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BLACK CURRANT (Ribes nigrum L.) – AN INSIGHT INTO THE CROP

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There is an increasing interest in the inclusion of berries, especially the black currant in the human diet mainly for the health benefits associated with their consumption. Black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) belonging to the genus Ribes is widely cultivated across temperate Europe, Russia, New Zealand, parts of Asia and to a lesser extent North America. Besides high content of tasty juice, black currant is a valuable source of bioactive compounds like vitamin C and polyphenols, acting as antioxidants, with a potential to protect against disorders such as cardiovascular events, cancer and other degenerative symptoms. Industrially, black currant fruits are considered to be of importance; however other anatomical parts like buds and leaves are also excellent sources of phenolic compounds. The leaf and bud extracts are of relevance as raw material for the food and health industry thereby making black currant a lucrative product for use as functional food ingredient. Research until now has investigated the content of different polyphenolic fractions of the fruits and to lesser extent on content of these fractions on plant parts like buds and leaves. The breeding of black currant is mainly focussed on national and international requirements, as related to specific quality desired from the processing sector alongside with important agronomic characters. Black currant cultivation is in different areas limited by a lack of climate adaptation in the existing cultivars as well as susceptibility of these cultivars to different pests and diseases. Also, the levels of bioactive compounds in black currant like content of ascorbic acid and polyphenols are influenced by genotype, environment and genotype x environment interactions. Durable resistance towards damaging pest and diseases together with an increase in content of health promoting compounds and adaptability to local climates remain to be of high priority for breeders. Additionally flavour, mouth feel, aroma and after taste are important primary quality factors for the fresh fruit market and juice industry. This introductory paper focuses on the history of development and biology of black currant; their ecology and environmental adaptability; crop utilisation; bioactive compounds, genetic, biochemical and phenotypic diversity. The breeding objectives and important pest and diseases are also presented. This paper is an attempt to review important work that has been done so far and the background literature, whilst providing the scope for the current PhD study.
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BLACK CURRANT
(
Ribes nigrum
L
.
) AN INSIGHT
INTO THE CROP
A synopsis of a PhD study
Michael Vagiri
Introductory Paper at the Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and
Agricultural Science <2012>:<2>
Department of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, Balsgård
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ISSN 1654-3580
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BLACK CURRANT
(
Ribes nigrum
L
.
) AN INSIGHT
INTO THE CROP
A synopsis of a PhD study
Michael Vagiri
Introductory Paper at the Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and
Agricultural Science <2012>:<2>
Department of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, Balsgård
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ISSN 1654-3580
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© By the author
Figure 3 was used with the kind permission of Renata Kazimierczak
renata_kazimierczak@sggw.pl
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List of contents
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Abstract
There is an increasing interest in the inclusion of berries, especially the black currant in
the human diet mainly for the health benefits associated with their consumption. Black
currant (Ribes nigrum L.) belonging to the genus Ribes is widely cultivated across temperate
Europe, Russia, New Zealand, parts of Asia and to a lesser extent North America. Besides
high content of tasty juice, black currant is a valuable source of bioactive compounds like
vitamin C and polyphenols, acting as antioxidants, with a potential to protect against
disorders such as cardiovascular events, cancer and other degenerative symptoms.
Industrially, black currant fruits are considered to be of importance; however other
anatomical parts like buds and leaves are also excellent sources of phenolic compounds. The
leaf and bud extracts are of relevance as raw material for the food and health industry thereby
making black currant a lucrative product for use as functional food ingredient. Research until
now has investigated the content of different polyphenolic fractions of the fruits and to lesser
extent on content of these fractions on plant parts like buds and leaves.
The breeding of black currant is mainly focussed on national and international
requirements, as related to specific quality desired from the processing sector alongside with
important agronomic characters. Black currant cultivation is in different areas limited by a
lack of climate adaptation in the existing cultivars as well as susceptibility of these cultivars
to different pests and diseases. Also, the levels of bioactive compounds in black currant like
content of ascorbic acid and polyphenols are influenced by genotype, environment and
genotype x environment interactions. Durable resistance towards damaging pest and diseases
together with an increase in content of health promoting compounds and adaptability to local
climates remain to be of high priority for breeders. Additionally flavour, mouth feel, aroma
and after taste are important primary quality factors for the fresh fruit market and juice
industry.
This introductory paper focuses on the history of development and biology of black
currant; their ecology and environmental adaptability; crop utilisation; bioactive compounds,
genetic, biochemical and phenotypic diversity. The breeding objectives and important pest
and diseases are also presented. This paper is an attempt to review important work that has
been done so far and the background literature, whilst providing the scope for the current
PhD study.
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1. Introduction
(
In recent years there has been an increased scientific interest toward the crops
belonging to the genus Ribes, not only due to their desired taste but also for the health
benefits associated with their consumption. Ribes is an economically important small fruit
crop, 99% of world’s production originates from Europe where the production figures have
increased by 24% between 1998 and 2007. (Mitchell et al., 2011). In countries like USA that
did not previously cultivate the crop, there is a growing interest in expanding Ribes
production (Hummer and Dale, 2010).
The Ribes genus consists of nearly 150 diploid species of spiny and non-spiny shrubs
(Brennan, 1996). The edible forms of Ribes, being commercially propagated, are the black
(Ribes nigrum L.), red and white currants (R. rubrum L., synonyms = R. vulgare Jancz. and
R. sativum Syme.) and gooseberry (e.g. European gooseberry: R. uva-crispa L., synonym =
R. grossularia L., and American hairystem gooseberry: Ribes hirtellum Michx.).
Black currant is a commercially important soft fruit crop with an annual turn over of
160,000 tonnes in Europe and 185,000 tonnes worldwide (Hedley et al., 2010). Black
currants are widely cultivated across temperate zones of Europe, Russia, New Zealand, parts
of Asia and to a lesser extent North America, where most of the fruits are primarily cultivated
for juice and beverage production. The fruits are eaten raw or processed for production of
jams, purées, jellies, liqueurs and imparting colour and flavour to yoghurt and other dairy
products.
