Why did we become interested in the cultivation of haskap berries on commercial plantations?
- In 2009, we were delivered some mother plants of the Russian Blue Honeysuckle varieties and our customers placed their first orders for their seedlings. After a little consideration, we decided to start growing Blue Honeysuckle on a commercial plantation.
- The mother plants were planted on our farm and started giving fruits, whose taste was highly appreciated, so we decided to develop mass propagation technology for Blue Honeysuckle.
- After conducting a several-year long observations and having obtained a licence to propagate Canadian (University of Saskatchewan) and Russian (Bakchar) varieties, and witnessing growing interest in Blue Honeysuckle, we decided to set up our own plantation, despite the fact that we specialized then in the in vitro micro-propagation. A chance to get good knowledge and experience in commercial growing of Blue Honeysuckle in our climatic and soil conditions constituted another, extremely important reason for setting up our own plantation.
- The Blue Honeysuckle plantation set up since 2015, and covering more than 11ha now, in fact provides us with invaluable information and huge experience in implementing a new plant variety in the environmental conditions of southern Poland. In the fruiting season it is extremely popular with both professional and amateur Blue Honeysuckle growers.
What conditions do we grow honeysuckle on our plantation?
- The plantation is located at 100, Muniakowice, a place in the county of Krakow in the Malopolska Region, approximately 300 m above sea level, with the average annual rainfall about 600 mm.
- Its soils range from class II to IV, they are heavy, clayish, impermeable and on calcareous substratum, their pH ranges from 7.0 to 7.8, and their humus content before planting the seedlings equalled 2%.
How did we prepare the soil for the plantation?
- A year before starting the plantation, wheat and papilionaceous plants (field beans) were sown in the field and prior to outlining rows, deep tillage by means of a subsoiler was made to a depth of 60 cm to loosen and break up the soil.
- Between the rows a 4.0 m distance was maintained, and on 1.0 m wide stripes of soil meant for the future rows, xylit (7.5 t/ha), cattle manure pellets (3.25 t/ha), and high sour peat (15 m3/ha) were spread.
- Before breaking up the soil, additionally the following fertilizers were spread on the 2 m wide stripes of soil: triple superphosphate (80 kg/ha), potassium sulphite (80 kg/ha) and kieserite (180 kg/ha).
- The soil in the 1.0 m wide stripes for the future rows of plants was loosened to a depth of 40 cm and elevated, 20 cm high beds were made and covered with nonwoven fabric.
- After planting the seedlings, in the spring of the following year, the interrow of plants was sowed with a mixture of grass and a 10% addition of white clover.
How did we plant the plants and what varieties did we choose?
- The seedlings were planted mainly in the autumn. The first 3 ha were planted in 2015, with the seedlings from the 3 l pots, and the other fields with those grown in the p9 (0.5 l) pots and from 2017 on only those cultivated in the M-40 pots (their root mass was 0.2 l) were grown in the remaining fields.
- After replanting the seedlings the plantation was supplied with a drip irrigation system in the first year, and the following year with two drip lines per row. Apart from a supply of water the plants were also fertilized (only fertigation was used), based on the soil analyses conducted 5-6 times per season.
- The first year after planting witnessed an extremely vigorous growth of plants which already in their second year on plantation gave their first fruits. However, a commercial crop (approximately 1kg per bush) was seen in the bushes of the best varieties in their third year.
- Pollination was secured by bumblebess, solitary bees (mason bees) and honey bees brought to the plantation every year.
From 2015 to 2018 the following Blue Honeysuckle varieties were cultivated on our plantation:
- some Russian varieties such as – ‘Tomiczka’, ‘Leningradskij Velikan’, ‘Nimfa’, ‘Morena’, ‘Bakczrskij Velikan’, ‘Czułymskaja’,’Docz Velikana’, ‘Silginka’, ‘Jugana’, ‘Bakcharskaja Jubilejnaja’, ‘Gordost’ Bakchara’, ‘Vostorg’, ‘Streżewczanka’, ‘Sinij Uties’, ‘Ussulga’, ‘Lavina’, ‘Usłada’;
- some Canadian cultivars – ‘Tundra’, ‘Indigo Gem’, ‘Indigo Treat’, ‘Aurora’, ‘Honeybee’, ‘Boreal Blizzard’, ’Boreal Beauty’, ‘Boreal Beast’and eight unnamed clones from the University of Saskachewan;
- some American varieties – ‘Blue Banana’, ‘Strawberry Sensation’, ‘Giant’s Heart’, ‘Blue Treasure’;
- some Polish cultivars – ‘Wojtek’, ‘Zojka’, Klon 44.
