Don and his team led the tour through research plots to allow visitors to taste some of the early Haskap berries that will be ready in another week or so. Don sees this as an opportunity to expand his network of contacts as he builds his Haskap operation.
Phytocultures is a horticultural company that has been specializing in Haskap genetics and propagation since the berry’s North American introduction in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan. Haskaps originated in Japan and the Japanese refer to them as “longevity berries” for their nutritional benefits, offering at least twice the antioxidants as blueberries.
Phytocultures has established a five-variety research plot of Haskap berries. By profiling these new varieties of Haskaps, their goal is to identify critical production and management techniques to aid in crop development, offer production recommendations to producers, determine traits for commercialization and develop a new berry industry. Specific research includes:
- New variety development for hardiness, yield, taste, harvesting ease and insect and disease resistance
- Variety profiles for maximum growth performance
- Selecting a plantation site
- Pest management
- Harvest technology
As Don says, “In apple, strawberry, and grape crops, we know the diseases and we know the particular problems each variety tends to have, the harvest issues, which variety needs fertilizer when, what pests are an issue and how to control weeds. For Haskaps, it is still an open book. There are no sources of information that can be used to answer questions like when to fertilize the plants for best growth and to produce the best berry. We are trying with our production plot to develop initial information to profile the crop and become the go-to source for growing Haskaps.”
“This is a new berry for North America, so it is important that varieties be developed that will meet requirements for commercial production. Our company wants to develop top-performing, volume varieties to wholesale nurseries and berry producers while providing them with the research expertise to support their success.”
Phytocultures’ current production inventory for Haskap plants already exceeds 150,000 plants annually. Big selling features of Haskaps are the plants can easily withstand Spring frosts, be grown further north and produce the first fresh berry of the season in late June. Also, the berries taste good!