In Sweden black currant is cultivated on approximately 350-400 ha mainly for juice
production (Jenson, 2009). A significant commercial black currant production takes place in
northern Sweden. Black currant is also a popular Swedish home garden bush.
One reason mainly for black currants being heavily marketed at present is the content
of bioactive compounds such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) (AsA) and polyphenols including
flavonoids such as anthocyanins, procyanidins, flavanols and phenolic acids with potential
health promoting properties (Slimestad and Solheim, 2002; Määttä et al., 2001; Tabart et al.,
2007; Brennan and Graham, 2009). A number of scientific studies using in vitro models have
demonstrated that the above mentioned bioactive compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory,
vasomodulatory and anti-haemostatic activities (Hollands et al., 2008; Brennan and Graham,
2009; Karjalainen et al., 2009). (
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Commercial breeding of black currants is mainly focussed towards quality (nutritional
and sensory components), and agronomic traits such as yield, fruit size and resistance to pests
and diseases to fulfil national and international requirements.
The steadily increasing fresh fruits market for black currants presents a challenge for
the breeders in order to develop naturally sweet cultivars with big berry size, dry pick (less
bruised) and long green strigs suitable for harvesting by hand (Brennan et al., 2008)
Additionally, development of resistant cultivars towards foliar pathogens, especially the
black currant gall mite (Cecidophyopsis ribis Westw.) and black currant reversion nepovirus
(BRV), adaptability to local climatic conditions and enhanced bioactive compounds contents
are main priorities due to increased interest towards integrated crop management systems
(Brennan, 2008).
2. Origin and history of development of the crop
2.1 Taxonomy!
The genus Ribes, was classified to the Saxifragaceae family originally, but was later
placed within the Grossulariaceae family on the basis of morphological traits such as the
presence of inferior ovaries, syncarpous gymnosperm and fleshy fruit (Cronquist, 1981;
Sinnot, 1985). Black currants belong to the sub genus Coreosma (Table 1). The other species
of Ribes of commercial importance are the red currants belonging to sub genus Ribesia and
gooseberries belonging to Grossularia.
Table 1. The scientific classification of black currants
Kingdom Plantae Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida Order Saxifragales
Family Grossulariaceae Genus Ribes
Sub genus Coreosma Species Ribes nigrum L.
2.2 Origin, distribution and domestication
The word “currant” is originating from the ancient Greek word for the city Corinth and
was used to illustrate grapes grown in the region. Earlier English texts described the
cultivated varieties with words like ‘corinthes’, ‘corans’, ‘currans’ and ‘bastardecorinthes’
(Hederick, 1925; Brennan, 1996).
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Black currants have been cultivated in northern Europe for more than 400 years and records
were first described by the 17th century herbalists, e.g. Gerard (1636), referring to the use of
black currants as ingredients in tea and medical concoctions (Barney and Hummer, 2005).
John Tradescant imported black currants to the United Kingdom in 1611 from Holland and
by 1800, they were popular shrubs grown in home gardens in the UK (Brennan, 1996;
Hederick, 1925). The Royal Horticultural Society recognised five black currant cultivars in
the UK in 1826: ‘Black Naples’, ‘Black Grape’, ‘Common Black’, ‘Wild Black’ and ‘Russian
Grape’. Among these cultivars, ‘Black Naples’ and ‘Black Grape’ of unknown origin were
popular for over 100 years (Roach, 1985). By 1920, 26 additional cultivars of Ribes nigrum
descent were identified in the UK by Hatton (1920).
In the UK, the most important cultivar from the late nineteenth century was ‘Baldwin’,
which is of unknown origin. A number of more recent cultivars have been derived from
‘Baldwin’ and incorporation of germplasm from the Nordic cointres such as ‘Brödtorp’
(Finish), ‘Öjebyn’ (Swedish) and ‘Sunderbyn II’ (Swedish). The mentioned crosses have led
to the development of late flowering and frost tolerant cultivars across Europe.
In Russia, the black currant breeders used wild germplasm R. nigrum var. sibiricum
(gall mite resistant), R. pauciflorum and R. dikuscha for crosses resulting in development of
cultivars such as ‘Primoskij Cempion’ (Brennan, 2008).
Black currants were introduced in the USA along with red currants in the seventeenth
century, but received little interest in terms of their domestication and cultivation (Barney and
Hummer, 2005). In Canada, wild germplasm of R. ussuriense was used for breeding of black
currants in the 1930’s led to development of series of rust resistant cultivars including
‘Consort’. During the World War II, citrus fruits were difficult to cultivate and expensive to
import into Europe, and as black currants had exceptionally high levels of vitamin C their
cultivation was encouraged for production of healthy juice. From this time on, several
breeding programs by plant breeders, gardeners, common people and government-funded
institutes have led to a steady increase in the number of cultivars across Europe (Brennan,
2008).
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2.3 Cultivar development in Sweden
In Sweden, the majority of black currants cultivated have traditionally been from Great
Britain and other Nordic countries. Some of the imported varieties grown during 1900 to
1950 were ‘Boskoop Giant’, a Dutch variety and ‘Bang up’ from England. The results of
harsh winters led to a shift away from the use of non-nordic germplasm to the incorporation
of ‘Brödtorp’ and ‘Åström’ from Finland, which were known to be mildew resistant, winter
hardy and high yielding (Hjalmarsson and Wallace, 2007).
