Picking and product development of crowberry (Empetrum hermaphroditum Hagerup and E. nigrum L)

 Gunnlaug Røthe(1), Terje Vasskog(2), Inger Martinussen(1)1and Kåre Rapp(1)  (1) Norwegian Crop Research Institute, Holt Research Centre, Box 6232, N-9292 Tromsø, (2) Norway2Institute of Pharmacy, University of Tromsø, N-9000 Tromsø, Norway

I like this study because it addresses antioxidant activities of crowberries, but also a question all berry pickers have– do I hand harvest or use one of those berry pickers? The researchers harvested productive and not-so-productive plots in open and forested areas in northern Norway. They harvested berries for 6 years which is pretty amazing in this era of publish-as-soon-as-you-have-a-smidgen-of-data even after one season. Good scientists know that it takes at least 3 years of data to get any reliable data on field plots.  The string pickers they mention are the small plastic harvesters with metal times that are so common in berry picking areas in Alaska.

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They found that hand harvesting beat out berry pickers in nearly every year. The researchers, however, did not report on how long it took to harvest these plots with the two methods. For commercial harvest, that might be important. However, look at the yields in each year. 1995 was an extremely good year, but then yields plummeted in 1997, a phenomenon that is common to wild harvested berries. A rollercoaster of yields can be expected.

Another possible reason not to use pickers is uneven ripening. At any one time, there are overripe, full ripe and unripe berries on the plants. The authors showed that the highest levels of antioxidants occurred at full ripe. On either side of that, the levels of antioxidants decreased significantly. For instance levels of phenols in fruit were 364 mg/100 g unripe, 423 mg/100g ripe and 272.3 mg.100 g overripe. No doubt,  the berry pickers will ensure greater numbers of berries in the unripe and overripe categories.

 The authors also found that the amounts of antioxidants are dramatically reduced during the processing -from raw material to product (juice, jelly, wine). The flavonoids quercetin, for instance showed 268.4 and 798.0 ug/g in unprocessed berries and skins, respectively. Levels in processed products ranged from 1.7  to 25.6 ug/g, a huge drop.

 

 

 

 

NMR Metabolomics of foods – investigating the influence of origin on sea buckthorn berries, Brassica oil seeds and honey

2016. PhD Thesis Maaria Kortesniemi. Food Chemistry and Food Development Department of Biochemistry. Turku Finland. Sea buckthorn

One of the great attributes of PhD theses, if done well, is the extensive review of published literature. Sometimes theses can be challenging to read, but this thesis is an exception. Dr. Kortesniemi has a great discussion of factors affecting the metabolome (the set of compounds present as products of metabolic events). The chart below shows  the factors that could impact the quality of what we eat.

Food quality

The genotype provides the framework for determining the metabolome, but many factors combine to impact what we eat. For instance, “northern latitude in Finland lowered the content of carotene in carrot and parsley and intensified the colours in strawberry, tomato, [beets], spinach and lettuce. Also, carrot, beets, [rutabaga] and strawberries exhibited higher content of sugar and dry matter in the north (67–69° N) compared to south (60° N)” Scientists trying to define a distinct species or cultivar chemical identity have a giant challenge to reconcile all these components. This particular research on sea buckthorn  found a big interaction between genetics and climatic factors. Northern growing environments produced more vitamin C. High altitudes (>200m) correlated with greater levels of malic and ascorbic acid. It is interesting to speculate on the quality of food that eventually ends up on our plates. Even with growing conditions that produce high quality phytochemicals and vitamins, think about how small changes in harvesting, fertilizers, processing, etc. could significantly impact our food quality.

