- Fruits: berries (other)
- Crop Production: varieties and cultivars
Sambucus nigra ssp. Canadensis (elderberry) has emerged as a candidate for sustainable cultivation in the South and specifically in Florida. Lack of research concerning the effects of local conditions on the antioxidant and other chemical properties of flowers and fruit of established commercial varieties of elderberry presents an opportunity for investigation.
An established market for elderberry in the Midwest has proven the concept and growers from these areas are actively seeking to expand operations in Florida due to the possibility of increased yields. The long growing season in our state make double crops of both flowers and fruit possible with potential for harvest in both early summer and late fall. Established operations further north do not have the ability to manage for double production. Our climate also means that the initial harvest in Florida can beat other regions to market on a seasonal basis, as is the case with many other crops. The bright white flowers of the elderberry are commonly found every month of the year throughout Florida which further points to the hardiness of the species and its tolerance for a wide range of temperature and growing conditions. The prevalence of wild, native elderberry in our region demonstrates the suitability of the crop, though most native stands of elderberry in Florida are regarded as being more indeterminate in flower and fruit production timing. Native stands are also often inaccessible for harvest and testing. Our existing test orchard offers an environment with standardized growing and management conditions where samples can be harvested from 13 established, non-GMO varieties of elderberry.
A large selection of established commercial varieties is available, but no objective analysis of these varieties has been conducted in Florida. Many examples of research conducted in the Midwest on native elderberries is available. Arguably, the single most important factor in selecting focus varieties from within a group of those varieties already found to grow and produce well in Florida is the analysis of the chemical constituents of the fruit and flowers produced by the unique growing conditions of our region. The antioxidant properties of the fruit and flowers of the elderberry are considered to be a large part of the basis for their market value, unlike in other fruit crops where the chemical profile of the produce is less often a top concern. This focus is largely due to the density of antioxidants in the elderberry, compounds which are known to be present in notably high concentrations as compared to other fruits commonly accepted to be good sources of antioxidants. Nutraceutical markets are one important focus for elderberry production and much of the market growth for elderberry is related to growth in this product area.
Our solution to helping educate potential growers of the positive attributes of elderberry as a commercial crop in Florida is to share the results of the analysis outline above. Additionally, an onsite field demonstration is planned for year two of the research. The goal of furthering developing the market for elderberry as an alternative crop for the South is addressed by this basic strategy. By concentrating on the antioxidant-rich aspect of the crop we will be able to gather and share data which furthers interest in elderberry as a crop with significant possibilities for citrus replacement, cultivation on marginal lands, and a wide variety of other circumstances where agroforestry and alley-cropping systems are appropriate.
Project objectives from proposal:
Thirteen varieties cloned from selected native and commercially utilized genotypes have been planted in replicated blocks on the farm with a minimum of four plants in each replicated block. Total antioxidant concentrations of both fruit and flowers of each variety tested will be determined by chemical analysis. Brix, acidity, and juice yield by a standardized extraction method and a standardized sample weight for fruit will be conducted.
Only total antioxidant content of the flowers of each variety is planned currently. Subjective measures of notable characteristics of different varieties will also be shared in reports, and any descriptive observations will be properly separated from results gleaned from chemical analysis.