Monthly Archives: March 2020

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.

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 2.06.55 PM copy  Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 2.07.20 PM copy

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.