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

2010 Annual Report for FNC09-772

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

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


Area for the trial was prepared prior to grant award. Eight rows, each 80 feet long were cleared of vegetation with glyphosate. pH was corrected according to soil test results. Varieties were planted on eight foot centers with fifteen feet between rows. This is wider than normal spacing, but should provide for a better assessment of individual shrubs and allow for wider walking areas between rows.

After the grant was awarded, elderberries were ordered from several nurseries. The April date was actually quite late for placing orders and all of the varieties were not available from the nurseries. Additionally, eight elderberries were ordered from the Sambucus collection of the germplasm bank in Corvallis, OR.

Nursery orders were planted upon arrival. The varieties from nurseries included:
Sambucus canadensis 'York'
S. canadensis 'Adams'
S. canadensis 'Nova'
S. canadensis 'Johns'
S. canadensis
S. nigra 'Samdal'
S. nigra 'Haschberg'
S. cearulea

Cuttings from Corvallis arrived in late June. A local nursery was contacted and agreed to root the cuttings. The rooted cuttings were potted up in late summer. One of each variety was planted in the trial beds, the remainder were overwintered in an unheated garage.

Varieties of the germplasm bank include:
Sambucus canadensis 'Walleye'
S. canadensis 'Marion'
S. canadensis 'Voltra'
S. canadensis 'Serendio'
S. nigra 'Guincho Purple'
S. nigra

Irrigation supplies were ordered for the trial block and were installed in early summer. Water was supplemented to one inch per week through trickle tape. There was a mild drought during mid-summer through early fall.

Fertilizer (19-19-19) was applied at the rate of 60 lbs nitrogen per acre after the new plants were established. Weeds were controlled with mulch, hand weeding and spot treatment with glyphosate (some other herbicides are restricted from use in small fruit plantings less than one year old). Insecticides and fungicides were not used the initial year. With the late start (ordering and planting) the elderberries did not put on substantial above ground growth and only a few bore fruit. The only data taken were for cane development and a worker (college freshman) was paid to measure and count canes, weed, and mulch.

Deer browsed most of the leaves (and only the leaves) off of the plants in late fall. As elderberries fruit terminally on the current year's growth this should not create a long-term problem for the planting. Scent repellents were placed on the perimeter of the planting in late winter. The possibility of putting up fencing is currently being explored.

Also, two varieties failed to establish and will need to be replanted this year or next (depending upon availability).

Late planting of berries affects establishment. First year in the ground primarily establishes the plant with little to no fruit development. The second year should provide a commercially viable crop with a full crop the third or fourth year. Deer preferentially fed on the elderberries in the fall
of 2010—even over pears and apples in the next block. Information about the elderberry trials has been shared at presentations given by this grant recipient. Reaction has been very positive and individuals have expressed interest in touring the trial planting in 2011. I have also been in contact with Ohio State University South Center in regard to trials they have proposed in southern Ohio.

New information on elderberry was also gathered from the following sources:
• McKay, S., Currant Gooseberry, Elderberry and Aronia—Production, Products and Marketability, Great Lakes Expo, Grand Rapids MI, December 2010
• Thomas, A., et. al., Productivity and Characteristics of American Elderberry in Response to Various Pruning Methods, HortScience, 2009, 44:3

The remaining varieties from the germplasm bank overwintered in good condition and will be planted out within the next few weeks.
Varieties on order for the current season include:
S. nigra 'Samyl'
S. nigra 'Samdal' replacement
S. canadensis 'Allesso'
S. canadensis replacement

This will be the first year for a crop on the initial varieties. Staff will again measure canes but this year additional data will be recorded for size and quantity of fruit. A field day will be held in early August. The local Extension office, master gardener program and grape growers have agreed to help with advertising. Field day participants will be asked to rate the shrubs on growth and fruit characteristics.

This grantee has been an active speaker for local foods programs. The elderberry trials and elderberry as a crop choice have been presented for:
• Garden to Table local foods program, 124 participants
• Reimagining Cleveland urban farming program, 30 participants counseled on crop choices including small fruits
• Grape School, 41 participants
In 2011, the grantee has been invited to speak on small fruit production at:
• Garden to Table (second year) specifically on the fruit trials
• Urban Farming class, Summit County OH
• With a good data set it will also be possible to present at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference if the farm budget and work calendar allow.

A second field day was planned in the original grant. The elderberries will be in full production on their third year—2012 for the initial planting and 2013 for the second planting. Since these dates are after the expiration of the grant, either a second field day will be held later in the summer or late winter to go over pruning and maintenance practices, or an extension will be requested so better data can be recorded during full production. Either way, the data will still be reported on the website for future seasons.