The first Swedish cultivar trial was established in 1940 at 12 different locations around
Sweden, the plants were subjected to cold winters and the outcome was that European
cultivars were not hardy enough to be cultivated in the north. Among the evaluated cultivars,
‘Wellington’ and ‘Silvergiester’ were suitable for southern Sweden, and ‘Wellington X’ and
‘Brödtorp’ for central Sweden. For the northern climatic conditions ‘Brödtorp’, ‘Janslunda’
and ‘Östersund’ were favourable. Also several local varieties from Norrland were collected
and evaluated at the research station in Öjebyn, the most suitable ones were chosen and
named after home villages. The most prominent local varieties being ‘Öjebyn’, ‘Haparanda’,
‘Sunderbyn’ and ‘Östersund’ (Hjalmarsson and Wallace, 2007).
The modern black currant-breeding programme was conducted in southern Sweden at
Alnarp and Balsgård. Cultivars that have resulted from the breeding in Alnarp are ‘Stella I’,
and ‘Stella II’ introduced in 1967 and ‘Stellina’ introduced in 1979 sharing the parentage
between ‘Boskoop Giant’ and ‘Erkiheikki’ (Hjalmarsson and Wallace, 2007).
The breeding programme at Balsgård applied the ideas of state horticulturist V.
Trajkovski, who had incorporated the use of local germplasm from northern Sweden
(Norrland) and Russian germplasm as source of genes for resistance to mildew and gall mite
respectively. Trajkovski also used the Canadian variety ‘Consort’ as a source of resistance for
rust and hardiness. The success of this approach resulted in a new generation of black
currants cultivars such as ‘Stor-klas’, ‘Polar’ and ‘Intercontinental’ with high disease
resistance against fungi, hardiness, yield and berry size (Trajkovski, 1986; 1992). These ideas
were further taken by P. Tamás at Tollarp in southern Sweden leading to the development of
the cultivars ‘Titania’ and ‘Triton’. ‘Titania’ was of special interest in the USA due to its
resistance to white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola Fisch.), a pest that has caused
serious problems in pine plantations in North America (Brennan, 1996). However, none of
these cultivars are resistant to gall mites.
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Figure 1. Plots of black currant plantations at Balsgård, Sweden (Pictures by the author)
At present, a breeding programme is ongoing at Balsgård to develop new cultivars with an
increase in content of polyphenols and resistance to pests and diseases (notably leaf diseases,
gall mite and BRV) for organic farming and to provide cultivars for northern Sweden. Also
advanced selections and foreign cultivars (Scottish) are being evaluated in comparative trials
at both Balsgård and Öjebyn.
3. Biology of black currants
3.1 Phenotypic characteristics
Black currant is a deciduous, unarmed, aromatic shrub (Figure 2) that can grow as tall
as 2 m (Rehder, 1986). The plants attain maturity and start yielding in about 3-4 years. Shoots
are straight, firm, long and thick at the base, slightly pubescent and markedly brown in colour
(Wassenaar and Hofman, 1966).
Buds are aromatic and can vary from short and thick to long and slender, fusiform or
conical in shape, reddish or yellowish in colour. The colour of the buds becomes more
intense (reddish) as the winter months progress. The strongly perfumed leaves are pale green,
alternately paired, lobed and glabrous above, a little pubescent with many sessile and
aromatic glands on the lower leaf surface. The racemes hang down and bear about ten
flowers, composed of reddish or brownish campanulate hypanthia, curved sepal and white
petals. Flowers bloom during spring, held together on a drooping, delicate stem called the
strig. In the very northern latitudes, during extreme long days, flowering commences in late
June/July and completes by the end of August, and a day length of ca. 16 hours for floral
initiation is prescribed for the crop (Brennan, 2008).
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Figure 2. Images of a blackcurrant bush and fruits (Pictures by the author)
The fruit which usually is about 1cm or more in diameter is an edible berry and shiny black
or purple in colour when ripe, containing large number of seeds (Hummer and Barney, 2002).
Also green cultivars are available. Depending on the cultivar, the fruits begin to ripen 70 to
100 days after blossoming (Brennan, 1996).
3.2 Cytology, mode of pollination and cropping
Black currants have a chromosome number of 16 and, like all species of Ribes are
diploid (2x=2n=16), with natural polyploidy rarely seen (Brennan, 1996). The chromosomes
are 1.5-2.5mm in diameter, with both mitotic and meiotic processes being highly uniform
(Zielinski, 1953). The karyotypes and chromosome compliments are consistent in this crop
(Sinnot, 1985).
Although most of the black currant cultivars are to at least some extent self-fertile,
cross-pollination is essential in achieving optimum yields (Denisow, 2003). The bloom
duration of the flowers is directly related to the temperature the plant is exposed to, and
pollinizers are selected based on the same bloom time as the main cultivar. Basal flowers
bloom much earlier than the terminal flowers on the same strig (Harmat et al., 1990; Hummer
and Barney, 2002). Insects like bumble bees are important pollinating agents. Flowering
usually takes place in the months of April and May and last up to 3-4 weeks depending on the
choice of cultivar and environmental conditions. In controlled pollination the flowers are
emasculated using a scalpel and a forcep upto 5 days before anthesis.
For breeding of black currants in most countries, berries are collected as they ripen. The
berries are then stored at 4oC until the seeds are extracted in water using a blender. The seeds
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are thereafter dried on a filter paper and put in compost, covered with a layer of moist
vermiculite that is then followed by stratification at 2oC for a period of 13 weeks in dark.
