UNH looking into kiwiberry growth

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) — Kiwiberries have high levels of vitamin C and other nutrients and, for decades, have been considered economically promising as a New England fall crop because they’re suited to the region and are attractive and flavorful.

Now the University of New Hampshire is studying the cold-hardy kiwifruit’s marketability with a $38,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Researcher Iago Hale of the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and specialist Seth Wilner of UNH Cooperative Extension are conducting the study.

Hale established a kiwiberry breeding program at UNH in 2013, with initial work focusing on characterizing and evaluating for the first time the entire North American collection of cold-hardy kiwis, to identify promising varieties for the region and parent plants for new variety development.

“The large and growing demand for diverse, local produce in the region presents an opportunity for developing and introducing entirely new horticultural products, such as kiwiberries,” said Hale, a plant breeder and assistant professor of specialty crop improvement at UNH’s College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

Hale is already working with several northern New Hampshire farmers in Coos County who are interested in diversifying their crops with hardy kiwis.

Kitty Kerner, whose family operates WinterGreens Farm and Aquaponics in North Stratford, said, “Hardy kiwis seemed just right for our challenging climate, given their native habitat extends all the way to Siberia.”

She said should the kiwis prove to be successful on the farm, her family will look into using the berries for wine-making, jams and dried fruit.

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