Share This Page

Blackberries, raspberries in demand for reputed health benefits

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 4:14 p.m.

PIKETON, Ohio — A research project has begun in Ohio to find ways of increasing the state's production of blackberries and raspberries as consumer demand for the fruits continues to grow.

Researchers with Ohio State University Extension are studying alternative planting methods to help Ohio growers step up production of the two increasingly popular fruits that many health experts say provide health benefits.

Demand for the berries has grown in recent years thanks to consumers wanting those benefits, said Gary Gao, an OSU Extension specialist and associate professor of small fruit crops at the OSU South Centers at Piketon in southern Ohio.

The berries contain dietary fiber and high levels of antioxidants — substances that health experts believe protect cells in the body from damage that they say can lead to diseases such as cancer.

Production and consumption of blackberries, in particular, have been increasing in recent years, according to Debby Wechsler, executive secretary of the North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association.

“One of the reasons is that blackberries are available year round and consumers are seeing them in stores more often now,” Wechsler said.

Rhoads Farm Inc., in Circleville, has grown and marketed blackberries since the 1990s, and company president Brett Rhoads says he has seen demand for the fruit grow over the last four to five years.

His farm produces about 180,000 pounds of blackberries a year, but no longer produces raspberries.

“Raspberries are tougher to grow in this climate, because they are soft and perishable and humidity can hurt them,” he said.

Growing blackberries in Ohio can present some challenges since that fruit does not have a large degree of winter hardiness, and a very cold winter can cause severe damage, according to Gao.

The two-year, $55,000 research project that began in October is funded by a Department of Agriculture grant through the Ohio Department of Agriculture. It's intended to address the shortage in quantity and seasonal availability of Ohio-grown blackberries and raspberries.

The grant will allow researchers to test more hardy varieties, work on increasing the bramble acreage in Ohio by 150 acres over the next two to five years and improve the yields of bramble plants by 15 percent, Gao said. A bramble is collection of a group of plants — such as blackberries and raspberries — that have thorns.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.