Aronia is a perennial deciduous fruit of the species. It grows as a shrub to 1.5 to 2.5 meters in height. It has dark green bold and oval leaves that turn red in the fall, so aronia can be classified as a decorative plant. Their edges are serrated, with a pointed tip, and can grow from 6 to 9 centimeters. On a short petiole 1 cm long, there are two leaf-like growths. The upper part of the leaf is glossy, while the lower surface is covered with white hairs. The layout of the sheets is correct.
It begins to bloom in the second half of May with white to light pink flowers. Flowering usually lasts up to 15 days, and the flowers do not develop evenly, which is good because this is how the plant protects against possible frost. Each inflorescence boasts of blooming 30 flowers. Under favorable weather conditions, bees and other insects can pollinate up to 90 percent of the flower. The flowers are white and pink with a diameter of about 1 centimeter. They are grouped into bunches of up to 6 centimeters in diameter. The flowers have five petals and each bunch is surrounded by about 20 purple stamens.
Two seeds are formed in each seed cavity, and usually only one of them matures. The fruit develops for 90 days. Initially, the berries are green in color, covered with tiny pale hairs, and cling to each other, but as they grow, they separate from each other and lose their feathers. At the end of July, the berries begin to change color and gain weight. In August, they turn almost black. They are harvested at the end of August. The berry is about 1 inch in diameter, weighs about 1 gram, and can contain 5 to 8 seeds in each. The seeds are very small so they can barely be felt in the aronia.
When maintaining aronia seeds from seed, it should be noted that they have a more vigorous growth, which makes it difficult to harvest and maintain plants. Therefore, if you are growing aronia for growing on a plantation for sale, vegetative nursery seedlings are recommended.
Aronia has strong roots and will grow easily on poor soil with little water. It is recommended that you plant it in the fall when the root is still active and in the spring can provide plants with rapid and vigorous growth.
There are three types of aronia:
- Black Aronia (Aronia melanocarpa) - The most popular and most widely grown in Europe
- Purple chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia)
- Red aronia (Aronia arbutifolia)
It is best to plant aronia in the fall using two-year-old seedlings. The seedlings should have a well-developed root, with three to five shoots. Usually the growing form of the bush is predominant, although it can also be grown as a tree.
The row spacing should be 3 to 4 meters, while the plants should be 1.5 to 2 meters. Planting is carried out to a depth of 20 centimeters, into pits with a diameter of 30 centimeters.
Plant aronia in places where there are no tall trees or walls so that they do not obscure the necessary light.
Aronia does not require difficult soil, so it is possible to grow on poor, sandy and rocky soils. Nevertheless, the best results are achieved on fertile soils. For aronia to give birth successfully, it is important to prepare the soil well for planting. For starters, clear the soil from weeds. This will help a lot in maintaining the plantations during the first years, as young aronia shrubs can very quickly be overgrown with weeds. In five years, the shrubs will already be quite large, which means they will be able to fight the weeds themselves and destroy them.
One year before you decide to plant, test the acidity of the soil. If necessary, reduce the acidity by calcification so that the soil pH is about 6.5. It is best to use magnesium lime to reduce the acidity. In addition to reducing the acidity of the soil, it will at the same time supply the soil with the calcium and magnesium needed for the proper development of the plant. On light soil use dolomite limestone and on heavier dolomite limestone.
Before planting aronia, during the growing season, it is advisable to sow the cover. Its purpose is to destroy weeds and enrich the soil with nitrogen and humus. The ideal cover is beans, wolves, sarradella or fodder peas and mustard or phacelia (scorpion grass). If the mixture does not destroy the weeds, the field should be sprayed with systemic herbicide, sometimes with the addition of Chawastox Extra.
A few weeks before planting, analyze the soil so you can adjust the nutrients. To do this, take soil samples. If the fields are different, you will need to sample each soil. Causes are collected from the surface layer (0 to 20 centimeters) and from the subsurface layer (20 to 40 centimeters) at 20 locations for each sample. They are taken with a special probe, that is, an Enger stick, and if you do not have one, you can also take a sample with a spoon from the hole. The collected soil from the holes of one sample should be stirred and placed in a plastic bag. It should be about 50 decagrams of soil.The soil is sent for analysis to an agricultural laboratory, and when the results arrive we can very easily adjust the soil nutrients to the level we want.
Aronia cultivation is possible in all soils. But shrubs will thrive best when the lower layers of soil are sandy clay because it retains sufficient amounts of water and contains carbon dioxide. In contrast, it is not good that the bottom layer is made of heavy clay, as it retains excess water, which can ruin root development.
