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Experts use advanced technology to create 'superberries' resilient to harsh growing conditions: 'We will have more possibilities of cultivating berries'

Creating heat-resistant plants can help farmers adapt to rapidly changing conditions, preventing huge drops in production and increases in price.

Creating heat-resistant plants can help farmers adapt to rapidly changing conditions, preventing huge drops in production and increases in price.

Photo Credit: iStock

There is berry promising news coming out of Europe regarding some of our favorite berries. Researchers are finding ways to grow more resilient strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries that will flourish in our rapidly changing climate. 

Berries have struggled with rising temperatures and extreme weather in recent years, and that has had a devastating impact on crop yields. 

Strawberries are a $400 million industry in Florida, but increasingly powerful hurricanes are damaging crops. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, Florida's agriculture sector took a $1 billion hit in 2022 just from Hurricane Ian. 

Meanwhile, rising temperatures are causing headaches for blueberry farmers in Maine. According to Dr. Alexandre Koberle, a research fellow at the Grantham Institute, the high heat is also "baking [raspberries] on the vine" in western North America

European berry farmers are facing similar issues, so the European Union funded the BreedingValue project to increase genetic diversity and cultivate berries that can survive better. 

"The aim is to identify the best genetic sources, particularly for disease resistance, water resistance, resilience, adaptability, sugar, and aroma," professor Bruno Mezzetti said in a report by Phys.org. Mezzetti is the project coordinator and an expert in fruit-crop breeding and biotechnology at Marche Polytechnic University in Italy. 

The researchers study wild species and cultivated plants to identify the specific traits they want and create new cultivars, which are cultivated plants that retain certain traits when propagated. 

"We can find resilient and sensory traits in old cultivars or from crop wild relatives," said Dr. Tuuli Haikonen, a researcher involved in the project. "It's a love story, in a way." That love story will hopefully produce "superberry" species that can withstand changes in our climate while maintaining or enhancing taste and smell. 

Another EU-funded project is attempting to make healthy berry snacks by developing new ways to dehydrate berries without adding salts or sugars. The FRIETS project hopes to extend the shelf life of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, dramatically decreasing food waste from them going bad.  

The goal is to make soft fruit snacks without compromising the berries' nutritional or therapeutic value. The researchers also hope to engineer the berries to meet people's specific needs. 

"If a group of people has Type 2 diabetes, we can make products with reduced sugars and we can add more proteins," said professor Magdalini Krokida of the School of Chemical Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, a FRIETS partner. 

"Berries are something like superfoods," Krokida added. "With the novel techniques, processes, and technologies that we have, we will have more possibilities of cultivating berries in Europe."

According to the Phys.org report, European consumers can expect to see the first FRIETS products sold through Rezos Brands later in 2024. 

The BreedingValue project addresses a problem that many of us are facing at grocery stores. As crop production plummets, food prices skyrocket — and it's not just berries. 

🗣️ Would you buy juice or yogurt made with bruised or misshapen fruit?

🔘 If I couldn't tell the difference 🤔

🔘 If it were cheaper 💰

🔘 If it were healthier 🍎

🔘 I'd never buy it 🚫

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

Peach prices are up because scorching weather in Georgia caused a 90% drop in production in 2023, and record dry conditions in Spain and precipitation levels in California have raised olive oil prices

Creating heat-resistant plants can help farmers adapt to rapidly changing conditions, preventing huge drops in production and increases in price — but you don't have to be an expert in fruit-crop breeding to ease the pain in the checkout line. Growing your own food is an excellent way to save money at the grocery store. 

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