Horticulturist Wins Patents for Modified Black Chokeberry Cultivars

Horticulturist Wins Patents for Modified Black Chokeberry Cultivars

Mark Brand, professor of plant science and landscape architecture, with Aaonia berries growing at the Plant Science Research Farm on Aug. 9, 2012. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Prolific inventor and professor of horticulture Mark Brand was recently issued two patents for his novel black chokeberry plants. The new cultivars will be available in garden centers this spring. (Peter Morenus/UConn File Photo)

Mark Brand, a professor of horticulture in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, has patented two modified forms of black chokeberry that make the plant more useful for landscaping purposes.

Aronia berries growing at the Plant Science Research Farm on Aug. 9, 2012. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
The Low Scape Mound black chokeberry has edible black berries in the summer. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Brand has created a dense, compact form of the native North American shrub black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) called UC165. UC165 has been licensed to the Proven Winners program and is sold with the trade name of Low Scape Mound black chokeberry. This modified strain is much more desirable as an ornamental landscaping shrub because it is smaller, has more abundant clusters of white flowers, edible black fruit, small glossy green leaves, and turns beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and red in autumn. These features make the new form a much more aesthetically pleasing version of the traditional plant that is also easier to manage with regard to spatial considerations.

Traditional black chokeberry plants are typically four to eight feet tall and have spreading foliage. Brand’s form of the plant is much more compact, growing to only two feet tall by three feet wide, so it is more useful for ornamental purposes. With these innovations, the plant still retains its natural assets, including its ability to grow in sunlight or partial shade and in a variety of soil types, withstand cold temperatures, and require little maintenance in the landscape.

Consumer demand for native ornamental shrubs has been growing in recent years, as people look to replace invasive ornamental species like the Japanese barberry or burning bush with native species that mesh better with local ecosystems. However, the market of commercially available native alternatives lacks a variety of viable options. Brand’s invention will increase the number of native shrubs that are available to landscapers.

Brand has also patented another distinct strain of black chokeberry that develops a narrow upright form, called UC166. It is also part of the Proven Winners program, and is sold with the trade name of Low Scape Hedger black chokeberry.

UC166 is being marketed as an alternative option to create hedges and screens instead of traditional privet shrubs, which are now known to be invasive. Low Scape Hedger grows to five feet tall by three feet wide and is very adaptable in the landscape. It also produces white spring flowers and orange fall color.

Both new chokeberry cultivars are dramatically different than any chokeberries previously available for landscaping. Their unique growth forms, excellent landscape adaptability, and multi-season ornamental characteristics should make both plants favorites with the nursery industry, landscapers, and homeowners, according to Brand.

The new UConn chokeberries will be available in garden centers for spring 2018.

Brand has other new chokeberries in the breeding and development pipeline intended for ornamental use and also for fruit production in berry orchards. Chokeberry fruits, which are high in polyphenols, are increasingly becoming an alternative crop option for farmers. According to the Proven Winners website, Aronia’s common name, chokeberry, comes from the extremely astringent taste of the fruit.

Brand received support for this project from the USDA Agricultural Research Service, grant number 58-1230-7-439. Technology Commercialization experts within UConn’s Office of the Vice President for Research provided market evaluation, patenting, and licensing support.

Farm Bill Funding Available to Organic Producers and Handlers

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance, making certification more accessible for small certified producers and handlers.

“Consumer demand for organic products is surging across the country,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack. “To meet this demand, we need to make sure that small farmers who choose to grow organic products can afford to get certified. Organic food is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and helping this sector continue to grow creates jobs across the country.”

The certification assistance is distributed through two programs within the Agricultural Marketing Service. Through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $11.5 million is available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, an additional $1.5 million is available to organic operations in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

These programs provide cost-share assistance through participating states to USDA certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75% of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification. To receive cost-share assistance, organic producers and handlers should contact their state agencies. Each state will have their own guidelines and requirements for reimbursement, and the National Organic Program (NOP) will assist states as much as possible to successfully implement the programs. State contact information can be found on the NOP Cost Share Website, www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.

In 2012 alone, USDA issued close to 10,000 cost-share reimbursements totaling over $6.5 million, to support the organic industry and rural America. Additional information about resources available to small and mid-sized producers, including accessing capital, risk management, locating market opportunities and land management is available on USDA’s Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources webpage.

USDA has a number of new and expanded efforts to connect organic farmers and businesses with resources that will ensure the continued growth of the organic industry domestically and abroad. During this Administration, USDA has signed four major trade agreements on organic products, and is also helping organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and mitigate pest emergencies. Through the NOP, USDA has helped organic farmers and businesses achieve $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales. The organic community includes over 25,000 organic businesses in more than 120 different countries around the world.

This funding announcement for organic certification cost-share assistance was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.
– See more at: http://www.nutraceuticalsworld.com/contents/view_breaking-news/2014-07-22/farm-bill-funding-available-to-organic-producers-and-handlers/?email_uid=83eff20bf6/list_id=396c189146/#sthash.2RdBUGyM.dpuf

Cicada Damage

MAA Members reporting Cicada damage to Aronia plantsCicada Damage

A couple of days ago, an MAA member from Leon, IA reported damage to her Aronia plants:

The 17 year brood of cicadas in the area was the suspected culprit.
Another member (St. Charles, IA) with similar cicada damage to his plants replied with this source: http://www.gardenersnet.com/atoz/cicada.htm. It appears to have very good coverage of the basic topics relating to cicada infestation, life span, reporting, siting data (http://www.gardenersnet.com/atoz/cicada-watch-sighting-2014.htm), recommended prevention, etc. According to the source, the best protection is ¼” netting wrapped all around the tree or bush. Mature trees are not often affected negatively, but younger plants can experience severe damage, since the female creates a slit in the branches (1/2” or less in diameter) to lay eggs, which subsequently weakens the branch, causing breaks and possible plant death.
This member estimates a 15-25% yield loss due to cicada damage and believes his 4-year plants will survive, but that first and second year plants may experience some plant morbidity.
Northern Illinois may be spared from periodic (13 or 17 year cycle cicada broods) this year. A Crete, Illinois member offered this link explaining the periodic infestation and its impact on northern Illinois:
MAA would like members to contact us to report your experiences with cicadas this year and what type and of damage you may be experiencing along with the extent of that damage.
Please email Scott Boersma, scottboersma47@hotmail.com with whatever information you may have regarding cicadas in your area.

Thank you,
MAA Board