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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Cultivar Development of Edible Fruited Honeysuckle Lonicera Caerulea L.
2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1. The overall objective is to identify superior selections worthy of cultivar status that could form the basis for a new berry crop for the Northwest. 2. Propagate promising selections, distribute for advanced trials, and select the best of these for release and naming as cultivars.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Complete evaluations of hybrid seedlings currently in greenhouse and field plots. Records will be taken on relative plant size, growth habit, freeze damage, time of bloom, bloom density, and estimated crop. After harvest, crop weight, weight of 10-berry samples, fruit shape, firmness, overall appearance and preliminary taste tests will be made by investigators. Superior selections will be studied more indepth: e.g. fruit quality, sugar:acid ratios, storage tests, and anthocyanins and antioxidant capacity will be evaluated. Propagate by cuttings several of the best selections for distribution to interested grower and nursery cooperators.


3.Progress Report:

This research was conducted in support of NP301 objective 1A of the parent project. Conventional plant breeding activities were conducted. Promising second generation seedlings were selected to use as parents to create third generation populations of seedlings. Fourteen crosses were made and thousands of hybrid seeds produced. All plants in the research plot were evaluated for growth habit, bush vigor, flowering dates and abundance, fruit maturity dates and estimated yields. Actual yields were obtained on all fruiting plants. BRIX (a measure of soluble solids, mostly sugar content) evaluations were made on 370 berry samples, values ranged from 9.0 to 17.4%. Cold storage tests were made on 185 berry samples from promising selections. The firmer fruits held up well for 2-4 weeks in a refrigerator. Each year, promising selections are propagated and plants are distributed to growers for their evaluation. In the fall, 815 plants were sent to 39 cooperators in 14 states (from Maine to California) and one to British Columbia, Canada. This spring, approximately a thousand of 13 promising selections were propagated. Evaluations in widely different climatic zones provide information abut the adaptability of this new crop. Pollinated flowers to identify cross-incompatibility among different clones were studied in a fluorescent microscope, but results were in conclusive. This year more pollinated flowers were set up and held in a freezer until time is available for their analyses.

Significant progress has been made towards the goal of this project. For example, berry size has been increased among the progeny so that 49% of plants have berries ranging from 1.6 to 2.4g. By contrast, among a few thousand Russian honeyberry seedlings (a related form of blue honeysuckle) observed in previous years, the largest berry seen was 0.8g and most were between 0.5 and 0.7g. The goal is for at least a 1.8 g berry. Also, BRIX values are increasing each generation. This year 38% of plants had BRIX ratings from 14 to 17%, a level that is quite tasty when eating frsh. Berries with BRIX ratings lower than 14 % are best used for processing with added sugar where the tart-sweet flavors are outstanding. Cold storage tests have demonstrated that the firmer fruited types will hold up very well in a refrigerator for a few weeks. This indicates that these berries have the potential of being sold on the fresh market.

As people become familiar with the unique flavors of this berry, it should become a popular home garden plant as well as a successful U-pick farm operation. The lack of serious pest or disease problems so far makes this a prime candidate for organic growers. Preliminary phytochemical analysis indicates that these berries are high in vitamin C and anti-oxidant capacity, qualities prized by the health food industry.


Last Modified: 11/24/2014
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