Honeyberry could be the next supercrop

It is hoped production of the honeyberry can be a commercial success.
It is hoped production of the honeyberry can be a commercial success.

The ambition to add a fifth berry crop to Scotland’s booming business in strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries has taken a major step forward with the creation of a new honeyberry knowledge transfer partnership between scientists and farmers.

Fruit grower Stewart Arbuckle from Invergowrie was behind the formation of a Scottish Honeyberry Cooperative to establish healthy orchards which aim to produce premium frozen fruit and honeyberry wine, and now the cooperative has formed a partnership with the James Hutton Institute (JHI) and its commercial arm, James Hutton Limited (JHL).

The aim is to identify the best varieties of honeyberry to grow and develop products while at the same time exploring other income streams such as agritourism and the provision of advisory services.

While the crop is deemed suitable for Scottish conditions because it is winter hardy and has good pest and disease resistance, it has not been grown commercially here, so more understanding of the agronomy is required.

Research into that information will be led by JHL fruit breeder Dr Dorota Jarret who is one of a few researchers in the UK to have trialled honeyberries.

“The challenge will be to prove production to be economically relevant, stable, reliable and of a superior quality and provenance to other honeyberry fruit that might influence future markets through import channels,” she said.

“Sharing existing knowledge and developing new expertise is essential, particularly considering variations in size, quality, environment pressures and growing capacities.”

Meanwhile, Dundee University graduate Ruari MacLeod has been appointed knowledge transfer partnership associate.

He said: “I see this project as an exciting opportunity to be involved in such a multifaceted project.

“My work so far has been focused mainly in academic research, whereas for this project we will apply our findings directly in a commercial

“Our aim is to identify the best varieties of honeyberry and develop products around which we can build the Scottish honeyberry brand.

“Whilst I’ll be relying on my scientific knowledge to help establish our
understanding of the honeyberries as a crop, I’ll also be able to develop new skills in market research and product development.”