Development and Evaluation of Fruit and Ornamental Cultivars and Production Systems for the Northwest
Economic and demographic changes in the Northwestern United States have created markets for high value horticultural crops grown on small, intensively-managed farms. Development in the region has increased demand for landscape nursery stock, including native plants. Local and export markets exist for fresh fruits and value-added products. Of particular interest are crops having regional recognition and wilderness connotations; such as huckleberries and bilberries; or perceived health-related benefits, such as black currants, bilberries, and haskaps (edible-fruited honeysuckle). The University of Idaho leads in efforts to produce huckleberries and bilberries (Vaccinium spp.) in managed forest stands and cultivation. In recent years, the huckleberry industry has grown from local sales of raw fruit or local products to an export market reaching
throughout North America and the Pacific Rim. Market demand exceeds supplies for these wildcrafted fruits, particularly as supplies have dwindled due to forest road closures, forest and fire management policies, and land development. Black currants are not new to the Northwest, but have not been grown in quantity for about 80 years due to disease problems. The black currant market has potential to expand in North America due to the fruit's high concentrations of anthocyanins and antioxidant properties. New, disease-resistant cultivars and selections are being tested in North America and show promise for expanding the industry. The University of Idaho has the resources to test new selections and develop varieties adapted to the Northwest. Haskaps are native to Japan and Russia and produce edible, blue fruits that ripen early in summer and are rich sources of antioxidants. The University
of Idaho and Oregon State University are collaborating in creating varieties of this crop adapted to the Northwestern United States. Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is another special forest product wildcrafted from Northwest forests. This crop is popular commercially for "greening" in floral arrangements and, like huckleberries, wildcrafted supplies are dwindling due to forest policies and development. There may be opportunities for commercial production of this crop. The ornamental nursery industry is strong in the Northwest, with substantial wholesale production in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Native true firs are popular with landscapers, but plants available to production nurseries are generally seedlings that exhibit great variability in growth rates and appearance. To improve marketable percentages of these crops, shorten harvest rotations, and increase crop uniformity and
production efficiency, it is desirable to develop varieties. The University of Idaho has 95 potential varieties of corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. arizonica) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa var. lasiocarpa).These selections exhibit rapid growth, desirable forms, and disease resistance. The proposed project seeks to build on work already completed or underway at the University of Idaho to bring new fruit and ornamental varieties to the marketplace and develop suitable production systems where they do not already exist.