The interest of several cultivators, mostly in northern Greece, began to attract a new momentum in a crop that was completely unknown in our country so far, nicknamed "the Aronia melanokarpi."
The Aronia is a shrub that grows in wet areas and especially in acidic soils. It is an abstemious kind, with no major cultivation requirements and can be grown in different climates (dry or wet) and soils (sandy clay as,acidic, neutral, alkaline). It grows and grows quickly in moist, light and peat soils, and although it requires sunlight it also thrives light shaded environments.

This plant makes small black fruits that are eaten and used in the pharmaceutical formulations.
As unknown it is in Greece, it is very popular Russia, Czech  Republic, Lithuania and Poland, where it is grown in thousands of acres. Indeed, the Lithuanians, produced their famous wine «Aronijos», which is widely recommended for the prevention of heart disease.

Large acres are also cultivated in the U.S. and southern Canada, from where it was introduced to Europe before the Second World War, initially as an ornamental plant. The countries of the former Soviet Union were those who used it first as a medicinal herb and it is characteristic that hundreds of thousands of acres cultivated today in Siberia, indicating that it withstands the very cold climate. In these countries, greater quantities are used in pharmacology, but also for juicing, which is rich in phenols, catechins, flavonols, etc.

"The Aronia is a very profitable crop for anyone who professionally cultivates it. Resistant even in frost (-25 degrees Celsius), does not need too much water and its production is great, "says for the newspaper 'ethnos' a regular researcher at the Institute of Forest Research NAGREF John Spanos, involved years with this plant. The first plants arrived from Bulgaria some years ago at the farm of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Halkidiki and the Cholomonta used in experiments, while he prepares the first 500 plants from cuttings and seeds.
In neighboring countries, Balkan countries use the berries to manufacture jam or sweets. The fruit is rich in pectin, a natural polysaccharide acetate abundant in apples, quinces and oranges. It is valuable for the pharmaceutical industry, while extracts of leaves and fruits have antioxidant properties and cure many diseases such as inflammation, heart disease, diabetes etc.

Also, the fruits of Aronia are among the most rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. For fresh consumption is of great interest because they have a very astringent taste, but can be used in cocktail juices, alcoholic beverages, or active, in teas, syrups, jellies, in pharmaceuticals and as food coloring.
The Aronia contains high amounts of anthocyanins and flavonoids. The Aronia is used to treat hypertension, it contributes to normal permeability and elasticity of blood vessel walls. Also against diabetes, various kidney diseases, rheumatism, allergies, hepatitis, etc.
The Aronia used to lower cholesterol in people suffering from atherosclerosis.

The techniques for efficient plantation
Ideal for growing harmoniously i soil and climatic conditions of Greece.
The Aronia is a plant of easy growth, also characterized as a plant that is resistant to frost, but also by its great adaptability to different soil types.
Although it is a plant that is transplanted easily - as been said by agronomist Cassander Gatsios , involved in a research level with the harmonious growth, it is advisable for the plants to be planted in pots by root to avoid the stress that can be caused by planting. The plants can be produced from seed or cuttings with soft or splitting of existing offshoots.

The Aronia can be practically grown in all types of soils. The soil should drain because the Aronia is sensitive to excess water. Can be grown in great variety of soils, as sandy, loamy or rich organic soils, wet or dry.

Seedlings of Aronia is recommended to be planted in early spring, before the high temperatures and drought of summer.

During the growing of Aronia in purpose for the plant to produce fruit, the distances between planting rows should be 2.8 m and between the plants 1.5 m on the planting line, which means that 240 plants will be planted in each acre.

The Aronia does not require much pruning.  One must prune the shoots that have some damage or the oldest stems every 5-7 years, so as to encourage the entry of light inside the plant.  Its also recommended that suckers are being removed when their numbers become excessive,  this work also facilitates maintenance and harvesting of plants, while encouraging the entry of sunlight inside the plant. The Aronia is not sensitive to cold and therefore measures to protect plants from frost are not required. The bush form is spherical, which is increasing with the expansion of new shoots ass hoots at the base of the plant. Aronias foliage is dark green, turns  bright during  the summer and then again  turns red in autumn before falling.

The growth rate of plants of Aronia is too slow, about  30 cm or less a year. The life of the plant  is up to 100  years. Aronias harvest is done  by hand or by mechanical means, using a machine used for harvesting other small fruits such as blueberries, without damage to the fruit being done.

Low cultivation cost, good revenue

The cultivation cost of Aronia may be low, however, both the area and the economic performance is sufficiently good.  At a time  that the subsidies are reduced and farmers seek alternative crops, Aronia is a first class opportunity to acquire an additional satisfactory income.

Moreover, according to survey data that has been done on  this specific crop by agronomist Mr. GatsiosCassander in Greece, Aronia can develop and provide net income to reach the 1200-1400 per acre,  assuming an average production of 3 kg per plant after the fifth year and an average 3 per kilo.

The yield of fruit plants is a very important factor in the economic result of this crop.  In plantations Aronia plants reach full capacity after about 5 years.  The researchers in Canada have made IRDA yields 2,4 kg / plant in a loamy texture soils. Odds 3,5 kg / plant have been in Sweden, in plants aged 3-6 years, while Russia has yields 6 kg / plant in successful Aronia crops.

After one publication in a specialized form of NAGREF the researcher, John Spanos,barrage of telephone calls received by farmers in Northern Greece, mainly from Serres, who want to engage in cultivation.

"The first serious problem is that we can not allocate the plants, as they to be purchased from Bulgaria, Macedonia and Smyrna, where there are large nurseries," said the researcher. However, their high content of anthocyanin in the fruits are considered the richest in antioxidants.

The fruit can be eaten fresh, although it is very astringent and have a sour taste, or used to produce various mixtures of juices, or alcoholic beverages, or energetic drinks, or for the production of pharmaceuticals and pigments like different foods.

High demand abroad

Internationally, the demand of the fruits of Aronia but most of the juice far exceeds the supply. This demand, as our agronomist says Cassander Gatsios-mainly from the U.S. and Europe, where Aronia used both for processing and food preparation. In England, Belgium and France there isgreat demand for juices, vinegar and syrups which have Aronia as basis.

For the fruit of Aronia, consumed fresh, there is not a great interest from the general public because it is stiff, while the juices is very interesting. Across the Atlantic the value of Aronia is between 3.5 to 4.5 euros per kilo. The value of frozen fruits ranges between 2.5 to 3.5 euros per kilo, while the juice harmoniously mixed with other juices ranged between 10-12 euros per kilo.

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Cultivation of Aronia berries, kalithea - Pieria
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