Sustainable Development of Ribes, Aronia - Elderberry as Commerical Crops in the Northeast

Final Report for LNE02-162

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $164,882.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $219,804.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Steven McKay
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia County
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Project Information

Summary:

Ribes Industry Expands Rapidly

The development of the Ribes industry is progressing at a pace faster than originally planned, while the aronia and elderberry industries are a bit slower to take hold. Availability of plant material has been a limiting factor for all crops since widespread publicity in the popular press has spurred plantings and interest in producing value-added products. The impact of the article in the NY Times in Fall of 2003, as well as the multitude of other articles is still being felt as inquiries are still being received where the articles are referenced. Fresh markets for Ribes including gooseberries, red currants, and black currants are expanding every year, and the demand for gooseberries far exceeds production. An article sponsored by this grant summarizes gooseberry varieties currently available, and those for the future so that farmers can plan plantings while being informed. One wholesaler in NY has expressed interest in CA stored red currants, and another wholesaler in Boston is meeting with growers in February, 2005 to plan purchase of berries and their distribution. A grower in New York has installed a small CA system in response to the demand, and he plans to expand. The health benefits study is completed and national press releases have been issued showing black currants and elderberry to be high in antioxidant capacity, with aronia even higher. (These purple berries were shown to be among the fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant capacity.) Commercial production of black currants for processing continues to expand while two commercial products, a yogurt, and two beverages are becoming widely distributed in the Northeast. Two aronia beverages, an elderberry, and a black currant -apple beverage are to be released in New York this spring. Fungus control in black currant, gooseberry, and red currant have been achieved with a handful of commonly used and new-generation fungicides.

Introduction:

Health Benefits, Flavor, Beauty make Ribes, Aronia, and Elderberry Easy Crops to Justify

Small fruit crops have many advantages for growers when one considers cultural practices and feasibility of production. However, Limiting factors in the short term can be lack of labor and planting stock. Ribes, elderberry, and aronia were chosen for this study because they are not widely grown, nor known in the US. They are however very well developed industries in Europe, a two billion dollar industry for  black currants alone!

Cultural practice advantages include the following:

1. Easy to propagate.
2. Evailable germplasm on an international basis.
3. Expensive greenhouses and trellises are not necessary.
4. Few pests are problems for these berries.
5. Small amounts of nutrients are necessary in cultivation of these plants.
6. Mechanization is possible.

Feasibility advantages include:

1. The market is wide open for fresh and processed product.
2. Many value-added products are possible.
3. Health benefits, flavor, and beauty of the fruit help marketability.
4. Few inputs are needed, and mechanization is possible.

In order to convince growers that cultivation of these crops has good potential, we chose three major areas of study for this project. They included the following:

1. Health benefit studies so producers can have a reference base to compare to other berries for marketing advantages.
2. Feasibility study so that producers have a sound economic study showing them that it is possible to be successful with the crops.
3. Complete some practical studies to help producers be more efficient as they begin to produce product. This included pesticide studies for important Ribes diseases, vertical cordon trellising research, germplasm development, and primary processed products.

Performance Target:

Generate Feasibility Study, Nutritional Benefits Study, Cultural and Processing Practices

Target 1. Perform research that will help growers, nutritionists, processors, marketers, and consumers understand and compare the potential health benefits of targeted berry crops by characterizing and determining in vivo effects of their phytochemicals. National press coverage through television, radio, newspaper, and popular magazines will disperse the popular version of results, while a minimum of one scientific journal and numerous trade publications will disperse the scientific and applied version of results.

Target 2. A feasibility study, a turnkey business plan (including marketing), and a plan for farmer cooperation will be written for targeted berry crops and adopted by 20 participating farmers during 2002, and an additional 20 farmers will be added annually thereafter for five years.