Later the seed trays are brought into the greenhouses for germination, which completes
within 2 to 3 weeks. Seedlings are normally raised in the glasshouses and then planted in the
field (Brennan, 2008). Planting takes place through the months of October to March
preferably in dry and crumbly soils, which do not impede the roots of the plant when they
start to grow (Hummer and Barney, 2002). The plants are planted in a row spacing of 0.6 m
either in the form of rooted bush or cuttings in deep furrows. Black currants can also be
propagated clonally by cuttings of the hard wood during autumn or soft wood during early
summer or by single bud cuttings (Thomas and Wilkinson, 1962) The first year after their
planting, pruning is done to initiate further strong and vigorous growth; a sparse crop of
0.202 tonne per hectar is produced in the second year with no pruning required followed by
exceptionally high crop yield in the third year or 30 months (Blackcurrant foundation, 2011).
3.3 Ecology and environmental adaptability
Black currant does best on deep organic soils with good water retention capacity and
aeration. Black currant grows best at a soil pH ranging between 5.5 and 7.0 (Hummer and
Dale, 2010).
3.3.1 Location
Site selection is an important factor to be considered for growing a healthy crop. The
planting sites must be accessible to sunlight for good yields and in warmer climates the plants
should be grown in shade or on north facing slopes or in high elevations so that they could
perform better agronomically (Barney and Hummer, 2005).
3.3.2 Climate
Black currants are noted for their winter hardiness and adaptability to temperate
growing conditions. The crop performs best in climates with cold winters and mild summer
conditions. High mid summer temperatures, especially intense sunlight induce a greater risk
to foliar damages. Insufficient chilling requirement during the dormancy period can have a
serious impact on the phenological traits like bud break, time and duration of flowering and
fruits quality at the time of harvest (Hedley et al., 2010). In recent years late spring frost and
drought in summer have been known to cause problems in black currant cultivation (Kahu et
al., 2009). In terms of biochemical compounds warm weather conditions increases the soluble
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solids content and accumulate less acids in the fruits, and environmental conditions have been
reported to have more impact on acids than of sugar content (Brennan, 1996).
3.3.3 Temperature
Black currants can survive minimum temperatures of -40oC or lower. It has been
estimated that black currant cultivars normally require about 800 to 1600 hours of chilling (0
to 7oC), 1300 hours in case of New Zealand and over 2000 hours for Nordic germplasm,
before buds will break in the spring (Barney and Hummer, 2005; Brennan, 2008). To reach
blooming black currants require a base temperature of 5oC and the fruits require a time of
120-140 frost-free days (Harmat et al., 1990). Cultivars growing at 5oC for several weeks
have been reported to result in reduced leaf appearance and leaf expansion and greater photo-
inhibition. In cultivars like ‘Ben More’ a low temperature of 5 or 12°C for several weeks
delayed bud break by 33 days (Jefferies and Brennan, 1994).
3.3.4 Light
The growth and development of black currant is affected by day length. Some influence
of light on the quality traits of the fruits such as content of ascorbic acid (AsA) levels has
been reported. Fruits from the plants grown in south facing slopes were found to contain 20%
more AsA than the ones grown in north facing slopes at the same location. The increase in
content of AsA in fruits from bushes grown in south facing slopes was found related to higher
solar radiation (Walker et al., 2010). Also, the spectral quality as well as abiotic stresses are
known to effect the regulation of flavonoid biosynthesis (Jenkins, 2008).
3.4 Genetic diversity, molecular characterization and chromosomal mapping
Characterization of genetic diversity can be an effective tool to determine the genetic
relatedness among cultivars and can be used for selection in black currant breeding programs.
Mostly dominant markers (such as RAPDs, AFLPs, ISSRs) have been used to assess the
diversity in black currants (Lanham et al., 1995; 2000; Lanham and Brennan, 1998; 1999).
The material present at the Scottish crop research institute (SCRI), also representing a broad
cross section of the available genetic base from Scandinavia, Europe and Russia, have been
evaluated using the mentioned dominant markers. Unique accessions were distinguished
including sister seedlings (RAPDs) and genetic relatedness between three wild species
(ISSRs). Furthermore, using AFLP markers Lanham and Brennan (2001) separated closely
related genotypes, indistinguishable from each other when using RAPDs or ISSRs.
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The use of co-dominant markers like SNPs and SSRs have been mostly associated with
construction of genetic linkage maps in black currants (Brennan et al, 2008). Furthermore,
SSRs have been used to examine the genetic diversity within the black currant material
(Brennan et al., 2002). The first linkage map for black currants was based on a mapping
population (designated 9328) obtained from a cross between a seed parent SCRI S36/1/100
and a pollen parent B1834–110. This population segregated for several important characters,
which included agronomic factors, developmental stages and fruit quality components, with
the map consisting of 8 linkage groups constructed from 116 AFLPS, 47 SSRs, and 18 SNPs
(Brennan et al., 2008).
3.5 Phenotypic diversity
There is a wide phenotypic diversity among black currants. This morphological
variation is exhibited in plant growth, habit and several characteristics, which include bud
position in relation to shoot, bud shape of apex, bud bloom and the opening of leaf blade base
and floral features (UPOV TG/40/7).
The growth habit (Figure 3) varies from upright, semi upright to spreading of the canes.
In terms of height an upright variety is taller than broad, a semi upright variety is
approximately the same height as the width and a spreading variety is broader than tall.
