- Fruits: Aronia, Saskatoon, Haskap, Dwarf Sour Cherry, Currant
- Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, fertilizers, food product quality/safety, irrigation, nurseries, varieties and cultivars
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: feasibility study
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
The trial is being conducted at four locations in Montana, at both a University and Community College learning farms, one at a research station and the final location split between two landowners interested in production.
The project was established in 2015 by a Specialty Crop Block Grant, which offers grant support through 2018.The purpose of the trial is to evaluate cultivars of 6 fruit species commonly known as Aronia, Black and Red Currants, Dwarf Sour Cherry, Juneberry, and Haskap. The trial includes between 2 and 8 cultivars per species. The trial aims to measure the suitability of different cultivars in the harsh Montana environment. Targeted research includes monitoring; cold hardiness and survival, pest and disease incidence and growth phenology. Fruit quality and yield will be measured by cultivar.
These fruits are believed to have nutritive qualities comparable to other contemporary super-fruits, as well as other qualities such as dark pigmentations which are proving attractive to food and beverage production entities for their health food and natural colorant uses.
Despite this increased interest in these species, there are very few agronomic details concerning these crops. Establishing these details for producers will allow them to make best practice decisions regarding location siting and preparation, fertilization, integrated pest and disease management. Furthermore, analysis of the nutritional quality of these cultivars will allow producers and processors to select for fruit with targeted nutritional properties.
The intent of this WSARE Graduate Student Grant is to secure funding for the grant attached graduate student, Durc Setzer, to quantify and report the phytonutrient contents of these unique fruit. Specifically, the fruit will be measured for mineral and anthocyanin contents in late 2017. This research would complement other quality research on the fruit by the graduate student and the overall project.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project has multiple objectives:
1) Determine phytonutrient attributes of cultivars. In collaboration with Dr. Selena Ahmed, cultivars will be tested for antioxidant content by the graduate student, Durc. It is rare that individual cultivars are tested in this way. The results will allow stakeholders and producers to choose cultivars based on metrics of potential healthfulness or colorant qualities. Together with yield and growth information produced from the variety trial, producers will be able to enter markets without having to conduct their own research on potential varieties.
2) Analyze Fruit Mineral Content per Species. An assessment of fruit’s mineral content will lend additional support for the plant’s statuses as super-foods, and allow a better nutritional understanding to those wishing to add these fruit to their diets or food products. Likewise, this will help serve as a guideline to business entities entering into exploratory food research, marketing or production and should serve to drive demand for these fruit.
3) Educate consumers, producers, and buyers. The results of these evaluations will be shared with stakeholders using a variety of formats and media. Workshops and field tours have and will continue to be held at the four sites. Project description and results are and will continue to be published on the WARC website (http://agresearch.montana.edu/warc/). In addition, results have and will be communicated through presentations at local, regional, and national scientific and producer meetings. Project impacts will be gauged through the use of surveys as well as measuring change in production numbers and companies and producers involved. At the beginning of the project, 139 survey responses were collected to establish base-line stakeholder knowledge and interest. This survey will be re-administered at the end of the project to measure changes in knowledge over the course of the project.