Target 3. Selected cultural practices, fresh market industry standards, and sample primary processed products for chosen targeted berry crops will be researched, developed and shared when available. A group of basic retail product formulations will also be developed. (The list of practices and standards to be researched and implemented came from participating growers and marketers who are actively producing on a small, commercial trial basis. Samples were requested by primary processors, and retail formulations by small to medium producers.)

Research

Materials and methods:

Various Agencies Cooperated to Complete This Project

Various methods were followed to complete the various segments of this project. Laboratory research, field observation, pilot plant trials, and international travel to observe established industries were all used. Dissemination of results was accomplished by articles, publications, talks, and list serves.

Outline of Methods and Materials

Experiment 1: Characterization of phytochemicals present in different fruit and varieties within a fruit:  

1. Berries to be analyzed: We expect to characterize in reasonable detail the phytochemicals in black currant, red currant, elderberry, aronia, and gooseberry. With each of these berries, we will evaluate at least 2 but possibly more varieties.  The parameters we expect to look at are total antioxidant capacity (ORAC), total phenolics, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, major phenolic acids and other flavonoids.  

2. Antioxidant Capacity: The automated ORAC assay will be carried out on a BMG Fluorescence Microplate Reader.

3. Characterization of other Polyphenolics (anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and other flavonoids) and Phenolic Acids in Fruits.  The phytochemicals in cleaned-up berry extracts will be analyzed by LC/MS/MS using a
Bruker Model Esquire-LC multiple ion trap mass spectrometer.

4. HPLC/MS Analyses of Proanthocyanidins: Proanthocyanidin chromatographic analyses will be performed on an HP1100 series HPLC (Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto, CA)

Experiment 2: Determination of the in vivo antioxidant effects of dietary phytochemicals.

1. Animal Model:  Porcine digestive system development and function, organogenesis, and the functions of organ systems and the endocrine systems are similar to the human. The pig will provide a model to screen different foods or varieties within a food prior to conducting more expensive and involved studies with human subjects.

2. Study design and sample collection: We will study the absorption/metabolism of black currant, red currant, elderberry aronia, and gooseberry. In addition we will compare their in vivo response to blueberry and strawberry, food which we have previous experience with in vivo.

3. HPLC/MS/MS analysis of anthocyanins, other polyphenols, and their metabolites in plasma and urine.

4. Assessment of plasma and urine antioxidant capacity by using the ORAC assay   The automated ORAC assay will be carried out on a BMG Microplate Fluorescence Reader as described previously.  The work to be performed by Dr. Prior promises to be another internationally recognized cornerstone piece in understanding antioxidant function and health (which will help market berries).

Economics and marketing. A feasibility study, turnkey business and marketing plan, and a plan for an association to provide grower services are included as an important part of this proposal. These studies are required before existing farmers expand, and before new farmers are willing to begin growing. The major funding for this part of the project is coming from the potential growers and the Grow NY grant. Growers, university personnel, and processors each have bits and pieces of the puzzle that must be put together to have the full picture of where the industry stands, is headed, and has the potential to go. These folks will provide the data, and a professional agribusiness company, Senechal and Hale will develop the economic models for production and marketing of targeted berries. Standard economic engineering methods will be used to evaluate profitability of different production and marketing scenarios based on the cost and return data available from our semi-commercial experimental planting sites and from data and studies done in Europe.

The products of the work will be:

1. A feasibility study that can inform a potential investor of expected costs and returns,

2. a turnkey business plan outlining and estimating establishment capital costs, production costs, and possible yields based on a selection of practices, and

3. a plan to develop a coop or association to provide grower services including planting, management, harvesting and marketing which allows each grower the option of electing needed services. This information will be dispersed in regional meetings, and on an individual basis by participating extension educators.

Cultural practices. Cultural practices have been studied with various plantings and visits to Europe for the past three years. Variety trials, propagation experiments, weed control trials and some pesticide trials for ribes were accomplished with a previous SARE grant. Trials included with this grant include a new disease control protocol, and selecting desirable gooseberry seedlings. (Aronia and elderberry cultural practices are not difficult due to their resistance to pests, and grower-friendly growth habits. They present no pressing challenges at this time.)