As we have noted, it will best succeed on fertile humus soil with sufficient amounts of water, carbon dioxide and a certain ratio of air to water. But if you don't have that soil, you don't have to give up, because aronia will thrive on much poorer soil, where most fruit trees such as apples, cherries or pears won't be able to produce well. Therefore, you can also use soils of lower quality, except those that are completely poor.
Aronia will flourish on fertile soil, which may mean that its branches will grow too tall. This will interfere with machine reading. Therefore, avoid planting aronia on I and II. class the soil and plant it on III., IV. and even Class V. On poorer soil, with the addition of fertilizer, we can prevent shrubs from getting too high.
For the cultivation of aronia will be good and lower soil and former meadows. Aronia will grow well on them and will successfully cope with occasional shorter periods of excess water. Growing on such soils differs from growing on those of the highest quality only in a delay of about a week's harvest. However, wetlands are not recommended.
When growing aronia on poor soil with little water, you will need to irrigate the plantations regularly, especially during periods when the fruit is growing rapidly.
The fertilization process is best performed after a soil analysis has been carried out in the laboratory. A good indicator of quality soil is the dark color of the fruit and large leaves.
The growth of young plants is very favorably influenced by fertilization with manure, especially on weaker humus-poor soil. You can also use larger quantities of manure up to 40 to 60 tonnes per hectare and regardless of the crop of previous years. Said dose will provide the soil with all the nutrients and humus it needs and improve its composition.
Fertilization is done two weeks before planting aronia, and besides manure, the soil can be enriched up to 200kg / ha K2O and up to 200 kg / ha P2O5. In the end, everything is well plowed and the surface is evened with a harrow, protecting against excessive drying.
When using mineral fertilizers, it is important to know that they contain potassium and phosphorus that are not mobile in the soil and should be used in the fall or early spring. Nitrogen fertilizers are used between April and mid-June, two to three times during the growing season.
After the first or second year of planting, fertilizer should be applied under each shrub. Let the dose not exceed 50 grams per bush.
After the third year, you can also apply mineral fertilizers by roughly scattering them around the bushes. Be very careful with nitrogen fertilization, especially on older plants, because they need much less nitrogen than other fruits. High doses of nitrogen fertilizer, especially in fertile soils, can result in rapid growth of the stem. In these cases, it is recommended that you skip spring nitrogen fertilization or apply lower doses, but not earlier than June.
Aronia is a resilient and adaptable plant, so it is also possible to grow in areas of harsh continental climate. At standstill during the winter, it can withstand temperatures of up to minus 30 degrees. However, if temperatures fall below minus 23 in late fall or early winter, there is a risk of damage to the plant.
Aronia is a photophilic plant which means it needs good light exposure to grow and yield well, so it is recommended to plant it in sunny areas. It tolerates temperature differences very well, that is, it does not harm either high or low temperatures.
Aronia is not a demanding plant and the only thing it will ask for is to keep the temperature during the growing season above 10 degrees. It is best suited to temperatures of 19 to 21 degrees. But it can normally develop at temperatures above 23 degrees. The short period of high temperatures leaves no trace on the plant and fruit. If high temperatures and prolonged droughts occur during July and August, the berries could be bitter. It can withstand low temperatures and even in early spring as it already begins vegetation.
In the temperate climate zone, aronia roots are completely frost resistant. Aronia cultivation in Poland and Russia also supports this, where temperatures often drop to as low as 30 degrees Celsius.
For aronia to produce good, the optimum rainfall is 500 to 700 millimeters per year. Insufficient moisture will affect the quality of the fruits, which will be smaller and more acidic. If aronia is grown in drought areas, irrigation is mandatory. It will best thrive in areas with high humidity in the air and near groundwater.
The greatest need for water, aronia is from the beginning of vegetation to the fruiting of the fruit and at the time of the strongest growth and maturation of the fruit, which is from late July to mid-August.
Aronia shrubs do not require large amounts of water in the spring because the soil has retained excess water from thawing in early spring. But at the end of July, the first water problems may arise due to possible drought and high temperatures. Therefore, the fruits may be bitter and less fertile. But with severe drought tolerance, aronia is offset by a high tolerance for excess water. She will not be bothered by the large amounts of water caused by the spring showers and will then resume normal growth afterwards.
