Submitted to: Mid Atlantic Fruit Vegetable Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: December 13, 2004
Publication Date: February 3, 2005
Citation: Black, B.L., Fordham, I.M. 2005. Autumn olive: weed or cash crop?. Mid Atlantic Fruit Vegetable Conference Proceedings. 2005(2):15-16.
Feral populations of autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb) exist throughout the eastern United States. The plants are tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions and thrive on poor soils. In 2001, researchers published evidence that the red berries of autumn olive have a high carotenoid content, and particularly high levels of lycopene (30-70 mg/100g). Lycopene has powerful antioxidant properties, making it of interest for nutraceutical use, and also provides natural red color for food use. Managed plantings consisting of three cultivars and four wild selections were established in Maryland to evaluate genotypes and management practices for potential commercial fruit production. Annual productivity of autumn olive ranged from 0.5 to 15 kg/plant. Mechanical harvesting was accomplished using a commercial blueberry harvester on plants that had been appropriately pruned. Berries were high in soluble solids and acidity, similar to blueberries and blackberries, but somewhat astringent. Approximately 10% of the total berry weight is in the seed. Lycopene content differed among genotypes ranging from 33.6 mg/100 g to 55.3 mg/100 g for 'Delightful' and USMD3, respectively. The productivity under low-input management, and the possibility for machine harvest indicate that autumn olive may be a commercially viable crop, especially on poor-quality land that may be unsuitable for other agricultural uses. Genotypic differences in yield and fruit lycopene content indicate an opportunity for selecting genotypes superior for fruit production.