Elderberry Variety Trial: An Essential Step For a Specialty Crop in Maine

Locally grown elderberries are in demand by the specialty beverage industry, food entrepreneurs and herbalists. A 2015 study of Vermont’s market showed the current demand to be 25,000 pounds per year, and current production to be roughly 10,000 pounds. Hobby and commercial growers in Maine continue to ask Cooperative Extension for research in growing and marketing elderberries as a specialty crop.  Development of a successful elderberry industry requires that we study which cultivated varieties of American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) have the most desirable characteristics in terms of winter hardiness, growth habit, flowering, fruiting, and resistance to insect pests and diseases. This project will determine which varieties are best suited for Maine growers, and will educate interested growers in sustainable elderberry production methods. Eventually, fruit harvested will further be evaluated for suitability in value-added products. As a result of this study, Maine growers currently considering expanding or diversifying their enterprises by growing elderberries will be better positioned to do so. They will be armed with information needed to produce a high-quality crop at a competitive price; an investment that would potentially net each grower an additional several thousand dollars per year.

Investigators: Marjorie Peronto, Tori Lee Jackson, David Handley

Award period: 5/1/2016–9/1/2017