Due to some adverse environmental conditions in our area, after the initial years of observations, in the summer of 2019 the following Haskap varieties were eradicated from the plantation:
- Russian – ‘Tomiczka’, ‘Leningradskij Velikan’, ‘Nimfa’, ‘Morena’, ‘Bakczrskij Velikan’, ‘Czułymskaja’, ‘Docz Velikana’, ‘Silginka’, ‘Bakcharskaja Jubilejnaja’, ‘Gordost’ Bakchara’, ‘Streżewczanka’;
- Canadian – ‘Tundra‘,‘Indigo Gem‘,‘Indigo Treat‘;
- Polish – ‘Wojtek’, ‘Zojka’, Klon 44.
The best promising cultivars, which fully adapted to our conditions, were planted in their place.
Our Blue Honeysuckle plantation has been under close observations, and the following parameters of their bushes and fruits are recorded:
- berry features, i.e. their flavour, weight, size and firmness (organoleptically), and the Brix test results;
- their health condition – including vigorous growth and the size and structure of bushes;
- their cropping;
- the time of ripening affecting mechanical harvesting, the variety’s suitability for mechanical harvesting and the usefulness of different harvesting machines for mechanical harvesting, as well as possibilities of keeping fruits fresh for long, and refrigerating and deep freezing them;
- the autumnal flowering occurring in some regions with a longer vegetative season was also assessed.
- Since 2016 the research workers from the Krakow University of Agriculture have been conducting observations of the biology of flowering and pollinating.
- In 2020, our colleagues from Tomsk, scientists and research workers from the Agricultural University in Krakow and our employees for the first time conducted series of planned and strictly controlled crossings between the Blue Honeysuckle varieties in order to optimise the selection of pollinators for the most important cultivars.
- The year 2020 also saw the introduction of our first phenological observations following the recommendations from Artioma Sorokin from Russia.
- The exact analysis of chemical composition of fruits of the most important Blue Honeysuckle varieties was conducted by Alicja Kucharska, Ph.D from the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences.
Detailed results of most of the above mentioned observations and studies are available at www.in-vitro.pl or on request in Plantin’s offices.
The most important data obtained in the past few years are presented in Tables:
Table 1 – shows those varieties which proved best in our conditions
Table 2 – focuses on prospective and extremely promising varieties
Table 3 – contains the results of studies on the first plantings of Canadian varieties and selection forms from the University of Saskatchewan
- As for the fruit flavour, the highest grades were awarded to the following cultivars: ‘Vostorg’, ‘Jugana’, ‘Sinij Utios’, ‘Boreal Blizzard’, ‘Aurora’, ‘Usłada’, ‘Lawina’.
2. As for suitability for mechanical harvesting the fruits of average size, short, barrel-like or spherical turned out to be the best and the grading order was the following: ‘Aurora’, ‘Vostorg’, ‘Honeybee’, ‘Boreal Beauty’, ‘Uslada’, ‘Lawina’, ‘Sinij Uties’ and the two clones.
3. Out of three Haskap berry harvesting machines, Oxbo 9300 harvester took the first place.
Meeting the challenge of mechanical harvesting of fruits for the fresh fruit market is probably the most important task of the Blue Honeysuckle growers since when overcome it will probably decide about the popularity of the Blue Honeysuckle berries with their consumers and growers.
4. The following varieties: ‘Aurora’, ‘Boreal Beauty’, ‘Lawina’, ‘Usłada’ boasted the most firm flesh.
5. The most yielding were: ‘Boreal Beauty’, ‘Boreal Blizzard’, ‘Aurora’, ‘Vostorg’ and the two selective forms (clones) from the University of Saskatchewan.
6. The healthiest, and especially resistant to the summer sun burns and subsequent dying out of leaves, proved to be: ‘Aurora’, ‘Honeybee’, ‘Boreal Beauty’, ‘Boreal Beast’, ‘Borela Blizzard’, ‘Sinij Uties’, ‘Jugana’.
7. The autumnal flowering does not or scarcely occurs in our region and no effects of its occurrence on the next year cropping have been discovered so far. However, if it prevails, then – in our opinion – it is rather connected with some cultivation mistakes which can be prevented.
Observations of the Blue Honeysuckle varieties in our nursery in the south of Poland are continued. I have presented the results and conclusions from the past few years and I am fully aware that it was a rather short research period. We also have some preliminary results of our observations of some new Blue Honeysuckle varieties. They will not to be published for now since the period of observations was too short to draw general conclusions. With each year the effects of our studies are more complete and I hope they will help choose the right Blue Honeysuckle cultivars and grow them on plantations.