Aronia berries: A sustainable nutraceutical crop for the Northeast
Three 1 acre demonstration aronia orchards were maintained at farms in Fryeburg, ME, Preston, CT and Mansfield, CT. Demonstration orchards are one of the essential tools we will be using for farmer education and participation and they will be ready for this purpose in 2012. Planning and preparation are underway for field days next year. Information has been collected during orchard establishment that will be used in the development of farmer business plans. A nationally know Aronia expert was sponsored to speak at the Specialty Fruit session of the 2011 New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference held in December in Manchester, NH. The most extensive aronia germplasm collection was expanded and evauation of the collection revealed considerable variation that can be used in breeding new, superior Aronia cultivars for farmers. Plant habit, growth potential, ploidy, fruiting characteristics and nutraceutical potential are under evaluation. Genetic testings conducted so far has revealed that the popular cultivar ‘Viking’ is an intergeneric hybrid between Aronia melanocarpa and Sorbus.
Performance Target. Twelve farmers will each have established an average of 2 acres of aronia by the conclusion of the 4-year grant period. Average production of 15,000 lbs. of fruit per acre will yield 360,000 lbs. of fruit annually. If aronia fruit sells at $1.45 per lb., then aronia production in the Northeast from work performed with funds from this grant will result in $522,000 gross sales annually for farmers.
Milestone 1. Maple Lane Farms, Preston, CT and Western Maine Nurseries will establish 1 acre Aronia orchards to serve as demonstration locations for education of additional farmers. On farm trials will verify successful cultural conditions for production in New England. Installation will be complete by June 2009, and verification of success will continue throughout project.
Demonstration orchards established at Maple Lane Farms, Preston, CT, Western Maine Nurseries, Fryeburg, ME and the University of Connecticut Research and Outreach Field Facility, Storrs, CT were maintained and monitored for progress.
Milestone 2. At least 120 farmers and 10 extension educators will increase their knowledge about Aronia as an alternative nutraceutical fruit crop through presentations and tours at workshops held at the two demonstration farms. Summer 2010.
Aronia workshops at the two demonstration farms were delayed to account for the delay in obtaining plants for the orchards and to allow plants sufficient time to establish. Onsite workshops will be held in August 2012.
Milestone 3. At least 150 small fruit and vegetable farmers will increase their knowledge about Aronia as an alternative nutraceutical fruit crop through presentations at a half-day symposium on Aronia production at the New England Vegetable and Small Fruit Conference. December 2011.
Eldon Everhart, a national expert on Aronia, spoke to 120 small fruit and vegetable farmers at the 2011 New England Vegetable and Small Fruit Conference about Aronia as a potential new crop for growers in the Northeast.
Milestone 4. At least 35 of the farmers who attend the field days or symposium will express an interest in establishing Aronia orchards. Summer 2010 and December 2011.
The field days have been delayed until Summer 2012, but around a dozen growers that attended the Specialty Fruit session at the 2011 New England Vegetable and Small Fruit Conference have expressed interest in growing Aronia.
Milestone 5. Of those farmers attending workshops and the symposium, 12 will develop business plans and establish Aronia orchards. December 2011 thru October 2013.
We expect this milestone to be realized beginning in 2012.
Milestone 6. Using findings from evaluations of Aronia germplasm, including USDA’s material, at least 150 farmers will understand which Aronia genotypes will perform best in New England, provide the greatest health benefits to consumers and have the highest market value. December 2011.
Plant performance evaluation largest aronia germplasm collection in the world was continued and analysis of fruit for beneficial compounds was conducted. Genetic analysis of the popular cultivar ‘Viking’ revealed that it is an interspecific Aronia hybrid. This finding significantly enhances our ability to create better, new Aronia cultivars.
Milestone 7. 500 people interested in learning more about Aronia berry production will download chapters of the Aronia production manual from the internet and increase their knowledge of Aronia as a sustainable fruit crop. July 2009 thru October 2013.
The online manual was maintained on the web and continues to be accessed by people interested in Aronia.
Milestone 1. One acre demonstration orchards of Viking aronia at Western Maine Nursery in Fryeburg, ME, Maple Lane Farms in Preston, CT and the University of Connecticut Research and Outreach Field Facility were maintained to allow for continued establishment of the liners planted in June 2010. Plant establishment was very successful at all three sites and plants flowered and produced their first light fruit crop. A moderate fruit crop is expected during the 2012 season based on the growth observed on the plants. Heavy fruiting should occur in 2013.
Milestone 2. Onsite workshops will be held in August 2012. Due to the delay we experienced in obtaining plants to establish our demonstration sites, we decided to delay on site workshops at the Aronia orchards until the plants were large enough to produce moderate fruit crops. We want to be sure that farmers attending the workshops would experience the plants in fruit, since that is the critical part of the plant for orchard production. While we could have conducted workshops during 2011, we felt that doing this with small plants producing only a light fruit crop would make us less successful at educating future Aronia growers.
