Aroniaberry: new small fruit and alternative crop for Georgia

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2024: $27,910.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2026
Grant Recipient: University of Georgia
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Bodie Pennisi
University of Georgia


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Since 2020, we have been conducting research on Aronia ‘Viking’
(most widely planted cultivar) in Georgia. We found that it only
sets berries in the northern parts of the state likely due to its
chill requirement7 in order to obtain fruit in
sufficient quantity for commercial production. Replicated
plantings of three-year old plants at the UGA MREC Blairsville
and UGA-Griffin have generated data on plant growth, berry yield,
and fruit quality8. Fruit quality of ‘Viking’ in
Blairsville (USDA Zone 7a, Blue Ridge region) and Griffin (USDA
Zone 8a, Piedmont region) for 2022 and 2023 were as follows. In
2022, plants in Blairsville had higher yield on average (237
berries/plant with 184 g/plant for ‘Viking’; 1,085.7
berries/plant) compared to plants in Griffin (119 berries/plant
with 38 g/plant for ‘Viking’). The same trend was observed in
berry weight and diameter. Blairsville berries were sweeter than
berries in Griffin. ‘Viking’ berries in Griffin had tougher skins
(4.5 N) compared to berries in Blairsville. We attribute these
differences in fruit quality to environmental conditions,
specifically temperature. In 2023, plants in Blairsville yielded
1,310 berries per bush, an increase of 550% over the previous
year. The yield per bush was 1.55 lbs. In 2023, ‘Viking’ berries
harvested in Blairsville were less acidic (0.34 total titratable
acidity, TTA) than in 2022 (0.44 TTA), and less sweet (23.2°
Brix) than in 2022 (26.0° Brix). The fruit quality from northern
areas of production reported values of 13.6-14.5° Brix and
0.9-1.08 TA (titratable acidity)9. From this data we
could draw initial inference that Georgia-grown aroniaberry may
be superior to northern-grown due to its higher sugar content.
Fruit flavor encompasses a combination of factors such as aroma,
texture, and sugar/acid ratios10

In fall of 2023, we established a planting of 120 aronias at
Mercier Orchards, a 300-acre orchard located in Blue Ridge, GA,
as well as a smaller planting at Buckeye creek farm in Woodstock,
GA. This project will follow up with the two farmers and
determine yield, berry properties, identify potential production
issues, develop enterprise budget, and disseminate results to
producers. We also plan to investigate optimal irrigation and
fertilization regimes for aronia. So far, we have achieved
excellent survival rates (97 - 99%) with irrigation only at
planting/first two weeks afterwards. It is logical to assume that
productivity would be higher with supplemental irrigation.
Careful consideration also should be given to fertilization
because it could affect fruit quality11. For example,
maximum production of anthocyanins per plant was obtained with a
medium high fertilizer rate (50 kg N/ha,
44 kg P/ha, 100 kg K/ha = 20.24 kg N/A),
although higher rate resulted in higher yield and larger
plants12. So far in our plantings, we have applied
small amount of fertilizer at planting (25 g N/plant).

 We aim to generate on-farm data that would inform on
cultivation of aroniaberry, and diversify market offerings of
high-nutraceutical, profitable, alternative crop in Georgia.

Project objectives from proposal:

We will achieve our objectives by building on our current
research and utilizing existing relationships with collaborating
farmers, as well as Extension agents. This will be conducted over
two years. Fruit data from two growing seasons will be collected.

Objective 1: Determine optimal irrigation and
fertilization regimes for aroniaberry.

  • We will use the following treatments: two irrigation levels
    (irrigated and non-irrigated control), and three fertilizer rates
    (10, 20, or 30 kg N/Acre). The experimental design will be
    split-plot, with irrigation the main plot and fertilization rate
    the sub-plot. This part will be conducted at Mercier Orchards,
    where plants have been established in fall of 2023.

Objective 2: Determine fruit yield and berry properties
(i.e. texture, sugar content, anthocyanin content, content of
brown compounds, content of soluble solids, anthocyanin
composition and total acidity, mineral nutrient content).

  • Fruit will be harvested from the two farms to determine yield
    per plant. Representative sample will be processed in the lab
    according to standard fruit testing protocols for texture
    (puncture and Kramer shear) and chemical analyses, e.g.
    0 Brix (sugar content), titrator (TA), monomeric
    anthocyanins (AOAC pH differential method). Berry mineral content
    (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc)
    will also be determined.

Objective 3: Identify potential production issues with

  • We will monitor the crop for foliar and berry problems, pests
    and diseases, and/or nutritional disorders. If needed, samples
    will be sent to pathology and entomology labs to determine pest

Objective 4: Determine revenue potential of aroniaberry
and develop enterprise budget.

  • For both years, we will follow with the two farmers to record
    all inputs, including materials and labor. After the crop is
    harvested and marketed (at existing retail location at Mercier
    farm and local farmer market for Buckeye Creek farm), we will
    note quantity sold and revenue generated. In consultation with an
    ag economist, we will develop an enterprise budget.

Objective 5: Disseminate information on aroniaberry
production to producers in north Georgia.

  • We will conduct a workshop at the UGA-MREC in Blairsville in
    August of Year 2 to incorporate observation of mature (5-year
    old) bushes in the field, and fruit tasting. The workshop will
    cover all relevant aspects of crop production and include
    farmers’ perspective. This will present an opportunity to recruit
    new producers and consumers, and conduct a tasting panel. County
    agents in the area will be used to promote the event.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.