Researchers Eyeing New Small Fruit Opportunities

June 23, 2008

PIKETON, Ohio -- With small fruit production, such as brambles and strawberries, becoming a sustainable enterprise in Ohio, Ohio State University Extension researchers are looking at another potential niche fruit crop.

Horticulturists with OSU South Centers at Piketon are exploring the production of Ribes, perennial woody shrubs that produce a variety of edible berries, such as gooseberries, currants and jostaberries (a black currant and gooseberry hybrid).

Maurus Brown, an OSU Extension small fruit specialist, said that commercial Ribes production has potential in Ohio as a specialty crop, providing economic opportunities for farmers throughout southern Ohio while giving consumers more unique food choices.

"This is an area of small fruit production that has been successfully started in New York, Idaho, Oregon and other states, and has potential here in Ohio but has been largely ignored," said Brown. "Ribes production is an opportunity to help farmers in Appalachian Ohio produce an alternative fruit crop that can be sold at markets as fresh berries, in baked goods, for jams and jellies, and even the wine industry."

Brown and his colleagues will begin evaluating Ribes varieties in 2009 for a variety of characteristics, such as winter hardiness, insect and disease pressures, and sustainable growth under Ohio's environmental conditions.

"Currants and gooseberries are very winter hardy, even more so than some bramble varieties, and grow very well in moderately drained soils," said Brown. "They also grow well in soils amended with high levels of organic matter, however they do not require high levels of fertilization."

Researchers will be focusing on red, white and black currants, gooseberries and jostaberries. From a nutritional standpoint, Ribes varieties are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and are a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and vitamin C. The berries are also being studied for their potential anti-cancer fighting properties.

"It's an exciting time to be studying the production potential of these new crops in Ohio," said Brown.

For more information on Ribes production, contact Maurus Brown at (740) 289-2071 or brown.989@osu.edu.

Author(s): 
Candace Pollock
Source(s): 
Maurus Brown