 

 

Insect pollinators of haskap ( Lonicera caerulea L.: Caprifoliaceae) in subarctic Canada

Open Agriculture. 2019; 4: 676-683.  by Maria C.-Y. Leung*, Jessica R.K. Forrest

Everyone who has ever grown haskaps (honeyberries) knows that they attract bumble bees. In Fairbanks, they bloom so early, and air temperatures can be cool, that honeybees can be insufficient for good berry production. Researchers Maria Leung and Jessica Forrest showed that bumble bees rule the day. The authors also reported that commercial berry production Yukon doubled from 2011 and 2016, and the most prevalent berry crop is haskap.

Haskaps are self incompatible and require two compatible cultivars for pollination. and they attract a variety of insects including bee flies, syrphid flies, honeybees, butterflies and bumblebees. The researchers counted and identified insect visitors in commercial fields between 11 am and 5 pm on cool, sunny days near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Bumble bee visitors ranged from 96% to 32% of all insect visitors. Despite the flower architecture which is trumpet shaped and would hint at butterflies, they were the least common insect visitors. Native insect are very important to pollination in the North. The authors contrasted their results with Saskatchewan where honey bees outnumbered bumble bees as insect visitors on hasps. Anyone who gardens in the North should promote nesting sites for native bumble bees.

Abstract: Recently, the Yukon has seen a large growth in agricultural activity. Crops of commercial interest for local consumption and the export market include domestic berries, especially haskap (Lonicera caerulea L.). However, information on the pollination of these crops in our northern climate is lacking. To begin addressing this knowledge gap, we characterized foraging habits of on-farm bees in southwest Yukon by: 1) identifying pollen collected by bees occupying solitary bee houses; and 2) identifying and counting insect visitors to haskap flowers. Results show that cavity-nesting bees collect a wide variety of pollen including pollen from haskap, and that bumble bees (Bombus spp.) were much more common on haskap flowers than domestic honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), other bee species, syrphid flies, and butterflies. The number of bumble bees per haskap flower was also higher than reported elsewhere in Canada. The ability of bumble bees to be active in cool temperatures and the proximity of the study farms to natural ecosystems likely explain the prevalence of bumble bees in this study. In Yukon, it is still possible to support insect pollinators by maintaining natural areas among agricultural lands. Such undeveloped lands are, at present, typical of agricultural landscapes in subarctic Canada.

Simultaneous determination of flavonols and phenolic acids by HPLCCoulArray in berries common in the Nordic diet

Ensieh Hajazimi (a), Rikard Landberg( a, b), Galia Zamaratskaia (a), Food Science and Technology 74 (2016) 128e134

(a) Department of Food Science, Uppsala BioCenter, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden  (b) Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Insitutet, Stockholm, Sweden

This paper is a methods study testing a new method of detecting antioxidants in wild berries. Although the method information is interesting, of importance to us berry people is the verification that northern berries are endowed with very high levels of antioxidants, in this case flavonols and phenolic compounds even when the berries were  commercially store bought and frozen. Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)  topped the charts of highest flavonols, hydrobenzoic and hydrocinnamic acid compounds with lingonberry (Vaccinium vitas-idaea) and bilberry (V. myrtillus) not far behind. The cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)  had less than half total phenolics of the other berries.  The phenolic compound found in greatest concentration in sea buckthorn was Isorhamnetin; in lingonberry,  quercetin; in bilberry – myricetin; and finally in cloudberry – gallic acid.

berry phenolocs

 

Wouldn’t it be great if these berries were available frozen in Alaska stores? For now, enjoy berry picking or purchasing fruit at your local farmers market in summer. The health benefits can be great (although you have to eat twice as many cloudberries as the other fruit)!