(((((((((((( (((((((((((
Figure 3. Images of upright and spreading black currant bushes (Pictures by the author)
For bud position in relation to shoot some varieties show a depressed or slightly held
out position, while others moderately held out or strongly held out. As regards to shape of
apex of the buds, the diversity spreads from narrow acute, broad acute to rounded. The
blooming of the vegetative bud differs based on the level of glaucosity. Variation in the base
of the leaf blade is characterised from strongly open, moderately open, weakly open, touching
through to overlapping. The floral morphological variation is observed on the number of
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inflorescence per axil, the length of peduncle, infructescence type and fruit size range.
Polymorphism is also observed in time of bud burst, beginning of flowering and beginning of
fruit harvest.
Results from a recent study conducted in Poland divided forty black currant cultivars
into five distinct clusters based on the contribution of traits such as ripening time, fruit size
and firmness, number of basal shoots, fruit yield of the plant, as well as susceptibility of pests
and diseases to the overall phenotypic diversity (Madry et al., 2010).
3.6 Biochemical diversity
The genus Ribes offers an excellent gene pool for fruit quality, diversity and
improvement in black currant breeding. The levels of AsA among black currant breeding
lines are highly variable, but normally contain 130–200 mg/100 ml juice from ripe berries
although even higher levels (400 mg/100 ml juice) have been detected (Brennan, 1996;
2008). There is a rich diversity with respect to phenol compound classes and content (Määttä
et al., 2003). The total anthocyanins content may vary about eight times in the Ribes gene
pool and western European cultivars contain a higher amount of cyanidin derivates whereas
Scandinavian cultivars seem to contain a higher amount of delphinidin derivates (Karjalainen
et al., 2009). The content of flavonols also varies and a three-fold variation has been found in
the levels of myricetin and quercetin contents among black currant cultivars (Mikkonen et al.,
2001). The high variability in flavonol content offers possible avenues for identification of
cultivars rich in certain flavonols for production of black currant products with health
benefits.
Significant differences were observed in the content of polyphenols and vitamin C in
commercial European black currant juice products. The vitamin C content was highest in
British (70 mg/2.5 dl) and lowest in commercial Finish (15 mg/2.5 dl) juice products. Higher
levels of individual polyphenol groups have been reported in German (94.0 mg/2.5 dl) and
Polish (79.5 mg/2.5 dl) juice drinks than the Finish and British drinks (Mattila et al., 2011).
Rumpunen et al. (2012) observed a large variation for every specific phenolic compound
among 21 accessions evaluated. The coefficient of variation was 28% for epicatechin, 39%
for epigallocatechin, 40% for catechin, 12% for cyanidin-rutinoside, 22% for delphinidin-
rutinoside, 39% for delphinidin-glucoside, 45% for cyanidin-glucoside and 56% for peonidin-
rutinoside.
In terms of black currant grown in two different latitudes, the berries grown in the
southern latitude of Finland had higher content of glucose, fructose, sucrose and citric acid
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and lower content of malic acid, quinic acid and vitamin C in comparison to the berries
grown in northern Finland (Zheng et al., 2009). Considerable variation has been reported in
the levels of fatty acid contents in the seeds among cultivars (Castillo del Ruiz et al., 2002).
4. Crop utilisation
Black currant bushes are in the majority of European countries cultivated mainly for the
juice-processing sector, but also for ornamental purposes. Industrially, fruits are considered to
be of importance due to high content of tasty juice; however other anatomical parts like buds
and leaves are also excellent sources of total phenols with antioxidant ability (Tabart et al.,
2006; 2007). Health related products such as black currant tea are gaining popularity. Leaves
of black currant when reduced to powder by micronisation and glycerinate extracts of buds
when macerated in glycerin are of application as raw material for food, health and cosmetic
industry. The characteristic pleasant flavours and colour that the buds and leaves impart, is
reminiscent to that of the fruits (Dvaranauskaite et al., 2008; Tabart et al., 2006; 2011).
Furthermore, the health benefits associated with consumption of black currant related
products are one key reason for the continuing and growing scientific interest in black
currants (Brennan, 2008).
4.1 Buds
Black currant buds are rich sources of aroma volatile compounds, the majority of them
being hydrocarbons and oxygenated fractions of terpenes (Dvaranauskaite et al., 2009). The
buds accumulate large amounts of essential oils liberating a strong terpenic aroma, which is
inundated by a “catty note” (Le Quere and Latrasse, 1990; Piry et al., 1995). The essential
oils isolated from dormant buds are used in applications as aroma enhancers in cosmetics and
ingredients for fragrance in perfume manufacture (Piry et al., 1995; Castillo del Ruiz and
Dobson, 2002). Studies conducted on buds report them as a possible source of total phenolics
and antioxidants to be extracted and used in a number of applications (Tabart et al., 2006;
2007; 2011; Dvaranauskaite et al., 2008).
Vagiri et al. (2012) determined the detailed composition of polyphenolic compounds in
buds and the variations of these compounds during different stages of ontogenetic
development over a season and found that swollen buds collected in March had highest
content of phenolics with rutin, epicatechins and kaempferols being dominant, whereas the
content of chlorogenic acid was very low through out the season. Studies (Opera et al., 2008)
have demonstrated that essential oils of black currant buds showed significant antimicrobial
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activity against pathogenic bacteria and the buds can therefore be used as a natural alternative
for treatment of infectious diseases. Studies by Hedley et al. (2010) provided insight into the
genetic control of dormancy transition in black currant buds identifying important changes in
gene expression around bud dormancy release. The genes identified might have a possible
role for the release of dormancy and hence could provide a basis for the development of
genetic markers for future breeding purposes.
