- Fruits: berries (other)
- Crop Production: greenhouses, irrigation
High value horticulture crops are ideal for small farmers because of smaller land usage, reduced labor requirements, and greater income per acre planted. Developing diversity in specialty crop production is important for marketing and especially well suited for those farmers existing near densely populated, metropolitan regions of the Southeast. Finding those specialty crops that grow well and are economically viable is essential to preserving agriculture in not just the Southeast, but all across the United States. Goji Berries are a traditional Asian fruit consisting of two very closely related species, Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense. An antioxidant-rich berry, Goji berries have 25,000 ORAC units (measure of antioxidant activity), 21 trace minerals, beta carotene, betaine, all 8 essential amino acids and 5 important polysaccharides (Planta Med, Wu, Ng, Lin 2004). Most Goji fruit that is consumed in the United States is imported from China as juice or dried due to federal regulations. With concerns regarding the safety of imported food items as well as increased transportation costs, the establishment of a local source of fruit is necessary. There is very little domestic production in this country, and no commercial Goji berry production on the East coast. Demand is very high for fresh fruit but very little supply exists especially in the Southeast. Cuttings of L. barbarum and L. chinense will be evaluated on rooting, transplanting and finally field production. Because both species produce similar fruit, establishing which species is the easiest to propagate as well as which performs the best during transplant and field establishment is important. In total, 120 cuttings of each species will be evaluated for rooting. 20 cuttings of each species will be taken at the beginning of each month starting in May and continuing through October. This will help determine when the best time of year is to propagate these plants. Cuttings of L. barbarum will be supplied from seedlings germinated in the spring of 2008 by Norma Wilson and cuttings of L. chinense by Dr. Greg Welbaum, horticulture professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Soft wood cuttings of 2 inches (5cm) in length will be placed in an Aeroponics propagation chamber. Each of these cuttings will be given a label that corresponds to the species, the month in which the cutting was taken and then a numerical designation of 1-20. This will help track the cutting from rooting until field establishment. Cuttings will be evaluated three times at 7 day intervals before transplant. Observations at 7, 14 and 21 days will classify each of the cuttings’ development into 3 categories. Category 1 will consist of those plants with no root development. Category 2 will be those cuttings that have between 1-4 roots. Category 3 will be those cuttings with 5 or more roots. At 21 days, the cuttings will be transplanted into pots in an unheated greenhouse. If more time is required the schedule will be amended to include a fourth observation at 28 days before transplant. All observations will be recorded into a data chart. Determining which transplant media is optimal is another aspect of propagation that can ultimately improve production. The cuttings will be transplanted into one gallon pots containing four different media. Medium A is the control and will consist of native clay loam. Medium B: a mixture of clay loam and well composted woodchips. Medium C: a mixture of clay loam and earthworm castings, and Medium D: a mixture of clay loam, well composted woodchips and earthworm castings. Earthworm castings have been shown to improve vegetable transplant quality. (HortSci, Lindsay 2005) Cuttings will be transplanted into the four media randomly. Length of new growth and stem diameter will be recorded before plants are transplanted into the field. Plants will enter dormancy in the late fall. The transplants’ ability to overwinter in the unheated greenhouse will be evaluated the following spring. Plants will be moved to the field in May. The day and weather conditions will be noted. Transplants will be placed in grow tubes for pest protection and will have drip irrigation. Growth and pest pressure will be observed and recorded on a weekly basis. Height measurements will be recorded. Cold hardiness in the field will be observed following the first growing season.