Black Chokeberry -- a new alternative crop for Iowa

Eldon Everhart, Field Specialist-Horticulture, Southwest Area

Problem Statement:

Black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, is a deciduous shrub native to Iowa.  Early in the 20th century, it was introduced to Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia where it was developed into a commercial fruit.  Improved cultivars were reintroduced into this country in the last ten years.  Aronia is well suited to organic production.  It is highly productive and easier to grow than grapes, blueberries, and most other fruits.  Cost of establishment and maintenance are low and culture of the plants is easy.  Aronia berries have more antioxidants than other commonly grown fruits.  Antioxidants reduce the potential for cancer and heart disease.  In the Midwest, black chokeberry is not well known and the market is not fully developed.

Programmatic Response:

A field day was held in Harrison County at Sawmill Hollow, the biggest commercial Aronia berry plantation in the Midwest.  The field day funded by a SARE grant was organized and cosponsored by ISU Extension and Sawmill Hollow, Inc.  Participants had the opportunity to taste many of products made from the berries.  They were also encouraged to pick and taste some of the ripe berries from the rows of Viking Aronia bushes.

Impact/Outcome:

More than 80 people attended the field day.  Before and after the field day, hundreds of other people learned about black chokeberry in local and statewide news coverage including radio, newspapers, newsletters, and magazine articles.  As a result, many people have become very interested in commercial Aronia berry production and marketing.  In the 6 months following the field day, over 50 people visited Sawmill Hollow.  Over 250 people have contacted ISU Extension or Sawmill Hollow for information about Aronia.  Many people now recognize that Aronia is a viable alternative crop in Iowa.  Based on plant sales by Sawmill Hollow, it is estimated that in 3 to 4 years at least 200 Aronia plantations will be in production in Iowa.  At current Aronia berry prices of $0.85 to $1.00 per pound and an average of 12,000 to 16,000 pounds per acre, net income per acre is $10,200 to $16,000.  Organically grown berries demand an even higher price.  Most growers are planting about 2 to 5 acres of Aronia plants.  In 3 to 4 years, it is estimated that at least 10,000 to 12,000 acres will be in production in Iowa alone.  At current prices, net income from those acres will be one to two million dollars.

2006
106 - Green Industry (Commercial Horticulture and Forestry)

Page last updated: April 11, 2007
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