Potential is there for small fruit crops

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PIKETON, Ohio — From jostaberries to winegrapes to pawpaws, new crop and on-farm diversification opportunities abound for southern Ohio farmers.

An Ohio State University Extension workshop on these and other crop alternatives will be offered June 18 at OSU South Centers at Piketon.

When and where

“New Crop Alternatives” will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at 1864 Shyville Road, Piketon, Ohio. The registration fee is $5 per person.

OSU South Centers horticulturists Brad Bergefurd and Shawn Wright and specialty crops specialist Maurus Brown will discuss small fruit crop opportunities, specialty vegetable opportunities, marketing, and production and management techniques.

The pawpaw, a native Ohio tree long forgotten in horticulture, is just one of the alternative crops being targeted as a potential on-farm niche product.

In an OSU South Centers project, Wright and his colleagues are evaluating native pawpaw trees and selected cultivars for a variety of performance characteristics, such as growth habit, fruit production and fruit quality.

About the fruit

The pawpaw (genus Asimina) is related to the sweetsop and soursop, but is the only member of that family not confined to the tropics. Native American Indians cultivated the pawpaw for its fruit, a large berry that tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana.

The fruit is high in protein and minerals, while its biomass is known to have anti-cancer properties. The bark and seeds contain natural insecticides, known as acetogenins, which have been used to produce organic pesticides.

The Ribe

Another product that will be discussed at the workshop is the Ribe, a perennial woody shrub that produces a variety of edible berries, such as gooseberries, currants and jostaberries (a black currant and gooseberry hybrid).

Brown said that commercial Ribes production has potential in Ohio as a specialty crop, providing economic opportunities for farmers throughout southern Ohio while giving consumers more unique food choices.

The crops can be marketed as fresh berries, for baked goods, for jams and jellies, and for the wine industry.

The workshop is part of OSU South Centers Third Thursday Horticulture Business Training series.

Call to register

For more information or to register, contact Julie Strawser at 740-289-2071, ext. 223 or e-mail strawser.35@cfaes.osu.edu.

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