UNH to host 'Under the Vines' Field Day

September 16. 2018 9:54PM
In 2013, Iago Hale, a plant breeder and assistant professor of specialty crop improvement at UNH's College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, established a kiwiberry research and breeding program at the NH Agricultural Experiment Station's Woodman Horticultural Research Farm in Durham. (Courtesy of UNH)

DURHAM — The third annual “Under the Vines” Field Day will be held at the University of New Hampshire Woodman Horticultural Research Farm on Sept. 26.

The free event will focus on the commercial production of kiwiberries, seedless table grapes and fall-bearing strawberries and will be held from 5 to 7 p.m.

“It’s been a productive year and we have a lot to share,” said plant breeder Iago Hale, associate professor of specialty crop improvement and leader of the kiwiberry research and breeding program.

“Under the Vines is an opportunity for current and future commercial producers, value-added processors, nursery owners, and the public to visit the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station’s vineyards and farm, learn about current research and breeding activities, and share their knowledge, questions, and perspectives.”

Kiwiberries

Attendees of this year’s field day will learn about all aspects of the production of this emerging specialty crop, from vineyard establishment to harvesting. Various demonstrations will be given, including pruning, weed cultivation, irrigation, and berry evaluation to determine harvest time. Hale and vineyard manager Will Hastings will also share their latest research on kiwiberry genetics (what producers need to know before buying vines) and the effects of harvest time and storage on ripening and berry quality.

They will also discuss the status of a regional kiwiberry production guide and enterprise analysis, slated for completion this fall.

In 2013, Hale established a kiwiberry research and breeding program at UNH. In the first research project of its kind, he aims to develop improved, economically viable kiwiberry varieties for small farms in the northeast.

“With their general adaptation to the region, their attractive appearance, intense and complex flavor profiles, high levels of bioactive compounds, and easy consumability, kiwiberries have long been recognized for their potential as a high-value crop in New England,” states a University of New Hampshire news release.

A tender, smooth-skinned relative of the fuzzy supermarket kiwi, grape-sized kiwiberries are tropical-tasting fruits that have grown in the backyards and private gardens of the region for 140 years. Despite this long history in the region, however, virtually no commercial production exists, something Hale is determined to change.

Seedless table grapes

Experiment Station researcher Becky Sideman, extension professor of sustainable horticulture production, and George Hamilton, extension field specialist, will discuss their seedless table grape research, which is intended to benefit regional growers interested in growing table grapes for local markets.

Sideman and Hamilton have found that certain varieties of seedless table grapes do better growing in Southern New Hampshire under low-spray conditions than other varieties.

Now in its fourth year, the project aims to determine which varieties of seedless table grapes are best suited to New Hampshire production, and to determine which growing systems are best suited to those varieties.

According to the news release, the results are particularly relevant to growers in USDA hardiness zone 5B and warmer, which corresponds approximately to the southern half of New Hampshire, and much of the rest of New England.

Fall-bearing strawberries

While strawberries do not grow on a vine, researcher Kaitlyn Orde will be available to discuss the experiment station’s TunnelBerries research project, which has resulted in UNH scientists quadrupling the length of the state’s strawberry season. Orde will discuss variety choice and evaluation, plant and nutrient management, and low tunnels for fall berries.

The event will conclude with kiwiberry, seedless table grape, and strawberry tasting and time for discussion.

For directions to the Woodman Horticultural Research Farm, visit: https://colsa.unh.edu/nhaes/directions/Woodman. Ample parking at the farm is free.


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