Submitted to: International Society for Horticultural Science Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 13, 2002
Publication Date: N/A
Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.) was introduced into North America from Asia around 1830, and has been planted to prevent soil erosion, to attract wildlife, and to some extent as an ornamental shrub. Autumn olive has been planted along steep banks, at highway intersections and median strips. The plant also fixes nitrogen, grows well in poor soil and is drought tolerant and disease resistant. Unfortunately, due to seed dispersal by birds, Autumn olive has become a pest in some areas of the United States, and is listed as an alien invasive plant. The abundant fruit has a good sweet-tart flavor and a strong deep red color, but has not been widely used for human consumption. However, recent studies at the USDA Beltsville Phytonutrient Laboratory have shown that the fruit of Autumn olive is exceptionally high in lycopene and also contains other carotenoids. Lycopene has been associated with prevention properties of certain cancers. With the current interest in phytonutrients, Autumn olive may become a viable alternative crop. Since Autumn olive has not been grown for its fruit, varieties selected for desirable horticultural characteristics are needed. Information is also needed for managing this plant in a commercial planting, and how to harvest and process the fruit on a commercial scale.