Using traditional ecological knowledge to understand and adapt to climate and biodiversity change on the Pacific Coast of North America

2019. Victoria Rawn Wyllie de Echeverria , Thomas F. Thornton  Ambio https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-019-01218-6

2019. Wyllie de Echeverria, Thornton

The authors tackle one of the most complex issues in climate change science and ecology – how to include a human element in identifying change including traditional knowledge of plants and animals. How can human experiences, languages and traditions be used to verify change, and how can the importance of these traditions be included in ecological studies of climate change.  One main goal, of course,  is to identify ways indigenous people can maintain customary uses of their region, in this case, coastal areas in Southeast Alaska, while adapting to broader ecological changes that occur in an ecosystem.  Participants in a survey noted weather pattern shifts in their lifetime such as more snow, more rainfall, as well as shifts in the seasons. The researchers also examined language patterns to learn about traditional words used for weather or activities related to weather such as “foods being dried in the sun”. They indicated that changes in plant use in the region was most likely because of land use changes (logging, land development) rather than specific climate change.

One case study examined changes to salmonberry and blueberry species that are considered keystone species because they are used heavily by locals and have a long tradition of use. The authors tried to make connections between people’s recollections, historical knowledge and current practices compared to ecological knowledge of berry picking sites, yields, berry quality and more. I think back to some of the experiments in ecology I have been involved with over the years. They are so complex, it is difficult to isolate a single or even a handful of biological causes for a particular observation. For instance, there are so many reasons why berries might not appear in a season (frost during spring, drought, too much rain, poor soil nutrition, predation, and on and on. Recollections might be due to any or a combination of these factors. Attributing them to climate change is tricky and challenging. Human knowledge might just add to the evidence, but as climate scientists will agree, it takes many, many years and a lot of data points to begin to draw conclusions.

 

Getting ready for wild blueberries!

This recipe is sure to get you drooling for fresh berry scones. I made them with wild blueberries, and then tried lingonberries– both are great. Also try substituting buttermilk for the heavy cream. Yum!

Blueberry scones

 

 

How Many Bee Visits Give Good Fruit Set in Red Raspberries?

Two Prolonged Bee Visits Suffice to Maximize Drupelet Set for Red Raspberry by Corey J. Andrikopoulos and James H. Cane, Utah State University, Logan, HORTSCIENCE 53(10):1404–1406. 2018. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI13124-18

Everyone knows that insect pollination is critical for fruit set in many commercial berry species. The red raspberry is no exception. It produces an aggregate fruit composed of individual drupelet fruits. If the weather is bad, the insects are not flying, or something else interrupts pollination, you can easily get misshapen fruit and lower yields. Researchers at Utah State found that it only takes two prolonged visits of 1 minute or more to get great fruit set. You don’t need hundreds of bees visiting the flowers. Here are a few tidbits about red raspberries from this article:

  1. Red raspberries are mostly self fertile but because the pollen bearing anthers are not located directly adjacent to the female stigmas, self pollination can be spotty.
  2. A single flower bears 60 – 90  stamens with ample pollen, but bees and other insects are needed to move the pollen to the central region of female stigmas. Each individual stigma needs to be pollinated to get a good fruit.
  3. Previously scientists estimated that up to 68 visits per flower were necessary to get adequate fruit set, but these authors showed that 2 visits were great.
  4. For two visits to be adequate, the bee must really work the flower for a prolonged period of time (up to a minute or more). Bees often spend long times on a newly opened flower first thing in the morning because that’s when nectar flow is at its peak after a night time of storing up nectar in the flower’s nectar pool.
  5. Individual flowers remain receptive for about 2 days, and every morning the nectar pool is recharged. Nectar release is temperature dependent.
  6. By individually covering flowers as they bloomed and comparing them to uncovered controls, the researchers showed that bee visits increased drupelet formation by 2 to 4 times. If a flower was visited first thing in the day for a prolonged period, two such visits would be sufficient to have great fruit formation.
  7. There is also a condition of over visitation where bees actually damage the female stigmas if there are too many of them working the flowers.

Adding honey bee hives to a raspberry garden is a good idea for most commercial businesses. However, Alaska temperatures, especially in the a.m. can be cold – too cold for honey bees to be very active. Since nectar flow is greatest first thing in the morning, wild bumble bees become even more critical for great fruit set in northern gardens.