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Continued Development of American Elderberry As A Specialty Crop For The Dietary Supplement Market


The overall goal of this program is to significantly advance the agricultural development of elderberry as a crop for the dietary supplement market. Three research areas will be further developed.1. Determining and Mitigating the Potential Occurrence of Cyanide in ElderberriesWhile the production and marketing of elderberry continues to expand, uncertainty regarding the absolute safety of elderberry and elderberry dietary supplement products is overshadowing and hindering the full development of this specialty crop. Toxic cyanide is believed to occur in ripe and un-ripe elderberry fruits, with "conventional wisdom" suggesting that heat processing or fermentation removes or destroys such cyanide. However, an exhaustive review of scientific literature cannot substantiate either of these claims. The fact is that we simply do not know if cyanide occurs in elderberry fruits, what forms it may be in, exactly where it might occur (juice, skin, pulp, seed), and if it occurs, how it can be
safely removed from elderberry food and dietary supplement products. The project will use highly sensitive, state-of-the art instrumentation within the University of Missouri Proteomics Center to definitively answer these questions. The results of this study will provide producers, processors, and consumers a scientific basis for confirming the safety of elderberries and elderberry products. We are confident that a thorough science-based understanding of cyanide dynamics within elderberry fruits will allow elderberry to achieve its full market potential in competition with other high-value specialty crops.2. Impact of Elder Flower Harvest on Fruit Yield and QualityElder flowers are the primary elderberry product in Europe - used to make teas, tinctures, beverages, and commonly consumed as an anti-viral (Zakay-Rones et al., 1995). In the U.S. the berry is more commonly consumed for its anti-oxidant activities; however, interest in the consumption of American elder flowers is
increasing. Of course, harvesting the flowers precludes fruit production. Many cymes of elder flowers are produced on branches that bend toward or near the ground, and sometimes touch the ground. In most cases, fruit produced on such cymes will never be harvested and may, in fact, increase bird, mammal, and insect predation, as well as disease. With many horticultural crops, routine flower or fruit thinning is a common and laborious task that improves fruit quality and size, and may hasten ripening in retained fruits. We do not know the impact of flower or fruit thinning in elderberry in terms of fruit yields, berry size, or fruit quality. In elderberry, the task of flower thinning may not only improve fruit quality, but has the added benefit of harvesting a highly valuable and marketable product. Our hypothesis is that we can remove perhaps ¼ of the elder flower cymes near ground level with little reduction (if any) in fruit yield and a possible increase in fruit size and
quality. We will concurrently quantify the flower production potential of six elderberry genotypes.3. Polyphenol Type and Quantity among Diverse Elderberry Germplasm Cultivated in a "Common Garden" SettingMudge et al. (2016) collected and assayed ripe fruit from more than 100 wild elderberry accessions throughout Eastern and Central U.S. They found interesting and significant differences in the amounts and types of phytochemicals (flavonols and chlorogenic acids) among genotypes at specific (region-wide) locations. For example, wild elderberries from the southeastern US generally had higher levels and different profiles of many of these compounds compared with more northern selections. But it is not known if these differences are due strictly to genetics, environment (soil, climate, latitude, other environmental factors), or both. By bringing a select number of these genotypes into a "common garden" setting in Missouri, we will develop a much better understanding of the occurrence and
production of these desirable health-giving compounds in elderberry. If we find that production and quality of certain polyphenols are genetically-influenced, then we will have a much better basis for future breeding and cultivar development of elderberry for the dietary supplement market. If we determine that environmental factors have a greater influence on the quality, type, and quantity of desired polyphenols, then we can then work to develop those attributes horticulturally.

Thomas, AN
University of Missouri - Columbia
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