Milestone 3. Our desire had been to sponsor a half-day symposium just on Aronia at the New England Vegetable and Small Fruit Conference in December 2011. The organizers of the conference had reservations about devoting a half day to just the topic of Aronia, so they instead had a half day symposium on specialty fruit and Aronia was included in that group. We sponsored a speaker on Aronia, Dr. Eldon Everhart. He is one of national experts on Aronia and his presentation was titled “Aronia: a new/old berry crop for the Northeast”. Dr. Everhart’s presentation was published as: Everhart, E. 2011. Aronia: a new/old berry crop for the Northeast. New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference Proceedings. Pp. 225-226. Also, in the conference proceedings was Brand, M. and L.B. Stack. 2011. Aronia berry production: a promising crop for Northeast growers. New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference Proceedings. P. 227.
Milestone 4. The field days have been delayed until Summer 2012 to allow the demonstration plantings to become sufficiently established to produce moderate fruit crops, since potential Aronia growers will be able to learn more from a well-established planting that if we conducted field days in 2011 with orchards too young to produce much fruit. Around a dozen growers that attended the Specialty Fruit session at the 2011 New England Vegetable and Small Fruit Conference have expressed interest in growing Aronia. They spoke with, contacted, or had a one-on-one consultation with M. Brand or L. Stack to express their interest in trying Aronia as a new crop. We anticipate that there will be many additional growers or potential growers with interest in Aronia production during the Summer 2012 Field Days. We’ve added a feature to the website that allows growers and potential growers to connect with us, to receive information about the field days and to consult with us one-on-one.
Milestone 5. During establishment of the demonstration orchards data identified as necessary for development of accurate business plans has been collected and will continue as the orchards progress.
Milestone 6. Our total number of Aronia germplasm accessions was increased to over 160. Seventy five new accessions were established in our randomized 3X replicated field planting so they can be evaluated for growth, performance and fruit production characteristics. Evaluation of the germplasm collection has begun and for the 2011 growing seasons plants were evaluated for phenology of leaves, flowers, and fruits; number of inflorescences per 12&quot; of branch, fruit length, width and weight per 25; fall leaf retention and color; flower diameter; fruit ripening date, fruit color; pubescence; largest stem diameter, plant height; leaf area, length, width, perimeter.
The fruits of black, and possibly purple, Aronia are known to contain large quantities of antioxidant compounds and anticancer chemicals. In 2011, fruit collected from 35 accessions of black and purple Aronia were tested for total anthocyanins, phenolics and ORAC. We collected fruit from an additional 18 accessions and sent them to biochemists at NASA for total anthocyanins, phenolics and ORAC analysis. Emphasis for fruit collection in 2011 was on diploid black accessions, since these have the greatest potential for breeding.
Ploidy analysis was conducted on newly collected accessions using flow cytometry. Determining the ploidy of accessions is critical since polyploids in Aronia are apomictic and have limited usefulness for plant improvement. We have collected and are storing tissue of all accessions at -80F and have begun DNA isolation in preparation for genetic analysis using AFLP techniques and microsatellites. Initial AFLP analysis has indicated that the primary commercial cultivar, Viking, is not pure Aronia melanocarpa, but likely a hybrid complex with Sorbus.
Crosses were made as the beginning steps to develop new, superior genotypes that would enhance productivity of Aronia orchards and increase the nutraceutical value of the crop. Seeds will be germinated in 2012 and the usefulness of the progeny will be evaluated.
Milestone 7. The online Aronia Berry Production Manual was maintained at the University of Maine. Additional chapters to the manual will be added in 2012 when more data has been collected on production methods that are appropriate for the Northeast. A frequently asked questions section will also be added in 2012. As mentioned earlier, a component was added to allow visitors to connect with us, to receive information about the field days and to consult with us one-on-one (http://www.umext.maine.edu/forms/aronia-enroll.htm.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The primary hands-on training components will be held in 2012 due to delays in establishing demonstration orchards. Our demo orchards are coming along very nicely and will be excellent venures for provide training about Aronia in 2012 and beyond. The orchards are also proving to be useful instruments in evaluating cultural practices that will work well for growers in the Northeast.
Our effors to collect Aronia germplasm are going to pay off well since we have been able find considerable variation in wild germplasm, well beyond what has been previously reported. Of particular importance are variations in ploidy, plant habit, fruit ripening date, fruit size, fruit flavor, fruit beneficial compound composition, and chilling requirements for dormancy release. It is also clear now, based on thorough morphological study of our extensive germplasm collection, that previous speciation treatments for the genus need to be adjusted.
Our genetic testing efforts so far have revealed that the popular cultivar ‘Viking’ is actually an intergeneric hybrid with Sorbus. With this knowledge about the genetics of a superior cultivar, it will be possible to recreate this cultivar using the best starting germplasm available in our accession collection. The result will be introduction of new and improved cultivars for farmers.
Associate Extension Educator
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension
24 Hyde Road
Vernon, CT 06066-4599
Office Phone: 8608753331
Maple Lane Farms
57 Northwest Corner Rd.
Preston, CT 06365
Office Phone: 8608893766
Western Maine Nurseries
4 Nursery Lane
P O Box 250
Fryeburg, ME 04037
Office Phone: 8004474745
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
495 College Avenue
University of Maine CE
Orono, ME 04473-1294
Office Phone: 2075812949
Senior Research Chemist & Analytical Chemist
NASA Life Sciences Services
Dynamac Corp., Mail Code DYN-3
Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899
Office Phone: 3218612931