In the previous SARE grant, stylet oil was found to be a low impact alternative for controlling powdery mildew, while leaf spot and white pine blister rust (WPBR) were not controlled. Mildew and WPBR can be controlled by using immune varieties, but none immune to leaf spot are available. Also many varieties with desirable fruit are susceptible to all three diseases. The purpose of this research is to determine a low-impact, uncomplicated treatment for the three major diseases. Dr. Bill Turecheck of Cornell has proposed the following. We would like to establish an experimental planting of gooseberry and currant at the NYSAES, in Geneva, NY to: 1) Conduct disease management studies so that we may develop effective disease management strategies for currant and gooseberry growers; and 2) Collect the necessary data to allow us to pursue label expansions of, for example Dithane or Quadris, through the IR4 program.

The experiment will be conducted over three seasons in a new planting of currant and gooseberry at the NYSAES, Geneva, NY. A randomized complete block design with four replications of twelve treatments will be used. Individual plots will consist of three bushes: >Red Lake=, a red currant susceptible to leaf spot; >Ben Alder=, a black currant susceptible to white pine blister rust; and >Achilles=, a variety of gooseberry susceptible to both leaf spot and powdery mildew. White pine trees will intermixed within the planting to increase disease pressure from white pine blister rust. Treatments will begin in the first year planting because it is known that anthracnose can severely stunt the establishment of first-year plants due to defoliation.

Seeds of about 100 dessert varieties of gooseberries have become available for trial, and a local grower with greenhouse facilities has agreed to germinate them. The majority of the seedlings will be grown on his farm, and some by members of the Hudson Valley Ribes Club. Selections will be made from the seedlings based on fruit quality and pest resistance. Dr. Stan Pluta, a Ribes breeder from Poland has agreed to work with the project and to assist the grower group and Dr. Courtney Weber, small fruit breeder from Cornell with supervising the
plant selection process. Selected plants will be described and named if appropriate, and made available to growers and nurserymen for propagation.

Fresh fruit standards and processing. A group of growers and researchers indicated an interest in developing a commercial dessert gooseberry market that would have international standards. Over 100 varieties are easily available to growers in the world today, but many could be grouped into similar classifications based on size, color, shape, and texture. Two distinct taste groups appear to exist also. Participants in this group come from Chile, England, New Zealand, Spain, and the US. We have agreed to classify the varieties to try and have a number of similar varieties in each group, in hopes that at least one suitable variety from each group will grow in each production area. Photos of all the varieties will be taken and grouped appropriately to develop a color reference chart with characteristic descriptions that can be used by growers, marketers, and retail end users. Brix readings, pH, and acid readings will be taken at least on varieties selected for commercialization. Work will be done in England with available fruit.

Olga Padilla Zakour has developed a proposal to make the primary processed products, and a group of three basic retail products for each of the targeted berry crops. Primary processed products will include juice, syrup, pulp, air dried, and freeze dried fruit. Fifteen bench samples of each fruit will be made for distribution to processors who wish to experiment with new retail product development. Varieties chosen for processing are those available in the US, and processed globally. The samples produced are vital to developing retail products and marketing.

Research results and discussion:

Resources Made Available to Help Growers and Processors

Target 1 Potential health benefits of ribes, aronia, elderberry. (New or existing dates follow)

    Milestone 1 (Fall 2004) Report phytochemical characterization of targeted berries to extension educators, growers, and processors through a newsletter and meeting.

    Milestone 2 (Spring 2005) Report results of in vivo studies of phytochemical metabolism and their possible impact on animal health to extension educators, growers, and processors.

    Milestone 3 (Winter 2005) Publish scientific journal article related to targeted berries and their potential health benefits. Make press releases and conduct interviews for the general public.