Aronia is easy to maintain and does not require much intervention. It is resistant to diseases and pests and for that reason is very easily grown organically. Namely, the whole plant contains high levels of polyphenols, which protect it from diseases, fungi and bacteria. If possible, it is advised to sow and plow twice a season which will prevent weeds from developing and enrich the soil with humus. One only has to keep an eye on weed development in the first two years. Then it is weeded by hand, and after that the plant is strong enough to suppress most weeds. Now it is enough to just remove the weeds from the inside of the bush.
Aronia pruning and pruning
After the plant has been dormant during the winter, it must be prepared in the spring to properly grow, develop and bear fruit. You will do this by doing spring aronia pruning. If you've never pruned aronia so far, you'll need to adopt a few rules. For newly transplanted shrubs, leave three to five of the best branches, and cut off the rest. The number of branches you leave depends on the size of the bush. If you have never pruned aronia before, you will notice tiny twigs from the main branch or stump that need to be cut to give the plant further undisturbed and proper growth.
Aronia pruning is the main treatment of planting maintenance, and its goal is to shrubs the condition and remove damaged and weak stems. The first pruning is done immediately after planting. All stems are pruned to a height of 10 to 15 centimeters from the ground. Thus, the root and the aboveground part of the plant are brought into balance. The reason for this pruning is that when it is removed from the nursery, it will shorten considerably, and if the first spring after planting is dry, there is a possibility that the shortened root will not be able to sufficiently supply the tall and unbuttoned above-ground parts of the plant. Such a sapling could therefore die. The second reason is that this prevents flowering in the first year because it could weaken the growth of the bush.
Over the next three or four years, pruning will only remove the damaged branches after harvesting aronia. After that, you should remove the old branches in order for the plant to replace them with new ones.
The best fertility of the plant and the highest quality of the fruits are observed between the second and fourth years. It is recommended that aronia shrubs have no branches older than six years, so remove as many old branches as possible each year to replace the young stems. Avoid densely packed branches as well.
A very thick bush of aronia grows too high and looks for light. This can be a big problem because in a few years, a bush so high can be formed that the berries are difficult to harvest. In addition, berries from such a thick bush are smaller and have a lower intensity of color.
Poor pruning can lead to expensive costs or reduced yield. Namely, if the plants have not been pruned, they will need to be rejuvenated, that is, manually remove all old branches and leave ten young stalks on each shrub. This process is expensive, and it is cheaper to machine cut after which the shrubs will recover so that they will start producing young stems. They also need to be removed, that is, to leave ten stems per bush. If this is not done, the rejuvenation process will not make sense. It will happen again that the plant will grow very high.
If you plan on rejuvenating aronia plantations, be prepared to control young stalks, especially in the first two years after pruning old branches. You can also easily prune them by machine.
Aronia plantations do not usually attack diseases and pests, so no need to spray the plants with protective agents. However, it is recommended to inspect the seedlings as there is a possibility that pests and diseases can sometimes be caught on the bushes. On rare occasions when some of the pests and diseases appear, the plant itself can cope with them.
The most common pest on plantations is the aphid (Aphidoidea), which attacks the stems and young leaves of the plant, sucking the vegetable juice out of them, causing the tips of the stems to curl and the leaves curl. Ears usually only appear on some bushes, so it is not worth it to chemically treat them. Namely, there are smaller losses of lower aronia yield than the costs of chemical agents.
In addition to lice, aronia can also be attacked by a young red spider that can move from the orchard. It is a small and almost imperceptible spider that attacks the bottom of the leaf. The spider sucks the juice out of the leaves, causing it to yellow and weaken its aronia.
Care should also be taken for cherry worms and pears (Caliroa limacina) from Hymenoptera. It is usually found at the top of the leaf it eats, leaving dry brown spots.They usually appear in June and August.
In recent years, a moth of the genus Tortricidae has also appeared in aronia. His caterpillars inhabit the flowers of aronia, wrapping them with their silk and feeding on such wrapped flowers.
The irony still found:
- Apple moth
- Winter moth
Aronia fungal diseases do not often cause problems in Croatia, but caution should be exercised. In Russia, specimens of leaf spot have been reported due to the fungus Phillostica spp, and although it is not a serious disease, beware as it causes leaf fall. In addition to the fungus mentioned, brown rot or Monilia rot caused by the fungus Stromatinia aucuparia is also known. It usually occurs in the spring on young leaves and spreads to buds, which causes rot and decay of the fruit.
The first harvest is usually expected only in the third year, with a yield of 0.3 to 0.5 pounds of aronia per bush. After the fifth year until the eighth, the fertility increases and then you can expect a yield of up to 10 pounds of aronia on a single plant. Between the age of nine and fifteen, the birth rate also increases to 15 pounds per plant.
