The Western Agricultural Research Center northeast of Corvallis has a new study program. The Montana State University-operated facility has long been known for its study on such crops as apples and is now becoming part of an in-depth study of berries and small fruits. A grant from the Montana Department of Agriculture is supporting an investigation as to "cold-hardy" berries and small fruits as a possible high-value crop for Montana growers.

A study in 2015 identified berries that might thrive in our climate - haskaps, which are native to parts of Russia and Japan, and saskatoons, also known locally as serviceberries, along with aronia and sour cherries. Professor of Horticulture at MSU Rachel Leisso will lead the project, saying, "On the research end, we want to pursue better understanding of how to store haskaps and saskatoons for fresh market purposes longer." The team will also look at varieties of the fruits with emphasis on quality such as sugar concentrations, acidity and brightness of color. The MSU Extension Service in Ravalli County will work with the new Montana Berry Growers Association and MSU to develop marketing opportunities. Some products would be better sold fresh, while others would be better processing into such things as wines, medicine and dyes. The teams will also identify topics for a berry growers workshop in April, 2020.