Progress Report: The health benefits research (biochemical composition of ribes, aronia, and elderberry) has been completed and published in  scientific journals. Various popular news releases have been made.  The article for journal publication (absorbtion of antioxidant biochemicals by the digestive system)  was published in Spring, 2005.

Target 2 Develop feasibility studies, turnkey business plan, and a plan for farmer cooperation. (New or existing dates follow.)

    Milestone 1 (Fall, 2003) Release completed feasibility study on targeted berries to extension educators, growers, and processors. Present results in a meeting of 100 growers, and recruit 20 as participant growers.

    Milestone 2 (Fall, 2003) Release business plan to extension educators, and 20 participant farmers.

    Milestone 3 (Spring 2004) Offer grower services to participating growers.

    Milestone 4 (Winter 2005) Continue to add participating farmers at a rate of 20 per year.

Progress Report: This target’s milestones 1&2 were completed in 2003. A company is now offering grower services commercially for Ribes, including planning plantings, providing plants, planting, seasonal care, and harvesting and marketing. At least 20 new farmers, small to larger scale are planting currants annually.

Target 3 Develop cultural practices, market standards and sample primary processed products.
(Dates have been adjusted.)

    Milestone 1 (Fall, 2003) Make results of the first year’s fungicide trials, and gooseberry industry standards available to extension educators and 20 growers in newsletters and a meeting.

    Milestone 2 (Winter 2003) Distribute primary processed products to at least ten retail product manufacturers and basic retail product recipes in a workshop open to 50 small scale food processors. Assist up to four medium to large scale and ten small processors to develop products.

    Milestone 3 (N/A) Distribute gooseberry seedlings to five participating growers.

    Milestone 4 (Summer 2005) Assist five gooseberry farmers to incorporate new mkt. stds.

    Milestone 5 (Summer 2003, Summer 2004, Spring 2005) Make annual results of fungicide trials and seedling observations available to extension personnel and 50 growers.

    Milestone 6 (Winter 2006) Incorporate new fungicide guidelines into extension ribes recommendations.

     Milestone 7 (Summer 2003, summer 2004) Evaluate cordon training for Ribes plants in Europe, and develop articles for farmers in the US explaining how to adapt the system to US growing conditions.

     Milestone 8 (Spring 2005) Evaluate CA storage techniques for red currants and gooseberries in Holland and share the technology with Northeast US farmers as a way to extend the red currant and gooseberry seasons.

Progress Report:  
MS 1 & 5. The planting area was established as described in this original SARE proposal and the first report was given to a group of berry farmers in summer of 2003. A more complete report was given at a summer field day in 2004, and over 50 farmers were in attendance. The results have been published in the NYS Berry newsletter, and are being distributed in the northeast as requested.

MS 2. Primary processed products including puree, syrup, single strength juice, concentrate, dried, and infused dried black currants have been made at the food venture center using local fruit samples. They have been distributed to four food processors to this point. Availability was announced at the NYS Direct Marketing Conference berry meeting January 29, 2003 (and a sample of infused dried berries passed around for tasting), and will be announced in the Small Food Processors’ Association newsletter. A sample of each was demonstrated at Marvin Pritt’s small fruit class at Cornell. Four processors have accepted samples. In all, 34 500 ml plastic bottles of 65 brix concentrate, 11 12 oz. bottles of essence, 22 bags of air dried berries, 15 bags of sugar infused berries, and 2.2 gallons of frozen puree were made. Au Currant, Water Buffalo Yogurt, Blue Roof, Connecticut Currant, Micosta, Hudson Valley Hometown Foods, Love Apple Farm, and De Palma Farm were among the businesses to receive product

MS 3. Gooseberry seedlings from over 100 varieties were to be grown at Coldwater Pond Nursery in Phelps, New York for distribution during fall of 2003. The seeds from over 200 varieties of gooseberries were separated and dried, but the nursery decided they did not wish to grow the seedlings. They have been given to Au Currant and are in storage in their freezer waiting for the opportunity to be planted (in 2005 or 2006). Hartman Nursery and Nourse Farms have made the elderberry varieties imported through this project available to the public.