4.2 Leaves
Traditionally the leaves from black currant have been used in European folk medicine to
treat rheumatism, arthritis and respiratory problems (Stevi! et al., 2010). The leaves are
beginning to get considerable amount of scientific attention due to the anti-inflammatory
activity reported using in vitro and in vivo models (Declume, 1989; Garbacki et al., 2005).
The culinary uses of leaves include the refreshing ‘louhisaari’ drink in Finland prepared
preferably using the young leaves of early summer. Infusion of black currant leaves to
sweetened vodka makes a deep yellowish green beverage with characteristic sharp flavor and
astringent taste.
Recent phytochemical studies report black currant leaves as a remarkable source of total
polyphenols. The content of polyphenols in the leaves is considered to be five times higher
than in the fruits or any other black currant part (Tabart et al., 2006). The leaves might
therefore be of interest to the health and functional food industry for preparation of extracts
with high antioxidant ability. The polyphenol composition of black currant leaves has been
reported by Raudsepp et al. (2010) and includes flavonoid derivatives like kaempferol,
quercetin and phenolic acids. Also, composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil
of the leaves have been reported recently (Stevi! et al., 2010).
Although the leaves are rich in biochemical compounds they can be prone to damaging
pests and diseases, therefore breeding efforts are focussed on developing cultivars with
healthy leaves that could be used in preparation of diverse food supplements.
4.3 Fruits
The fruits of black currant are regarded as a natural high value raw material for juice
and beverage production. The fruits are favoured for their organoleptic properties like rich
colour, taste and flavour and they are used in diverse food applications (Piry et al., 1995;
Brennan et al., 2003). Fruits also are suitable for freezing and can be processed into
concentrates, jams, jellies, fillings on pies, ice creams, flavoured mineral water, candies and
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desert toppings. In various countries fruits are of use in production of liqueurs like ‘crème de
cassis’ and for converting white wine to rosé (Brennan, 1996).
In Sweden, there are some black currant 40% alcohol drinks, such as absolute vodka
and “svarta vinbärs brännvin”. The fresh fruit market for black currants is steadily increasing
with the requirement of sweeter fruits and high content of soluble solids (Brennan, 2008).
Scientifically the fruits are regarded to have significant antioxidant activity mainly attributed
to the relatively high vitamin C content and over the last few decades vitamin C has been the
main driving force for the marketing of black currants. However, the health effects can also
be attributed to the exceptional levels of polyphenolic compounds contained in the fruit,
including flavonoids, mainly anthocyanins. Apart from anthocyanins the fruits contain other
phenolic compounds like phenolic acids, flavonols, flavan-3-ols (catechins) and tannins with
potential health promoting properties making black currant fruit a lucrative product to be
used as a functional food ingredient (Macheix et al., 1990; Lister et al., 2002; McDougall et
al., 2005; Anttonen and Karjalainen, 2006).
Additionally, the juice obtained from black currants has a distinct aroma profile,
comprising more than 120 volatile aroma compounds that include terpenes, esters and
alcohols (Varming et al., 2004). In comparison with other fruits (Table 2), black currants are
low in calories and sodium with significant levels of pro-vitamin A (carotenoids), vitamin B1
(thiamin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin E (tocochromanols), iron, potassium and calcium
(Hummer and Barney, 2002).
Table 2. Nutritional data of raw black currants in contrast with other fruits per 100g edible
portion.
* I.U. International units; 28.35 g = 28,350 mg = 1.0 oz, Y Food calorie 1000 g calories of heat
Fruits
Water
(%)
CaloriesY
Protein
(g)
Fat
(g)
Carbohydrate
(g)
Vitamins
A
B1
(mg)
B2
(mg)
Niacin
(mg)
C
(mg)
Black currant
81.96
63
1.4
0.41
15.38
230
0.05
0.05
0.3
181
Red currant
83.95
56
1.4
0.2
13.8
120
0.04
0.05
0.1
41
Gooseberry
87.87
44
0.88
0.58
10.18
290
0.04
0.03
0.3
27.7
Apple
83.93
59
0.19
0.36
15.25
90
0.017
0.014
0.077
5.7
Strawberry
91.57
30
0.61
0.37
7.02
27
0.02
0.066
0.230
56.7
Orange
82.3
40
0.3
0.3
15.5
250
0.10
0.05
0.5
71
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4.4 Pomace
Black currant pomace, a by-product of juice production contains seeds and peels. The
seeds of black currant are a rich source of "-linolenic acid and other fatty acids of nutritional
significance and can also be used as a herbal concentrate and in functional food products.
Apart from the seeds, the peels are enriched with beneficial polyphenols especially the
anthocyanins, ending up as a residue instead of in juice during processing. Recent studies
conducted by Holtung et al. (2011) showed that phenolic compounds could also be extracted
from press residues by simple water extraction at 90oC and that the extracts obtained at this
temperature exhibited a strong inhibition of cell proliferation for cancer cell lines.
4.5 Black currant as a raw material
The majority of the black currants are cultivated for the processing sector, mainly to be
used in the production of juice and nectars. The crop is considered to be a high value food
raw material and a source of many nutritionally important bioactive compounds (Anttonen
and Karjalainen, 2006). Also, the products processed form black currants are considered to
have intense taste and aroma and therefore are desirable market products (Sojka and Krol,
2009; Brennan et al., 2003). However, during the enzymatic depectinisation process of the
mash and pasteurisation of the juice, Shahidi and Naczk (2004) have reported a reduction in
the level of polyphenols with considerable loss in vitamin C, which may affect the
bioactivity. With the technological advances in the food production sector, a lot of progress
has been made in enhancing the nutritional and sensory characteristics with increased
production, but this might affect the by-product composition.
