Lingonberry Cultivation

Another group of individuals who attended the International Vaccinium symposium was an enthusiastic European contingent of lingonberry producers. The individuals from Finland were emphasizing wild stand enhancement rather than field cultivation because the wild stands were so abundant and productive, that the additional effort was unnecessary. Finns gather ample supplies for the fresh market and have plenty left over for export German researchers, on the other hand, wholeheartedly embraced field cultivation and have made significant strides toward developing the lingonberry into a cultivated plant. Their desire to cultivate the lingonberry may be due, in part, to dwindling local supplies and reliance on substantial imports. Some people believe that with the destruction of the Black Forest from acid rain, the last remaining good berry stands will also be wiped out. The German growers showed some incredible pictures of acres of lingonberries in production. The plants are grown in single-plant rows about 4 ft apart, and they have two flowering and fruiting periods each year. The first fruit is ripe in July, but yields are insignificant and berries are not harvested. Flowering begins again in July, and the major harvest is in October. The main cultivar is ‘Koralle’, but others are being tested, including ‘Erntekrone’, ‘Erntesegen’, ‘Erntedank, and ‘Amalen’, all from Germany. The German technology had developed to such a point that they now have a prototype berry harvester that is nothing more than a sophisticated berry rake on wheels.

Other lingonberry cultivars that have been developed worldwide include: Red Pearl’- an ornamental cultivar from Holland; and ‘Masovia’, from Poland. Several of these cultivars will be tested over the next few years in many parts of Alaska. I have already grown several seedling selections from Scandinavia in Fairbanks, but the plants do not seem to be as hardy as our native plants. They routinely decline over a period of about 5 years and aren’t nearly as productive as some of our wild stands.

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