NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. Families gathering around the Thanksgiving table this year will enjoy a traditional side dish that's been given some "upscale" breeding cranberries.
While this year's version of the age-old staple will look or taste no different than servings of yore, a new cranberry hybrid is helping growers increase production and improve fruit quality for the annual fall feast. It is also helping them meet the increasing year-round demand for juices, fruit drinks, and "craisins" that health-conscious people increasingly prefer.
"Ten years ago, the cranberry industry suffered a severe economic crisis," said Nicholi Vorsa, research professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology at Rutgers University and inventor of the new hybrid. "Increasing labor, fuel and material costs coupled with stringent environmental regulations have placed considerable economic pressure on cranberry growers. Without productivity improvements, many would have to abandon growing this uniquely American fruit, a livelihood that is often a multigenerational family endeavor."
Working at the university's Marucci Blueberry-Cranberry Research Center in Chatsworth, Vorsa led an effort to develop a cranberry plant that delivered higher yields, ripened earlier in the season, and had vines that grew faster and resisted weeds and disease better than previous varieties. Until now, growers cultivated selections from wild bogs or relied on first-generation hybrids from the 1940s and 1950s that provided little genetic improvement.
The higher yields from Vorsa's new hybrid, named Crimson Queen, mean that fewer new acres of environmentally sensitive wetlands have to be developed to meet increased demand. The earlier ripening helps growers get their product to market in time for the annual Thanksgiving feast.
The faster growing plants help growers by producing fruit in newly planted or renovated fields a full year earlier. Cranberry be
|Contact: Carl Blesch|