The press-cake which is a by-product during juice production presents a major problem
for its disposal. However the press cake could be of use as a functional raw material because
of the nutritional properties (Larrauri, 1999; Krede et al., 2000; Sojka and Krol, 2009).
Extracts prepared from industrial black currant by-products have been found to have high
antioxidant activity and the extracts were also a good source of phenolic compounds
especially anthocyanins (Kapasakalidis et al., 2006; Sojka et al., 2010). These antioxidants
are abundant in the flesh of the fruits, and thereby they mostly end up as residues during juice
processing. However, the raw material cost is an important factor to be considered for the
functional food industry. Thus, for profitable business in this area there arises a need for
inexpensive sources of phenolic compounds that simultaneously can bring extra income for
the juice processors and the health industry. The black currant raw material could be an
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important element due to its high content of polyphenols for use in black currant based
diverse food applications.
5. Crop production and breeding
5.1 World black currant production (in tonnes and hectares)
From the production figures it could be inferred that Germany, Poland and the United
Kingdom contribute to about 80% of the total production. The total world black currant
production averaged about 205,150 tonnes in 2006. Production figures (Table 3) have then
fluctuated from 166,320 t (2007) to 185,535 t (2008) and then to 136,446 t (2009). In global
terms, Poland is by far the largest producer of black currants, with the UK in second place.
Among the non-European countries New Zealand is the main producer followed by Canada
and the United States. In Sweden, the commercial production covers approximately 350-400
hectares and there is still a great potential for increase in cultivation due to favourable
climatic and soil conditions preferably in the south. Production figures for the Russian
federation and China are not available, although black currants are an important soft fruit
crop of increasing economical importance in these regions.
(
(
(
(
(
(
(
(
(
(
(
(
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Table 3. Global black currant production 2006-2009, showing cropping area (ha) and yield (tonnes)
Country
2006
2007
2008
2009
Hectares
Yield
Hectares
Yield
Hectares
Yield
Hectares
Yield
Denmark
1.700
9.000
1.600
6.800
1.600
9.200
1.600
8.500
Estonia
-
-
300
500
300
150
300
350
Finland
2.000
1.800
1.900
1.500
1.860
1.500
1.860
2.000
France
2.060
11.300
2.200
7.500
2.200
8.000
2.200
9.000
Germany
1.400
7.000
1.000
4.500
1.100
5.500
1.100
5.500
Hungary
445
1.300
400
1.400
375
1.575
-
-
Lithuania
3.900
10.000
5.000
5.000
5.000
4.000
-
-
Netherlands
557
4.400
500
2.200
500
2.600
450
3.000
Poland
28.000
130.000
25.000
95.000
25.000
115.000
25.000
85.000
Sweden
350
1.200
400
1.200
350
800
300
1.200
United
Kingdom
2.060
14.050
2.300
13.200
2.300
13.500
2.300
14.250
Europe
Total
40.772
190.050
40.600
138.800
40.585
161.825
35.110
128.800
Australia
-
-
110
340
78
560
78
496
Canada
-
-
125
500
140
-
140
650
China
4.300
15.100
4.000
16.600
4.000
14.100
-
-
New
Zealand
-
-
1.500
9.940
1.600
9.050
1.600
6.500
U.S.A
-
-
65
140
85
-
85
-
Non E.U
total
4.300
15.100
5.675
27.520
5.903
23.710
1.903
7.646
World
total
45.072
205.150
46.275
166.320
46.488
185.535
37.013
136.446
( *(-) Production records not available Source 15th European Black currant conference, Nyborg, Denmark
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5.2 The organic and conventional black currant
In recent years, a number of scientific studies have testified whether organically grown
fruits and vegetable contain higher content of biochemical compounds with superior
antioxidant properties than the ones produced through conventional farming. There is also a
perception among consumers that organic foods are healthier and better tasting than the ones
grown conventionally (Shepherd et al., 2005). However no keen evidence support the
assumptions that organic food is healthier than the ones produced through conventional
farming. Evidence supporting both organic and conventional farming is present. Reports
indicate e.g. that organically grown corn had 52% more AsA and significantly higher
polyphenol content in comparison to conventionally grown corn (Asami et al., 2003).
Tomatoes grown organically were also found to contain high levels of flavonoids than those
produced conventionally (Mitchell et al., 2007). Wang et al. (2008) reported that blueberries
grown organically had higher content of phytonutrients than those produced conventionally.
Studies by Hussain et al. (2011) indicate that organically grown wheat had similar content of
tocochromanols as previously found in conventionally grown wheat.
Over the last 10 years there has been a rapid increase in organically grown black
currants solely due to the demand and assistance provided to the growers by the European
Union (Anttonen and Karjalainen, 2006). The organic cultivation in Europe is closely aligned
to the EU council regulation (ECC) 2029/91. In Sweden there is an increasing demand for
organically grown black currants and the demand is likely to increase even more in the near
future due to the benefits attributed to its consumption.
According to U.S regulations organic cultivation involves ecological friendly
production that promotes bio diversity and biological activity of the soil unlike conventional
farming which permits the usage of mineral fertilizers and synthetic plant protection agents
(Winter and Davis, 2006). Organic farmers use animal and crop waste, certified organic
fertilizers, botanical or biological pest control and permitted synthetic material that could be
broken down by sunlight and oxygen (Winter and Davis, 2006).
There are few studies conducted on black currants bringing out the comparison between
organic and conventional cultivation in terms of biochemical compounds and agronomic
characteristics. Studies by Anttonen and Karjalainen (2006) did not confirm any impact of the
farming system on flavonol content between organic and conventional black currants.
