In Eastern Canada, peatlands are mined for the horticultural properties of peat. When peat mining ends, the natural revegetation of the site is usually slow and scarce (Poulin et al., 2005). Generally, ecological restoration of cut-over peatlands follows peat harvesting with respect to the “no net loss” policy for the management of wetlands in North America (Lynch-Stewart, 1992). Planting small fruit plants on cut-over peatlands could be considered a complement to ecological restoration (Rochefort et al., 2003) or as a reclamation option. Berry plantations in restoration projects could increase landscape heterogeneity and facilitate the return of typical peatland bird species. As a reclamation option, added value could be gained from formerly abandoned sites.
Among small fruits native to North America, black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a promising candidate for use in cut-over peatlands. This species produces black edible fruits, readily eaten by birds, and is known for its low maintenance requirements; slight pruning is required and low occurrence of pests and diseases has been observed (Finn, 1999; McKay, 2001; Richer et al., 1997; Strik et al., 2003). Fruits also have antimutagenic properties resulting from their high anthocyanin content (Gasiorowski et al., 1997). Black chokeberry is already commercially grown, especially in Europe, where its fruits are used in several juices, alcoholic or energizing drinks, and in food colorant.
Very little research on small fruit culture on cut-over peatlands has been done because large-scale industrial peat harvesting is relatively recent. The first small fruit plantings on industrial cut-over sites were done in Europe in the mid-1970s (Paal, 1992). Most plantings are found in Estonia, where blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.) and cranberry (V. oxycoccos L.) are also successfully grown on cut-over peatlands (Noormets, 2006; Noormets et al., 2004; Paal, 1992; Paal and Paal, 2002). A few small fruit trials have been done on Canadian cut-over peatlands, but data are rudimentary and not easily available. Cut-over peatlands are interesting grounds for berry production because they are pathogen-free and initially weed-free (Virkajärvi and Huhta, 1996). Because cut-over peatlands have never received fertilizers or pesticides, there is a potential for establishing organic production of fruits, vegetables, or medicinal plants (Kukkonen et al., 1999; Vestberg et al., 1999). However, small fruit production on cut-over peatlands can be challenging. Intensive drainage required during peat harvesting results in a deep and unstable water table level that represents a risk of water deficit for subsequent plantings. The water table level may periodically remain high as a result of the low hydraulic conductivity of peat with associated risk of anoxia in the root zone. Moreover, the remaining peat has a low thermal conductivity, is highly acidic, and has a low nutritional content (Myllis, 1996; Wind-Mulder et al., 1996). Hence, fertilization is required for plant growth and productive fruit yield in cut-over peatlands (Noormets et al., 2004; Paal and Paal, 2002).
The objectives of this project were to evaluate the feasibility of black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) culture on Canadian cut-over peatlands and to define its appropriate production practices.
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Noormets, M. 2006 Some aspects of flower biology of lowbush blueberry ( Vaccinium angustifoliumAit.) and vetlvet-leaf blueberry ( V. myrtilloidesMichx.); cultural management of lowbush blueberry and cranberry ( Oxycoccus palustrisPers.) on exhausted milled peat areas Estonian Univ. Life Sci Tartu PhD Thesis.
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Richer, C. Rioux, J.-A. Côté, J. 1997 Aronia melanocarpa(Michx.) Elliott 32 36Rusticité et croissance de plantes ligneuses ornementales au Québec. Tome II. Résultats et recommandations du REPLOQ Conseil des productions végétales du Québec Inc Québec, Canada
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