A team from North Carolina State University received about $ 13 million to study certain berries, which they hope to adapt to the changing needs of consumers and the industry.
North Carolina State University scientists, Massimo Iorizzo, Mary Ann Lila and Penelope Perkins-Veazie, received a four-year, $ 6.4 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture along with equivalent funds to study blueberries and cranberries .
The project, known as the Vaccinium Coordinated Agricultural Project, or VacCAP, will focus on improving the quality of berries, which are part of the Vaccinium species.According to the university, the internal wholesale value of the national Vaccinium industry exceeds $ 2 billion by year.
However, changing market preferences could mean difficulties for fruits, which gives researchers momentum to begin more rigorous research. ”At 2015, when I joined this community, it was clear to me and to many others that it was It is necessary to obtain funds to develop a coordinated, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary project that could advance genetic discoveries with a possible application in breeding programs, ”said Iorizzo.
"And that would focus on the traits that are critical for stakeholders, including producers, processors and consumers."
According to the Blueberry Global Statistics Intelligence Report, the driver of market growth has been the availability of products over the past decade. However, the report notes that the quality of the fruit has increased in importance. The Institute of Human Health Plants of the State of North Carolina said in a statement that “current blueberry cultivars often produce fresh market fruit with inconsistent texture and sensory profiles (for example, firmness, freshness, sweetness), that limits the potential for growth in high value fresh markets. ”
These problems are further complicated by labor costs, driven by the need for manual harvesting and account for up to 80 percent of production costs. ”Funding of blueberry commodity groups, such as the North Carolina Blueberry Council (NCBC) can only partially support research and improvement, while obtaining federal funds complements these investments, ”said Ralph Carter, president of NCBC.
"A project like this is critical to the continued growth of the blueberry industry in North Carolina and other berry producing regions of the United States." Blueberries also have their own market problems, as there has been a change fast in the consumer's preference for juice to higher value products, such as sweetened dried cranberry, which requires higher quality fruit to produce.
That quality threshold, according to the Institute of Plants for Human Health of the State of North Carolina, can result in disposal rates of more than 20 percent.
“The long-term economic sustainability of blueberry industries depends on finding solutions that increase the production of fruit with improved quality attributes that meet the ever changing preferences of industry, market and consumer,” said the Institute of NC State human health plants in a statement.
The project will be directed by Iorizzo at the Plant Institute for Human Health, which is located at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.