Rutgers produces new cranberry breed
Cranberries will receive a new lease at life due to research performed at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, a subsection of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
The state with the third greatest production levels of cranberries nationally will soon see a new, tougher species able to better prevent disease and survive global climate change created by University researchers, according to MyCentralJersey.com.
“The cranberry ... has just been released to farmers, but the fruit will not begin to be harvested until 2017,” according to the article.
New Jersey produced $21.9 million worth of cranberries in 2014 — a $1.6 million increase from 2013 — despite the price of cranberries per barrel decreasing by $2.50 to $35, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Approximately 626,000 barrels were produced in New Jersey out of 8.72 million in the nation, according to the USDA.
The new berry, referred to as the Haines variety, has not yet been patented, but farmers have already received stocks to plant, according to MyCentralJersey.com.
The new strain was bred to fight diseases, including fungal infections such as those that cause fruit rot, according to the article. Fruit rot is the chief killer of cranberry crops, and one of the fungicides used to treat plants was recently banned by Europe.
Changing the strain of plant allows it to survive insects and these infections, according to the article.
It also helps overcome regulatory restrictions, said Nicholi Vorsa, director of the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, to MyCentralJersey.com.
By creating a hardier strain of berry, farmers will not need to use dangerous chemicals as much to keep their crops alive, he said.
It has the additional benefit of protecting the berry from the impacts of climate change. Warming temperatures are conducive to both heat stress and infection, which a higher heat tolerance helps with, according to the article.
New Jersey’s rapid temperature changes caused by shifting seasons can make growing berries difficult, but are helpful for breeding different and improved varieties of the berry, according to the article.
Unlike other crops, cranberry plants must be taken care of year-round, Vorsa said. During the winter, they are flooded to protect them from the weather.
Cranberries have long been touted as being a healthy fruit, according to the National Public Radio (NPR). Their high levels of vitamin C helped pilgrims reduce the levels of scurvy in their population, and a paste formed with the berries helped wounds heal and infections clear.
Chemicals within the berry reduce some infections by not allowing viral particles stick to human cells, according to NPR.
Anthocyanins, one of the compounds found in cranberries, help reduce inflammation and prevent free radicals from oxidizing within cells.
This helps extend human life by reducing damage to cells within the body.
The compound also provides cranberries with their bright red color, according to NPR.
Rutgers’ new berry will be a more colorful version than the current stocks used, according to MyCentralJersey.com.
It will also be larger than older versions, which will benefit up to 90 percent of crops grown in-state going to Ocean Spray, the company that produces Craisins, according to the article.
Extending the longevity of the crop is another one of the goals, which they achieved by creating a crop that can survive ecological changes while also fulfilling the needs of regulations and farmers, Vorsa said.
“As ecology changes, breeding allows you to select for varieties that are best suited for the current climate, pests and grower management requirements,” he said.