MS 4. New market standard development has been described for dessert gooseberries in a New York Quarterly article. About 150 varieties have been evaluated in the field for three years at two locations in England. Flavor and Brix observations were noted along with observations on disease. Photos of all fruits were taken and an article was published in Fall, 2006. A binder with a page dedicated to each variety, including pictures, fruit and plant characteristics, and history if known is being compiled during the next five years. The fruits have been grouped according to similarity so that a standardization of gooseberry types has been accomplished. This will be useful to the trade so that buyers can associate a variety name with a fruit type. This research has been published in the New York Fruit Quarterly.

MS 6. Final recommendations have been included with the final report.

MS 7. A cordon training system (for fresh fruit production) in Holland was observed and studied for adoption in the US for two years. This system simplifies pruning, spraying, and harvesting. It is appropriate for gooseberries and red currants. A demonstration was set up in Hudson, NY, and two articles were written and distributed to more than five newsletters with regional, national, and international distribution. It was also incorporated into the new Ribes Production Guide, which Steven McKay had a chance to review and contribute other information as a part of SARE activities.

MS 8. CA storage for Ribes is done routinely, and observed in Holland. It has much promise for use in the US, and could be a major marketing aid for our developing industry. Detailed information about CA storage of red currants has been collected, and a research project was completed on gooseberries. One Hudson Valley grower has now started to use the technology on a pilot basis.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

A Cookbook and Basic Ribes Cultivation Manual Were Developed With Help From SARE

Various articles and resources were developed using assistance from SARE. A multitude of articles have beed published during the four years that the project has been active. Copies are included in the final report.

1. General information pamphlet on ribes cultivation.

2. General information pamphlet on elderberry and aronia cultivation.

3. Ribes cookbook.

4. Two articles on health benefits.

5. Two articles on vertical cordon training of Ribes.

6. An article on gooseberry variety similarities, selection, and availability in the US.

7. A feasibility study on aronia, ribes, and elderberry.

8. Two articles on fungicides for Ribes.

2006 Outreach
2 Master gardner trainings on small fruit including Ribes
1 Presentation at NY Botanical Gardens on these small fruits
1 Presentation at NY Orange County Onion School presenting these berries as alternative crops
1 Presentation at Home Gardening Day, Hudson
3 Radio broadcasts on these berries.
3 Street and county fairs giving samples and discussing the fruit
2 Presentations to state officials regarding white pine blister rust
1 Fruit school presentation on these berries

2005 Outreach
2 Master gardner trainings on small fruit including Ribes
1 Presentation at NY Botanical Gardens on these small fruits.
2 Presentations at Home Gardening Day, Hudson
3 Radio broadcasts on these berries.
3 Street and county fairs giving samples and discussing the fruit
1 Fruit school presentation.
1 Presentation at Botanical Gardens in Connecticut.
1 Presentation at Botanical Gardens in Massachusetts.

2004 Outreach
1 Presentation at a NYS state senate hearing.
2 Master gardner trainings on small fruit including Ribes
1 Presentation at NY Botanical Gardens on these small fruits.
1 Presentation at Home Gardening Day, Hudson
1 Presentation at Home Gardening Day, Ulster County
2 Radio broadcasts on these berries.
3 Street and county fairs giving samples and discussing the fruit
1 Fruit school presentation.
1 Presentation at Botanical Gardens in Connecticut.
1 Presentation at Botanical Gardens in Massachusetts.
1 Presentation at tri state gardening day, September, Ulster County

2003 Outreach
2 Master gardner trainings on small fruit including Ribes
1 Presentation at NY Botanical Gardens on these small fruits.
1 Presentation at Home Gardening Day, Hudson
2 Radio broadcasts on these berries.
3 Street and county fairs giving samples and discussing the fruit
1 Fruit school presentation.
1 Presentation at Botanical Gardens in Connecticut.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Farmers and Processors Now Use Ribes

a. Processed over 60,000 pounds of black currant fruit commercially, and working to develop and bottle a local beverage made from the syrup.

