Scientists today continue the U of M's century-long heritage of successfully breeding cold-hardy, disease-resistant varieties of vegetables, flowering plants, shrubs, trees and fruits. The University of Minnesota researchers have long been known for apple-breeding programs at research sites, and the ROCs were home to the first Honeycrisp trees evaluated.
ROC gardens are open to the public and industry for self-guided tours and numerous educational programs throughout the growing season, providing a unique opportunity for thousands of visitors to compare the performance of various cultovars under our regional conditions.
Scientists across the state are studying how high tunnels can help manage the effects of disease, pests and cold weather as well as extending the growing season for vegetables. Nutraceutical research in high tunnels explores the potential to increase the concentrations of certain natural chemical compounds found in vegetables and spices that are associated with health benefits. These efforts have generated new relationships with the Hormel Institute and the University’s Cancer Center that integrate agriculture with medicine. At the same time, researchers are continuing their long-standing relationship with Minnesota’s vegetable industry.
Researchers at sites in northern and western Minnesota study how raspberries and blackberries can be grown in high tunnels for stronger plants, better quality fruit and a longer growing season, as well as to eliminate the need for fungicides and herbicides.
High-tunnel research and demonstration efforts can extend the growing season for many products, providing healthy, locally grown produce while expanding earning potential in rural communities.
Researchers can create unique environments that can promote greater phytonutrient production in cabbages and turnips.
Wild trees and cultivars from New England and other Midwest breeders have been crossed thousands of times over the past century, leading to popular apple varieties such as Haralson, Beacon and the consumer favorite, Honeycrisp. At the same time, apple rootstock studies provide growers with information required to make decisions on choosing hardy, productive and supportive trees.
University of Minnesota researchers have long been known for apple-breeding programs at research sites, and the ROCs were home to the first Honeycrisp trees evaluated.
The development of Honeycrisp in 1991 was recognized as one of the top 25 innovations of the decade by the 2006 Better World Report. This report, by the Association of University Technology Managers, recognizes significant academic research and technology transfer that has made the world a better place. Since its introduction, more than 8 million Honeycrisp trees have been planted. Varirties developed at the Horticultural Research Center produce 80 percent of the apples grown in Minnesota.
The university has been developing new cold-hardy varieties of wine grapes for more than 50 years. Because of the cold-hardy grapes developed for the state’s climate, Minnesota now has more than 50 licensed wineries. When tourism and supplies are included, the industry’s economic impact on the state is $59 million per year.
The LaCrescent grape is one of four developed by University of Minnesota scientists that can survive northern winters. Thanks to the growth of this program, grape-growing is expanding fast in Minnesota, adding income and a new consumer-friendly crop alternative for farmers.
The University of Minnesota’s grape breeding program also has played a significant role in creating a cold-climate grape and wine industry in the Midwestern and northeastern United States. A survey of 12 cold-climate states found that industry has grown to more than 5,400 acres of grapes, 12,000 jobs and had an economic impact of more than $400 million nationwide in 2011.
New landscape plant varieties are continually introduced by outreach center horticulturists, providing proven plants for Minnesota nurseries to grow. Garden centers and landscape professionals can then offer these pest-resistant plants that are well adapted to the needs of Minnesota homeowners, business landscapes and communities.
University of Minnesota scientists are world-renowned for developing the ‘Lights’ winter-hardy azaleas as well as 45 other woody landscape plants, including large shade trees, flowering trees, shrubs, roses and the 15 varieties of the ‘Lights’ azalea series, all of which can survive the harsh winters of USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 and 4.
Woody landscape plants such as the azalea have been developed for Minnesota growing seasons.