are believed to have nutritive qualities comparable to other contemporary super-fruits, as well as other qualities such as dark pigmentations which are proving attractive to food and beverage production entities for their health food and natural colorant uses.
Despite this increased interest in these species, there are very few agronomic details concerning these crops. Establishing these details for producers will allow them to make best practice decisions regarding location siting and preparation, fertilization, integrated pest and disease management. Furthermore, analysis of the nutritional quality of these cultivars will allow producers and processors to select for fruit with targeted nutritional properties.
The intent of this project is to quantify and report the phytonutrient contents of these unique fruit. Specifically, the fruit will be measured for mineral and anthocyanin contents in late 2017. This research would complement other quality research on the fruit by the graduate student, Durc Setzer, and the overall project.
This project has multiple objectives:
1) Determine phytonutrient attributes of cultivars. In collaboration with Dr. Selena Ahmed, cultivars will be tested for antioxidant content by the graduate student, Durc. It is rare that individual cultivars are tested in this way. The results will allow stakeholders and producers to choose cultivars based on metrics of potential healthfulness or colorant qualities. Together with yield and growth information produced from the variety trial, producers will be able to enter markets without having to conduct their own research on potential varieties.
2) Analyze Fruit Mineral Content per Species. An assessment of fruit’s mineral content will lend additional support for the plant’s statuses as super-foods, and allow a better nutritional understanding to those wishing to add these fruit to their diets or food products. Likewise, this will help serve as a guideline to business entities entering into exploratory food research, marketing or production and should serve to drive demand for these fruit.
3) Educate consumers, producers, and buyers. The results of these evaluations will be shared with stakeholders using a variety of formats and media. Workshops and field tours have and will continue to be held at the four sites. Project description and results are and will continue to be published on the WARC website (http://agresearch.montana.edu/warc/). In addition, results have and will be communicated through presentations at local, regional, and national scientific, and producer meetings. Project impacts will be gauged through the use of surveys as well as measuring change in production numbers and companies and producers involved. At the beginning of the project, 139 survey responses were collected to establish base-line stakeholder knowledge and interest. This survey will be re-administered at the end of the project to measure changes in knowledge over the course of the project.
In 2017 approximately 204 fruit samples were analyzed for total phenolics by way of the gallic acid equivalent method. This complimented an analysis of 2016 fruit. The samples consisted of fruit from the Corvallis and Bozeman sites and was made up primarily by haskap, with a lesser amount of juneberry, currants and cherry. This work was performed in the Montana State University Food and Health Lab, overseen by Dr. Selena Ahmed.
The anthocyanin type and content of 75 haskap samples was analyzed for five different anthocyanin compounds via Ultra Pressure Liquid Chromatography. The samples consisted of fruit from the Bozeman and Corvallis sites. This analysis occurred in the MSU Bozeman Mass Spectrometry Facility, under the guidance of Dr. Ganesh Bala.
Educational & Outreach Activities
During a MSU Bozeman field day in 2017 the fruit were introduced to the public and a discussion was held.
A seminar was given to the MSU Bozeman Plant Science Department in 2018, regarding polyphenol content in fruit. The presentation included an explanation of what polyphenols are, why they are important, and how they are analyzed. The audience was introduced to the Cold Hardy Fruit Projects experimental approach, methods, initial findings and future efforts.
Another presentation was given to the public and producers at the 2018 Western Agricultural Research Center Field Day, centered around findings and current research on-goings. The role of polyphenols in health, diet, and wine-making were discussed in an open forum.
Students of the MSU Horticultural Learning Farm were given a guided tour of the Bozeman orchard in 2018. Discussion was held concerning identification of the plants, similarities and differences from conventional fruit and native species, and use of the fruit. Two undergraduate students expressed interest in the fruit and have involved the fruit in their undergraduate research.
In 2018 a group of Master Gardeners at the MSU Hort Farm were introduced to the fruit and were present for data collection. Use of a brix meter was demonstrated and it’s usefulness in orchard culture was discussed. A discussion of the uses, suitability and novelty of the fruit followed.
The end of 2018 will focus on creating deliverable products. Fruit quality will be related to the scientific community in a journal article detailing results of phenolic and anthocyanin analyses from 2016 and 2017 data. Fruit quality will be related to the public via an extension article, detailing quality differences between cultivars and including other details of the study like time to maturity and expected yields; to allow producers more certainty in designing their production systems.