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Researchers Hope That New Cranberry Will Brighten The Future For Wisconsin Growers

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have produced “HyRed,” a new cranberry hybrid likely to benefit producers and consumers alike.

“We think that HyRed is the most promising new hybrid for Wisconsin growers in the last 20 years,” says Brent McCown, the University”s Gottschalk Distinguished Professor of Cranberry Research.

Growers typically receive a premium for deep red berries, according to McCown. He says that HyRed contains at least twice as much red pigment as “Stevens,” the hybrid that most Wisconsin growers have been planting since the 1970s.

The pigment-rich hybrid also may have health implications. Scientists have found evidence that eating cranberry products inhibits some bacterial infections, such as those of the urinary tract. Researchers also have evidence that antioxidants in the diet – such as the pigments in cranberries – may reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer.

HyRed is the product of 10 years of development and testing by cranberry breeders McCown and Eric Zeldin. The two are with the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“We began this effort in response to a request by a grower,” McCown says. “State growers wanted a hybrid that developed a deep red color under our conditions. Stevens yields well but only develops full color after a long growing season. Wisconsin growers have been at a disadvantage compared with growers in the East and West who have a longer season. In most years, Wisconsin growers need to harvest their crop of Stevens before it reaches full color. ”

Zeldin says that tests of HyRed indicate that the hybrid should meet the needs of state growers.

“We conducted seven years of field trials with HyRed and Stevens in central Wisconsin and four years in northern Wisconsin. For fruit color, HyRed has outperformed Stevens every year,” Zeldin says. “HyRed begins turning red in August and increases in red pigment content at a greater rate than Stevens. HyRed can be harvested two to three weeks earlier than Stevens.”

HyRed may have another advantage, according to Zeldin. Because it has a high propensity to produce flower buds, HyRed may produce high yields year after year. Yields of many other selections often decrease following a year with high yields, he says.

McCown and Zeldin hope that growers will plant HyRed over the next decade as they renovate their marshes. As an incentive, the researchers will give growers a limited number of HyRed plants, which they can evaluate on their farms. If growers then decide to convert their beds to HyRed, they will have to pay a royalty for using the new hybrid. HyRed has been patented to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Wisconsin leads the nation in cranberry production and the tart berries are the state”s most important fruit crop. Growers are expected to produce nearly 3 million barrels of cranberries in 2001, which should be more than 50 percent of the U.S. crop.

Development of the new cranberry was supported by the state of Wisconsin and the Gottschalk Family Endowment, and by research grants from the Wisconsin Cranberry Board, Inc. and Ocean Spray, Inc.