Eldon Everhart, Field Specialist- Horticulture, Southwest Area
Though largely overlooked commercially in the US, Aronia berry is a commercial crop in Europe. Iowa grocery stores commonly sell fruit juices that contain Aronia juice that is imported from Europe. Varieties such as Viking were selected for commercial fruit production in Europe. Viking is highly productive.
Aronia is native to the Midwest and well suited to Iowa and to organic production. The plants need no special care and have no serious pests. They are easier and less expensive to establish and manage than other adapted fruits including grapes. Aronia melanocarpa is a deciduous shrub commonly known as black chokeberry. It is different than chokecherry.
Aronia berries can be used like any berry. Uses include jams, jellies, in baked goods, juices, Aronia wine, and as a stable coloring for many other products.
Aronia berries contain higher levels of antioxidants, polyphenols, and anthocyanins than cranberries, blueberries, grapes, and most other fruits. Research indicates that these compounds may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, bacterial infections, neurological diseases, and aging in humans.
The second annual Aronia Field Day co-sponsored by ISU Extension and Harrison County Extension was held on August 25, 2007. More than 100 people from Iowa and five other states attended the field day held at Sawmill Hollow, the largest commercial Aronia berry plantation in the United States.
Hundreds of other people learned about Aronia berries from July through September of 2007 through local and statewide media, the Harrison County ISU Extension website, and by direct inquiry to Clint McDonald, CEED, and Dr. Eldon Everhart, ISUE horticulture field specialist. From July through September, more than 175 people visited Sawmill Hollow and over 300 requests for information were received by the owners and by Everhart.
Based on plant sales by Sawmill Hollow, it is estimated that within the next three to four years around 300 Aronia plantations will exist in Iowa encompassing about 12,000 acres. A planting density of 700 plants per acre and an average yield of 20 pounds of berries per plant will produce 14, 000 pounds of berries per acre. At current average berry price of around $1.00 per pound, an Aronia plantation will produce a gross income of $14,000 per acre with organic production pushing the figure even higher. That could translate to a statewide industry worth at lease $2 million.
130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer
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January 10, 2008
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