West Kelowna company FloraMaxx Technologies is researching which varieties of haskap berry, above, grow best in different areas around B.C.

Haskaps are relatively unknown in B.C., but a West Kelowna company is researching the new berry’s ability to grow in different areas around the province.

In partnership with the University of Saskatchewan, West Kelowna’s FloraMaxx Technologies conducted a study, funded by the federal and provincial governments, which involved distributing haskap plants to four places in the province to determine which environments allow the berries to grow best.

“The problem was in B.C. there were no field trials to see which varieties of haskap will perform better in a given location,” said Ashish Dave, research scientist with FloraMaxx.

Before this project, most of the research had been done in Saskatchewan, where the berry was developed, primarily in temperatures around -40 C, he said.

“We are trying to develop the industry in B.C., especially the Okanagan, where the people are not getting enough revenue in apples and cherries,” said Dave. “People are looking for diversification in food crops so they can get better revenue.”

Bob Bors, haskap breeder and head of the University of Saskatchewan fruit program, identified 10 advanced haskap selections that have superior fruit characteristics compared to previously released haskap varieties.

In 2016, Dave and his team propagated those haskap varieties in their lab, and in 2017 they distributed complimentary plants to four collaborators in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Chetwynd.

“We are trying to develop a healthy haskap industry by undertaking field trials of these 10 advanced selections,” said Dave.

All of the plants survived, and no pests or diseases were observed until the end of 2017, according to the research report.

“These plants are very hardy and are adapting to the local planting conditions,” said Dave.

FloraMaxx is applying for funding to continue its research to see how the plants fare over the next three years.

“We will pinpoint which variety is growing good in a given location in B.C., and we will be able to give growers good advice about which varieties to plant,” said Dave.

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