Elderberry Trials for Northern Ohio Growers; Demonstrations and Evaluations to Encourage Diversification

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $1,953.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Timothy J Malinich
The Ohio State University Extension

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: general small fruits


  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal summary:

    Local producers need to diversify their crop mix in order to take advantage of the local food initiatives in the region. Niche markets do exist for more unusual fruits and vegetables. For instance, the local pick-your-own blueberry growers are unable to meet current demand and more growers are being added to this market every year. This demand for local, fresh and, according to the consumer’s perception, healthy produce creates a potential market for new crops. Similarly, diversification into new crops is needed to not only create but also to fill needs for the baking, restaurant, and winemaking industry. Growers need to explore other marketing avenues including long-term (i.e. multi-season) relationships with their clients. In order to do this they need innovative marketing and a mix of crops that will attract a diverse group of customers throughout the year. Elderberries are one possible crop into which growers can diversify their acreage. Additionally, owners of small acreages may look at specialty crops like Sambucus to supplement income during this current recession. Elderberry is a large woody shrub native to North America. This shrub bears large clusters of small berries used for juice, wine, and baking. Fruit is born on current season's growth so growers can achieve an earlier return than with other crops. Locally, elderberries are shown at fairs, made into wine and juice, and used in baked goods. Fruits are collected primarily from wild stands. Growers producing elderberries do so on a small scale and the opportunity to increase production of elderberry as a niche crop is overlooked. Harvests can approach fifteen pounds per plant in established plantings, making a possible per acre yield of nearly 12,000 pounds (Galletta, Himelrick, 1990, Small Fruit Crop Management). Elderberries are also tolerant of soil and moisture conditions, which often create problems for growers on heavier soils found in many areas throughout this region. Search for work on elderberry indicates that an ongoing Elderberry Improvement Project was started in 1997 in Missouri. Information from trials completed in Illinois was published in Fruit Varieties Journal (Skirvin, Robert M., and Alan Otterbacher. 1977, Elderberry Cultivar Performance in Illinois. Fruit Varieties Journal 31: 7-10). Two research summaries from work in Ohio were published in 1969 and 1970 (Hill, R G. 1969. Elderberry Evaluation Studies. Ohio Agricultural Research Development Center Research Summary: 20-22. 3) and (Hill, R G. 1970. "Performance of Elderberry Cultivars." Ohio Agricultural Research Development Center Research: 39-42). The National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Sambucus is maintained in Corvallis, Oregon. Regional trials of small fruit plantings will make it easier to identify cultivars that perform well in this area. Also, trials are more likely to be accessed if they are located near the growers, limiting the expense of traveling to field days or trials in another part of the state. This grant will support the planting of an elderberry trial that will be open for educational events and whose results will be available on the website as well as submitted to print media and trade journals.

    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.