Evaluation Project Promotes Fruit Production

The Northern Hardy Fruit Evaluation Project at the Carrington Research Extension Center (CREC) introduces growers, processors and consumers to unfamiliar fruits that are  easy to grow in North Dakota so new and existing agribusinesses can explore untapped markets.

The center began the Northern Hardy Fruit Evaluation Project in 2006 after hosting North Dakota’s first informal wine and grape growing meeting.

“The enthusiasm and positive comments from attendees indicated a great interest, yet also told us that people who wanted to grow fruit were not being supplied with the most  current information needed to make good planting decisions,” project manager Kathy Wiederholt says.

To expand knowledge and use natural resources to create economic opportunities in the state, the CREC enclosed six acres for woody plant research and created the Northern  Hardy Fruit Evaluation Project to determine which fruit plant selections would be desirable, hardy and productive in North Dakota.

The fruit orchard covers three acres and consists of 14 varieties and more than 750 plants arranged as demonstrations and variety trials.

“The primary objective is to evaluate each crop for adaptation, disease resistance, production practices, winter hardiness, productivity, fruit quality and vinification (wine making)  quality under central North Dakota growing conditions,” Wiederholt says.

A second objective is to make home gardeners and commercial enterprises aware of the opportunities these fruits present as agricultural industries.

“It’s been wonderful for us,” says Bruce Gussiaas, who with his wife, Merleen, own Dakota Sun Gardens Winery near Carrington, N.D.

The couple, who grow a variety of fruits, including haskaps, currants, raspberries, plums, cherries and apples, say they’ve received lots of good advice, such as what varieties to plant, how far apart to plant and when to harvest, through the project.

They are among more than 14,000 people who have accessed information through tours, meetings, videoconference programs and phone calls.

Kathy Wiederholt, 701-652-2951, kathy.wiederholt@ndsu.edu

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