Aronia berries ripen in late August, and ripening can vary up to two weeks. The maturation process depends mostly on the weather conditions.
All the aronia berries are picked at once, so you'll need to be ready for it when it's ripe. The best indicator of maturity is the petal that holds the fruit. It must be light red. Before that, it's green. When it turns light red we are sure that the berries contain sufficient amounts of pigment and sugar and that they are no longer bitter. Aronia is bitter only when it is not mature enough.
It is very important to choose a good day for harvesting aronia, especially when picking. Namely, only fully ripe aronia berries can be easily separated from the petiole. Otherwise, the fruits could be damaged or they could remain on the bush.
Hand picking aronia is hard work and is only done on plantations where the shrubs have not yet reached maximum size and are too small to harvest with a combine.
One of the important positive characteristics of aronia is the durability of its berries. Although they are berries, they are much more durable than, for example, currants. Keeping fresh aronia in a crate for several days will keep it fresh. In addition, it handles transportation and long journeys very well.
Fresh aronia berries stored in a cool place immediately after harvest can stand for up to several weeks without losing their quality.
If you want fresh aronia all year long, it is best to freeze it immediately after harvesting. The frozen aronia berries will be even more juicy as freezing will increase the sugar level and reduce the tannin level.
Wash and dry them well and put them in bags or boxes. So you can enjoy delicious, fresh aronia fruits all year long. Just take them out of the freezer and wait for them to thaw. You can keep aronia in the freezer for up to 9 months.
You can also store aronia by drying it and using it for tea later. You can dry it in the sun or in the oven. If you dry it in the oven, the fruits can be picked without a petiole, and if you are going to dry them outdoors it is recommended to harvest them with a petiole because you can thread them and tie them. Remember to protect them with gauze to keep them clean. It will take up to three weeks to dry the aronia outdoors.
To dry the aronia in the oven, soften its shell by placing the berries in boiling water for 60 seconds. After that, immediately cover them with cold water and oven dry at 60 degrees.
Medicinal properties of aronia
The medicinal properties of aronia are numerous. It is considered to have the greatest antioxidant effect among nuts and berries. It is rich in flavonoids, vitamins C, B and E, minerals and folic acid. It has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Strengthens immunity, reduces cancer risk and slows down the natural aging process. It protects the health of the heart and blood vessels, reduces high blood pressure, bad cholesterol and blood sugar. It has a beneficial effect on the work of the stomach, liver and digestive system, and is responsible for the excretion of heavy metals from the body.
Aronia in culinary
The richness of the antioxidants of aronia is due to the fact that it can rightly be categorized as supervillains. For this reason, it is also being used more and more recently in the culinary field.
It is best consumed in its raw form as heat treatment loses some of its many medicinal properties. Often, aronia juice and dry aronia juice are used for healing purposes, which are great for brewing tea. You can also use aronia fruits to prepare marmalades, jams, compotes, but also make delicious sweets, syrups, smoothies and sauces for meats.
Interesting facts about aronia
It is native to North America where it can be found in the wild, on the ground from Canada all the way to Florida. It grows in the form of a rose and belongs to the family of roses (Rosaceae). When it arrived in Europe, it was mostly grown in Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland, and today the cultivation of aronia has spread to other countries and is popular in Croatia as well.Its popularity is growing, and its enormous healing properties are the reason.
In nature, aronia is most commonly found in North America, along the Atlantic coast, in the central lowlands, and in the Appalachian area. Aronia is adaptable to the environment, so it can be found in the wild in wetlands, in forests, but also on dry rocky soil. However, it does best in areas with enough moisture in the air.
It was first mentioned in Europe in 1834 in St. Petersburg in the records of the Botanical Garden. Its decorative value and high frost resistance are emphasized. Until the 20th century, the plant was grown as an ornament in parks and gardens due to its beautiful red leaves in the fall and beautiful bunches of fruit. At the beginning of the 20th century, the famous Russian botanist Ivan Michurin also emphasized its practical value. It was then that the fruit was first tried.
In the 1930s, aronia exploration was moved to the Altay Station on the Altai Mountains, and since 1935 the exploration was continued by M.A. Lisavienko. In 1942, the first aronia plantation was created. In the coming years, aronia farming expanded to Poland and later to other European countries, and the first aronia products began to appear. Poland boasts the largest production of chokeberry juice.
Author: M.L., Photo: dubajjo / Pixabay