b. Over 100 acres of additional Ribes plantings have been planted since this project began. A farm in Massachusetts is still planning to plant Aronia, and one in New York, elderberry, both for processing quantities.

c. At least four enterprises have been developed to produce commercial retail black currant beverages both fresh and alcoholic.

d. The feasibility studies have found the Ribes industry to be one of the most promising seen many years.

e. A Ribes cookbook has been published with over 800 recipes. It is suitable for selling at farmers’ markets, and other retail sites.

f. A comprehensive production guide for Ribes has been published and was released by Haworth Press in spring, 2005.

g. The International Ribes Association will become active again in 2007. This will be an excellent resource for growers and processors at all levels.

h. A series of list serves sponsored by Cornell exists for the Ribes industry.

i. A new pruning and training system for fresh Ribes production was uncovered while in Europe working on the gooseberry standards project. This system simplifies pruning and results in a higher quality crop. It has been adopted by at least 5 farms in the NE.

j. CA storage for gooseberries and currants can result in holding time of up to 8 months. This is a useful marketing tool for the new crop. We have gathered the initial information on the procedures.

k. Clinton Vineyards continues to increase their production of cassis, and four additional producers have begun production as of Spring 2006.

l. The Ribes list serves and web sites are resources of Cornell and the International Ribes Association that have been made available for the SARE project for discussion and posting information.

M. Ribes crops have been legalized in NY.

N. Two commercial nurseries are now offering the European elderberry varieties imported under this project.

O. The  health benefits articles were published in national scientific journals.

P. Significant quantities of black currant concentrate have been imported into the US to “jump start” the processed black currant industry and prove demand. One producer in CT produces all his own black currants.

Q. A company in New York  will release two aronia and one elderberry drink in summer 2007.

R. Twenty new varieties of ribes were imported into the US quarantine system in winter, 2006, and will be available for distribution out of quarantine in 2009.

Economic Analysis

Feasibility Study Shows Ribes, Aronia, Elderberry Could Be $100,000,000 Industry in Five Years

The feasibility study done by the Hale Group Ltd predicts a bright future for these berry crops. Details can be viewed by reading a copy of the report. It states that if the industry is properly managed, it could generate $100,000,000 in five to eight years. The black currant industry alone in Europe at the farm level is a $700 million dollar industry with a total final retail market value of $2 billion. It is predicted that as consumers become acquainted with these berry beverages, other markets will open rapidly for other products. New growers will be added as demand for product is built using raw products imported from abroad.

The planting of ribes, aronia, and elderberry could help to keep agricultural land in production in the Northeast by offering a profitable crop to cultivate. The Currant Company offers a service to folks who buy larger parcels of land and want to plant. The company plans and installs the planting. In addition they harvest and sell the product.

Yield and quality of gooseberries and red currants have been improved by vertical cordon training systems that were introduced under this project.In addition the 20 varieties of ribes imported from England, and the six varieties of elderberry imported from Denmark are giving growers higher producing, better quality plants to cultivate. Prices for 1/2 pint twelve basket trays have held at between $18 to $28. Frozen berries range from $1.50 to $3.00 per pound. Wines made from currants and elderberry are selling at about $35 per half bottle, 375 ml.

Farmer Adoption

Lack of Planting Materials Limits Expansion of Ribes

Ribes plantings have been the most extensive in the past four years. Greg Quinn and his Walnut Grove Farm have begun to propagate ribes plants to sell from his commercial nursery. Greg has been to Poland and England numerous times to find and make contracts for the import and propagation of disease immune and top quality processing and dessert producers. Greg is working with Nourse Farms in Massachusetts, and McGinnis Farms in Canada to supply plants. They will be stepping up production in 2007 using greenhouses and misting beds because they have orders for hundreds of thousands of plants.

