26 Mar 2022

New blackberry varieties open a superfood future

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Blackberries may soon be pushed to superfood status thanks to new research from the University of Arkansas (UA) Department of Agriculture that shows they are a nutritional property factory.

SUPERFOOD ACCORDING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS

Emco Cal, which has represented the AU's blackberries breeding program since 2011, believes that the results of the studies, along with the development of new, better-tasting varieties and increased availability, will fuel asurge in consumer interest in this fruit in the coming years.

Emco Cal's sales manager for South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Canada, Josefina Justiniano, who has a degree in dietetics, says the research provides solid, scientifically based data showing that in terms of nutritional value, the University of Arakansas varieties of blackberries are comparable-and in some cases superior-to blueberries.

"Aside from the well-known benefits that berries provide, a very interesting finding in the research was that blackberries is a major source of flavonoids including resveratrol, which is also found in grapes and red wine. Resveratrol produces phytoalexin, a substance that inhibits the growth of pests or pathogens such as bacteria and fungi," he explains.

"Numerous studies have shown that resveratrol has beneficial effects on human health, including anti-cancer, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective and blood-sugar-lowering properties, as well as life-prolonging effects."

blackberries also contain high volumes of antioxidants such as anthocyanins and flavonoids-even higher than in blueberries. Epidemiological and clinical studies suggest that antioxidants in the form of flavonoids and anthocyanins, found in blackberries, may reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and degenerative conditions, contributing to good health.

In addition, blackberries are an excellent source of vitamins A, E and C. Vitamin A is a key nutrient that contributes to eyesight. Vitamin E strengthens the immune system. Vitamin C improves the immune system, prevents anemia, and facilitates iron absorption.

And with only 62 calories per 120 g serving, blackberries are ideal for those trying to follow a healthy diet. "They are rich in fiber, which helps regulate intestinal transit, increase the feeling of satiety, help prevent obesity, control blood glucose levels, among other benefits," says Justiniano.

THE NEW VARIETAL SELECTIONS

With consumer interest in health and nutrition at an all-time high since Covid's inception, Emco Cal plans to capitalise on the results by sharing them with its global network of growers, nurseries, traders and retailers.

The nutritional research that the University of Arkansas has done on their varieties of blackberries also plays a key role in the variety selection process. In addition to measuring vitamins and other nutritional content, researchers also measure soluble solids including Brix, acid content, and other factors in their advanced stages of testing and then weight their results according to known consumer preferences.

Mamen Sánchez, technical director of Emco Cal, believes that with the development of new and improved varieties aligned with consumer tastes and improved availability of blackberries, consumption will increase significantly. "Until now it has been very difficult to keep blackberries in stock in grocery stores. They are very popular with consumers, so they sell quickly, and supplies have simply not been able to keep up with demand," he says.

"We are working hard to increase the supply of blackberries premium quality, starting in key markets and then expanding worldwide. Our goal in partnering with UA was to offer a wider range of high-quality berry crops to our global customers. TheUniversity of Arkansas Department of Agricultureis a pioneer in the selection of blackberries, having developed the first primocane fruiting blackberry."

Since then UA has released many well-received varieties, such as Mary Carmen Brand and Horizon Brand (both primocane), and Ponca Brand and Caddo Brand (floricanes), which Sánchez says have been very well received by growers, retailers and consumers.

PRIMOCANE FOR ALL CLIMATES

Primocane varieties, in particular, have been a game changer for the industry because they allow blackberries to be grown in all climates and countries, greatly extending their production potential.

In warmer areas without cold, primocane varieties can fruit continuously throughout the year. In colder growing areas with winter cold, they produce two separate crops: a florican crop during spring/summer and a primocane crop during summer/autumn.

"This new flexibility of blackberries primocane varieties allows growers to expand their production in temperate growing areas with cold winters and frosts, as well as in sub-tropical, tropical and desert growing areas with zero cold and quite warm temperatures," says Sánchez, noting that a growing number of producers in Latin America and the Caribbean are now planting blackberries while previously there was no opportunity to do so.

Emco Cal supports them by providing technical support to pass on the latest and best breeding techniques for the varieties it represents. "In recent years, we have focused heavily on expanding our collaboration with breeding partners in many new regions, such as Spain, Italy, UK, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Central and South America, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and many others," continues Sánchez.

"At the same time, we work with buyers and retailers to ensure year-round supply of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Our blackberries are already sold through several well-known retailers around the world, and we should see more very soon!"

Source: Fruitnet
Fruitnet is part of the NCX Media network

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