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‘Honeyberry’ holds promise

Study aimed at determining if this blue-berried version of the honeysuckle can be adapted successfully to the Fraser Valley.

By Judie Steeves T

here may be a new berry on the block in the coming decade that is adapted for

growing well in the Fraser Valley, and could be used for fresh market, frozen or processing into jams, jellies or wine. The blue honeysuckle

(Lonicera caerulea L.), also known as haskap or honeyberry, has higher levels of antioxidants than blueberries, and could have nutraceutical applications as well, explains Eric Gerbrandt, a PhD student from the University of Saskatchewan who grew up in the valley and is happy to be able to return home to do research work. He’s working on a project to

evaluate the adaptation of a novel berry crop to the Fraser Valley, on a prestigious three-year Vanier Scholarship. The award is open to students

at Canadian universities and is aimed at attracting and retaining world- class doctoral candidates to help establish this country as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Students cannot apply directly but must be nominated by the university at which they wish to study. There are limited allocations to specific universities, so only top students from across the country are nominated. Gerbrandt began his work in the

Fraser Valley a couple of years ago, but received his Vanier scholarship thisMay, with the idea of starting development of a new crop for the Fraser Valley that would allow more

The tasty, oblong berries of the blue honeysuckle could add more diversity to this region’s berry industry.

suited here. He brought

nearly 3,000 plants here in a U- Haul, already growing as plugs, that had been taken as vegetative cuttings at the university. He planted the first in 2010 and the rest in 2011, after growing them in the greenhouse for the first year. They are now equivalent to fourth-year plants and they begin producing berries almost immediately, shortening the time needed for evaluation. Gerbrandt is

already finding that some cultivars have potential, while others are not well adapted to the valley. He cautions

there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to reach the stage where he will

diversification for growers; more options, providing greater economic stability. Plant breeding work on a variety of

blue honeysuckle germplasm from different sources around the world has been underway for the past decade at the University of Saskatchewan under assistant professor Bob Bors from the College of Agriculture. Several cultivars are now planted in

Langley, PittMeadows and Chilliwack, where Gerbrandt is evaluating their progress. Although the majority are adapted

to cooler climates, he is watching the trials to see which ones are best

have identified one that’s adapted to high production in the valley, with good flavour and qualities that make machine harvesting practical. But, research work is also being

done in Oregon and Gerbrandt says there may soon be some releases there for warmer climates such as the Fraser Valley. The blue honeysuckle is an early

berry, which reduces its exposure to SpottedWing Drosophila, with a ripening time before strawberries, and with flowers that are not sensitive to a bit of frost. The fruit looks similar to a

blueberry, but has an elongated shape. Some can be quite sour, but

British Columbia Berry Grower • Winter 2012-13 7

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