OSU Extension: ‘Superfruits’ Could Offer Ohio Growers Alternative Income Source; Workshop Set for Aug. 20

Goji berry. Photo: Thinkstock.

PIKETON, Ohio – The potential market for so-called “superfruits” in Ohio could offer growers an additional income stream thanks to increasingly health-conscious consumers and ongoing research that finds these plants can grow well in the Buckeye state.

That’s according to a fruit crop expert with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University, who said that based on research trials of elderberry, aronia berry and Chinese goji berry plants at Ohio State’s South Centers in Piketon, the berries are a viable option for Ohio growers.

Fruits such as these, which are also known as super berries because of their nutrition quotient including a rich antioxidant content, are growing well in the research trials, said Gary Gao, an Ohio State University Extension specialist and associate professor of small fruit crops. OSU Extension is the college’s outreach arm.

The Superberry Project is funded by a specialty crop block grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Gao and his team planted six varieties of elderberries, three varieties of Chinese goji berries and one variety of aronia berries for the trial at the South Centers. Some plants were installed last year and some more mature plants were added this year.

The plants are already fruiting and ripening, Gao said.

“Although the majority of growers in Ohio have very limited experience with commercial production of elderberry, aronia and goji berries, there are already some small-scale growers across the state who have tried them and are doing it well, particularly with elderberry and aronia berries,” Gao said. “There are several growers who’ve added these plants to their farm operations and have formed an informal co-op to begin sharing production and marketing information.”

Goji berries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Aronia, also called black chokeberry, is said to have more antioxidants than blueberries. Elderberry contains more phosphorus and potassium than any other temperate fruit crop and is also rich in vitamin C.

To help berry growers — new and experienced alike — learn how to produce elderberry, aronia, goji and other berries, horticulture and viticulture experts from the college are offering a Super Berry School Aug. 20. The program is 6-9 p.m. at the OSU South Centers’ Endeavor Center, 1862 Shyville Road, in Piketon.

The workshop topics include:

·      Elderberry, Aronia Berry, and Goji Berry Production and Marketing.

·      Blueberry Cultivars and Production Techniques.

·      Summer and Fall Vineyard Management Practices.

·      Blackberry and Raspberry Production Systems.

The workshop will also include a tour of the plant trials

Leading the workshop will be researchers and educators with OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), including Gao, viticulture outreach specialist Dave Scurlock and research assistant Ryan Slaughter.

OARDC is the research arm of the college. The South Centers are also part of the college

Registration for the workshop is $25 and includes the program, handouts, a light dinner and refreshments. Contact Charissa McGlothin at 740-289-2071, ext. 132, to register or for more information. The deadline to register is Aug. 17.

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Gary Gao
740-289-2071, ext. 123