Growers can be grouped into two groups, small scale for local production and farmers markets, and commercial scale where hundreds of boxes of berries are produced and shipped fresh or frozen for processing. The number of small scale growers has expanded rapidly as news articles have helped to improve customer and farmer awareness of the fruit. We have received a few hundred inquiries from small producers. Some of the key Northeast commercial growers include:

New York
The Currant Company
Rogowski Farm
Blue Roof Farm
Mountain Range Farm
Winney Farm
Torrice Farm
Micosta Farm
Claverack Farm
Massachusetts
Nourse Farms
Hingston Farm
Connecticut
Maple Lane Farm/ Connecticut Currant

Price per pound has ranged from $1.50 to $3.00 fresh or frozen. All berries produced to this point have been saleable, and gooseberries have a particularly high demand that is not being met.

The Currant Company has distribution of their Juice in 25 states and more than 4000 stores. Connecticut Currant’s juice has wide distribution in the Northeast, Hingston Farm is supplying berries for the Water Buffalo Yogurt produced in Massachusetts. Micosta is using the berries for pies and chocolates. The public is benefiting by new tasty products with health benefits.

Aronia
Aronia has not yet been adapted in the Northeast for planting. There is one grower in Massachusetts who is planning a planting in the next three years. Micosta has developed a raspberry-Aronia drink and a local apple juice-aronia drink. It is hoped that the continuing publicity that shows aronia is the top anti-oxidant berry (shown in SARE sponsored research of this project)will continue to help demand grow for local fruit.

Elderberry
This project allowed for the importation of six new superior cultivars. Two northeast nurseries have been propagating the plants and are listing them this year for sale. These are better plants that have higher yields, easier and less costly to maintain bushes, and more disease resistance. At least tem farmers have planted elderberry to sell flowers and fruit in farmers’ markets and to wineries.

Long term contributions can be summarized as follows:

Farm Profitability
The price per pound for these berries surpasses prices for the traditional tree fruits grown in the region. Also there is a wide variety of value-added products available to make with these berries. Much of production can be mechanized on a commercial scale to improve profitability. For small scale growers, even a few hundred feet of row space dedicated to the above small fruits can add a few thousand dollars to the farm income.

Environmental Stewardship
These berries require much less protection from pests than traditional tree fruit crops. Besides pest immunity and resistance, there are fewer pests that present problems.

Stronger Community
These berries are all healthy product for consumption by the community. Also they are profitable which will add more jobs, tax income, and multiplier effect on the economy.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Red Currants Facing Disease Problem

As with all projects, answering many questions opens new ones. And now that the farmers have begun to cultivate Ribes, Aronia, and elderberry, some areas for additional study are arising. Those that have become apparent are listed below.

Ribes

1. Now that red currants have been growing for about four to five years, a new disease has begun to cause some losses. Eutypa fungus normally takes about five years to cause symptoms on red currants. It causes whole branches to wilt and die during the growing season until whole plants are lost. It is thought to be brought in with nursery stock. Research needs to be done to identify resistant varieties and how to prevent introduction of the disease from plants purchased from nurseries.

2. Gooseberries and currants planted under plum trees have appeared to have berries 1,5 times larger than those grown in direct sun. In addition yields and plant health seem better. Plants in Europe were planted in the plum/ribes companion system centuries ago, and modern plantings got away from the system in the 1950’s as monoculture became more popular. Controlled trial plantings of these systems should be done.

3. Continued work with postharvest of gooseberries and currants will assure improved marketing of the crops in the future.

Aronia

1. A study on how to dwarf plants, or keep them smaller will help make harvesting easier.
2. Continue to develop more value added products for this berry which has been rated as the number one anti oxidant berry studied.

Elderberry

1. Study bird damage prevention on ripe fruit.
2. Continue to develop more value-added products for this crop.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.