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Research Importance

Haskap, an edible honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea var. edulis), is an exciting new fruit option for growers in western Montana.  Also known as honeyberries, yezberries, and blue honeysuckle, haskaps can be used just like blueberries but grow well in many soil types. Haskaps are extremely cold-hardy (zone 2) and produce relatively early in the season (late June-July).  Early berry production has the potential to fill in fresh fruit market gaps. However, plants need 3-4 seasons before producing profitable yields. Additionally, an investment in wildlife protection once fruit has set is imperative to success. Therefore, this project aims to empower potential haskap growers to choose varieties proven to thrive, that are palatable, and easily harvestable in western Montana.

Research Summary

Montana State University has been evaluating 16 haskap varieties for yields, flavor, aesthetic qualities, and cold-hardiness.  Eight varieties were planted at four sites across the state (Corvallis-WARC, Bozeman-MSU, Kalispell-FVCC, and Helena) in 2015.  At WARC eight additional varieties were planted. At each site, each variety was represented by 9 plants (3 plants/block x 3 blocks).

Results

Among the earliest blooming varieties, Indigo Gem exhibited the highest yields, largest average berry size, and excellent palatability. Additionally, Indigo Gem proved to be easily harvestable with a mechanical shaker.  Conversely, all other early blooming varieties yielded poorly (<1 lb/plant), and were less palatable than the Indigo Gem. 

Cold damage was observed at the WARC site in Blue Goose, Sugar Mountain Blue, and Wild Treasure.  These varieties broke bud in February after a warm spell in 2018. Once temperatures dropped again, new growth on these varieties died back. At the FVCC site, conditions were cooler and Sugar Mountain Blue was more productive (2.1 lbs/plant) than at the WARC site.  Blue Corn exhibited a tonic-like aftertaste and performed poorly overall, therefore it was removed from trials in spring of 2018. 

The two mid-maturity varieties, Aurora and Borealis, were productive, had excellent flavor (preferable over all varieties), and were very easy to harvest with a mechanical shaker.  Additionally, these varieties tend to ripen evenly showing minimal fruit loss prior to harvest. 

The Oregon State University varieties developed by Maxine Thomson mature later and all produced high yields (7-13 lbs/bush over three years) with good flavor.  Some varieties dropped fruit prior to achieving full ripeness (Taka, Kawai, 41-75, and 85-19).  Others held tight to the fruit (Tana, and Keiko) and required more effort to harvest.  Tana and 85-19 have been the most productive. Taka, Keiko, and 79-91 have larger berries that are similar in size to University of Saskatchewan varieties.  Solo, 79-91, and 85-19 have relatively sweeter berries that are similar in sugar content to University of Saskatchewan varieties.

 

Haskap results from the WARC-Corvallis site.
Variety Harvest Time* Source Yields (lbs/plant) Berry Weight (g) Sugar (⁰Bx)
2016 2017 2018 Total
Blue Goose Early Berries Unlimited 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.6 14.4
Sugar Mountain Blue Early Russia 0 0.5 0.3 0.8 1.0 16.7
Blue Corn Early Berries Unlimited 0 0.9 NA 0.9 0.8 14.6
Wild Treasure Early Berries Unlimited 0 0.4 0.5 0.9 0.8 16.3
Aurora Mid U. of Saskatchewan <0.1 1.2 3.7 4.9 1.7 16.0
Indigo Gem Early U. of Saskatchewan 0 1.2 4.9 6.1 1.1 17.7
Borealis Mid U. of Saskatchewan <0.1 1.8 4.9 6.7 1.5 16.2
79-91 Late Oregon State Univ 0.1 3.2 3.7 7.0 1.5 17.0
Solo Late Oregon State Univ 0.2 2.0 5.1 7.3 1.3 16.3
41-75 Late Oregon State Univ 0.4 3.3 3.6 7.3 1.3 13.0
Keiko Late Oregon State Univ 0.3 2.9 4.6 7.8 1.3 15.5
Taka Late Oregon State Univ 0.1 3.3 4.5 7.9 1.5 13.9
Kawai Late Oregon State Univ 0.2 3.9 4.0 8.1 1.5 13.6
Tana Late Oregon State Univ 0.2 3.9 7.0 11.1 1.4 14.7
85-19 Late Oregon State Univ 0.2 4.4 8.7 13.3 1.3

16.8

Note: OSU plants were larger at planting in 2015 (2 years older) and are still larger than other varieties. This is, in part, why they had higher yields. Numbered varieties are not yet commercially available. We are also evaluating Boreal Blizzard, and Boreal Beauty but they are not mature enough to compare yet. Honeybee, Strawberry Sensation, and Blue Moose are planted outside of the trials.

*early harvest=third week of June, mid harvest=last week of June-early July, late harvest=first two weeks in July.

Haskap results from the FVCC-Kalispell site.
Variety Harvest Time* Source Yield (lbs/plant) Berry Weight (g) Sugar (⁰Bx)
2018 2018
Sugar Mountain Blue Early Russia 2.1 0.9 16.6
Aurora Mid U. of Saskatchewan 3.9 2.0 15.6
Indigo Gem Early U. of Saskatchewan 4.9 1.3 17.7
Borealis Mid U. of Saskatchewan 3.7 1.7 14.4
Solo Late Oregon State Univ 4.1 1.5 15.4
41-75 Late Oregon State Univ 3.9 1.4 13.8
85-19 Late Oregon State Univ 6.7 1.6 15.0

Conclusions

Many of the early blooming haskap varieties exhibited low productivity (<1 lb/bush over 4 years), averaged relatively small berries (<1 g/berry), tasted odd, and were prone to winter injury when warm spells broke dormancy.  Indigo Gem performed relatively well for the early variety group. However, it should be noted that Sugar Mountain Blue was more productive in the Kalispell trials than in Corvallis.  Aurora and Borealis produced large berries, were easy to harvest, and demonstrated excellent flavor. Many of the varieties sourced from Oregon State University showed strong yields and good flavor. However, these varieties may be best suited for small scale plantings due to their tendency to be difficult to harvest.

Publications

University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program

NDSU-Carrington REC-Northern Hardy Fruit Evaluation Project

Honeyberry USA: Nursery and orchard that has informative tips and videos

An overview of origin and breeding programs

Orchard and Nursery in Nova Scotia that has posted lots of info