Autumnberry (Elaeagnus umbellata): a potential cash crop

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Journal of the American Pomological Society





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Feral populations of autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) exist throughout the eastern United States. The plants are tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions and thrive on poor soils. In 2001, researchers published evidence that the red berries of autumn olive have a high carotenoid content, and particularly high levels of lycopene (30-70 mg/100 g). Lycopene has powerful antioxidant properties, making it of interest for nutraceutical use, and also provides natural red colour for food use. Managed plantings consisting of three cultivars and four wild selections were established in Maryland to evaluate genotypes and management practices for potential commercial fruit production. Annual productivity of autumn olive ranged from 0.5 to 15 kg/plant. Mechanical harvesting was accomplished using a commercial blueberry harvester on plants that had been pruned for mechanical harvest. Berries were high in soluble solids and acidity, similar to blueberries and blackberries, but somewhat astringent. Approximately 10% of the total berry weight is in the seed. Lycopene content differed among genotypes ranging from 33.6 mg/100 g to 55.3 mg/100 g for 'Delightful' and USMD3, respectively. The productivity under low-input management, and the possibility for machine harvest indicate that autumn olive may be a commercially viable crop, especially on low-fertility and sandy soils that may be unsuitable for other agricultural uses. Differences in yield and fruit lycopene content indicate an opportunity for selecting genotypes superior for fruit production.

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