Phytocultures is undertaking research endeavours to generate production and management advice for hobby and commercial clients as well as refine and improve varieties for qualities of hardiness, yield, taste, ease of harvest, insect and disease resistance, and maximum growth performance. Along with our advanced breeding efforts on-site and ongoing collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan, we are furthering research through a project with the National Research Council.
In 2008 we established a five-variety replicated research plot of Haskap plants to evaluate and compare plant varieties and berries under commercial conditions. By profiling these new varieties of Haskap, we can identify critical production and management techniques to aid in crop development, offer production recommendations for producers, determine traits for commercialization, and develop a potential new berry industry along with our clients in various parts of North and South America. Contact us to schedule a visit.
New Variety Development
We are targeting new variety development for hardiness, yield, taste, ease of harvest, and insect and disease resistance. These are but some of the many traits plant breeders seek out when trying to identify new varieties from the myriad of potential new seedlings. One promising new variety can be found in a population of tens of thousands of possible new candidates. One exceptional new variety can be identified from a population of hundreds of thousands of possible candidates. The search for new varieties is an endeavour composed of 25% applied genetics, backbreaking labour, methodical and meticulous observation and 75% passion. Phytocultures has established a variety selection plot in an effort to further the identification of new Haskap varieties for North Eastern climates specifically. We work with Haskap plant breeding researchers in an attempt to aid their continuing search for exceptional new Haskap varieties. Our variety identification block is available for visits by requesting an appointment. Please note that performance may vary under different climatic conditions during the establishment years of a new plantation.
In our development of new variety types, we are attempting to select varieties of berries that can withstand the rigours of mechanical harvesting and still be sold as fresh berries. In one selection process, we are attempting to identify berries that have a round rather than elongated shape.
For maximum growth performance.
New varieties have an assortment of characteristics that – in their sum total – make them unique. Phytocultures is selecting new varieties based on combinations of traits such as ripening time, fruit shape, fruit handling, disease resistance and others that present cultivators with an optimum set of characteristics for commercial results. Phytocultures has assembled ancient varieties, varieties from our recent breeding efforts and advanced lines in an effort to provide cultivators with Haskap plants that have the potential for commercial application. Our variety plot, established in 2008, is open to visitors, and varieties of current commercial interest can be viewed under various management programs.
Since 2008 our variety evaluations have identified some general information regarding the cultivation of Haskap. Even though these plants are extremely tolerant of cold temperatures, plants of all varieties undergoing trials grow best when planted in a sheltered area on soils with deeper topsoil layers, have adequate moisture, are well drained, and where soil pH levels are in a range of 5.7 – 6.5 for Maritime conditions. Haskap plants appear to be tolerant of marginal sites but perform best when conditions are optimal. Come visit our site and see the effect of different soil types and shelterbelts on growth habit of 2008-planted varieties.
Haskap plants are among the first to leaf out and flower in the spring. Their growth habit is that of a “sprinter” in the plant community: they produce an early burst of growth quickly followed by flowers. Ripe fruit is produced before many forest crops have even realized that spring has arrived. This rapid early growth places Haskap ahead of many insect and disease organisms. However, there are some issues of concern. For example, from our experience, Botrytis – a fungal organism – is a disease of some significance. It can completely defoliate plants with new leaves during periods of high humidity or wet conditions. Conventional and Bio-Rational approached may offer prevention and or management techniques for this disease in season.
A pest problem of economic significance is bird-feeding activity. Haskap berries are elongated, delicate and ideally shaped and textured for consumption by birds. As they are the first available berry in the spring, Haskaps are targeted by many bird species. A species of note are the Cedar Wax Wings – berry-consuming birds that have a passion for Haskap berries, both in their ripe and unripe forms. Phytocultures has been active in developing bird control measures for our commercial plantation site. Control measures have been implemented; however, commercially viable techniques are still in development. Visit our plots during late June to observe our recent berry loss prevention techniques.
Weed control can be executed through a variety of methods. Conventional techniques, as well as techniques with a novel approach, can be observed on the Clyde River commercial plot location. Visits to see and discuss current progress can be arranged. Contact us to set up an appointment.
As indicated, the foliage of Haskap plants has been observed to be susceptible to the opportunistic fungal organism Botrytis. This organism has been observed in the crop following extended periods of wet weather and/or combinations of wet weather and high winds. Spring bush pruning has been implemented to observe the effect of better canopy airflow in an effort to reduce drying time following a wetting event. We welcome visits to our plot to observe our pruning trial and to observe new clones that may have better Botrytis resistance.
On PEI a flowering period in the latter part of April means that our plants will have flowers during times of cool and possibly frosty weather. Haskap plants and flowers are extremely tolerant of cold temperatures, but they need an insect pollinator that is similarly tolerant of these conditions. Native bumblebee pollinators have been observed working Haskap flowers under cool temperature regimes. Visit our plots in mid-April and observe bees working flowers and our placement of bumblebee hives for optimum pollination.
Haskaps need cross-pollination with another genetically distinct clone, as these plants are self-sterile. Like apples, they cannot self-pollinate, so different varieties must be placed in close proximity to effect pollination. Visit our commercial planting and observe our variety of placement designed to optimize pollination and commercial returns.
Berries post-pollination ~ some have flowers still attached, one is turning blue already.
Harvest technology is one of the major challenges facing the successful commercialization of Haskap berries in North America. The plants and berries present challenges that will require innovation in the area of machinery and innovation on the plant variety development side.
Concepts under development will ease harvest, produce a useable berry product and protect berries from bird predation. Visit our trial site during the later part of June to observe our latest endeavours. Prior notification is required.