However other studies conducted by Kazimierczak et al. (2008) presented that flavonol
content (Figure 4) was 25% higher in black currants grown through organic farming as
compared to fruits grown conventionally. AsA and anthocyanins levels were higher by 35%
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and 40% respectively in organically grown fruits as compared to conventionally produced
ones. In connection to agronomic characteristics, fruit drop was found to be higher in organic
farms where no fertilizers (or plant protection sprays) were used and higher fruit yield were
obtained from both organic and conventionally cultivated black currants (Kahu et al., 2009).
Figure 4. Flavonol content (A) and AsA content (B) among black currant germplasm from
organic and conventional cultivation. (Reprinted with permission from Kazimierczak et al.,
2008).
The higher content of phenolic compounds in organically grown black currant fruits is
speculated to be due to increase in disease pressure due to non-use of pesticides. However, in
some genotypes phenolic compounds are present in high level even though they are not
attacked by pathogens (Howard et al., 2003).
As black currant performs best in deep, well drained and organic soils; fertilization and
nitrogen supply are the key factors in organic cultivation where differences in fertilization
treatments could have an impact on the level of phenolic compounds (Anttonen and
Karjalainen, 2006). The cultivar choice with resistance to leaf diseases and pests is also a
more important factor to take into consideration than in conventional farming (Kahu et al.,
2009). Hence, increased demand arises for development of economically valuable cultivars
with resistance to damaging pests and diseases.
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5.3 Breeding objectives (Agronomic and quality traits)
Over the past 40 years, the breeding of black currants has undergone significant
changes solely due to demands by the processing sector mainly for juice production. This
sector has become a lucrative industry in Europe. The breeding targets are therefore focussing
to satisfy the processors leading to development of cultivars with fruits high in AsA but
moderate levels of acidity, good flavour and other sensory characteristics (Brennan and
Gordon, 2002). Also, there is an increasing interest for cultivars with enhanced levels of
polyphenols, including anthocyanins, due to the high antioxidant capacity (Anttonen and
Karjalainen, 2006; Tabart et al., 2006; 2007). Although the main emphasis is given to the
processing and nutritional quality of the fruits; breeding for better agronomic traits is equally
important. The agronomic traits are not least important in the breeders and growers
perspective, as the consumer prefer residue free fruit and therefore is a important move
towards integrated crop management system that restricts the usage of insecticides (Brennan
and Graham, 2009). Cultivars that flourish under a low input system are becoming an
important factor in selection of desired genotypes (Brennan, 2008).
Modern black currant breeding programmes consider several plant characteristics.
Breeding for resistant cultivars to damaging pest and disease is paramount to breeding of
black currants especially for organic cultivation. The primary concern of black currant
plantations in Europe are infestation by gall mite (Cecidophyopsis ribis), a vector for the
black currant reversion nepovirus (BRV) that makes organic and integrated growing very
risky. Resistance has been achieved by introgression of the Ce gene from gooseberry into R.
nigrum followed by an extensive back crossing programme (Knight et al., 1974). PCR-based
markers linked to resistance to the black currant gall mite have been developed (Brennan et
al., 2009). Breeding at Balsgård, Sweden is ongoing to find other complimentary possible
sources of resistance towards infestation to gall mite.
Significant damages are also caused by foliar pathogens such as mildew (Sphaerotheca
mors-uvae (Schwein.) Berk & Curtis), septoria leaf spot (Mycosphaerella ribis (Fuckel)
Lindau), anthracnose (Drepanopeziza ribis (Kleb) and the rust fungi (Cronatium ribicola
Fisch.). Breeding is aimed for the introduction of cultivars suitable for organic cultivation for
the production of healthy leaves to be used in preparation of diverse food supplements.
Another important goal in black currant breeding is the development of cultivars with
good physical characteristics like upright and vigorous growth habit, long strigs, big berry
size, firmness and fruits with dry pick characteristics in case of fresh fruit, increased yields
and ease for mechanical harvesting.
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Changing climatic conditions is a major concern for the present day black currant
breeding. Climatic data suggest that there have been significant changes in temperature in the
past 100 years with an increase by 1oC, greater than the global average. Temperature
projections in Europe suggest that by 2080 there could be an increase in temperature by 2.5oC
(Jones and Brennan, 2009). Altogether, climatic modelling shows that cold temperatures will
decrease significantly in the future. Because black currant is an early spring blooming shrub,
the risk of spring frost is a matter of serious concern due to floral damages leading to poor
yield. In addition to this, mild winters and insufficient winter chilling have profound effects
on time and evenness of bud break, time and duration of flowering thereby leading to
considerable yield loses in susceptible cultivars (Jones and Brennan, 2009). For this reason
efforts are being made to develop late flowering, spring frost tolerant and low-chill
requirement germplasm with better adaptability to varying climatic conditions. The content of
bioactive compounds including sugars, vitamin C and acids might be affected by latitude,
temperature, day length, UV radiation and total precipitation. As black currant is cultivated
under contract farming for commercial juice production, it is essential for the processors that
the composition and sensory characteristics of the juice remain constant. Hence there arises a
need to develop cultivars that is less affected by weather conditions; the more stable a
cultivar is, the more amenable for commercial processing (Zheng et al., 2009).
In recent years, characters linked to sensory parameters, such as flavour intensity,
colour, sourness, mouth feel and aroma have received considerable attention in determining
the product quality leading to increased consumer acceptability. Hence, need arises to screen
and select germplasm with superior sensory attributes. The identification of cultivars with
good sensory characters and with a balanced sugar/acid ratio is important for juice
processing. There is a steady increase in demand for fresh fruit and dessert quality black
currants with high concentration of soluble solids; so breeding programmes are focussed to
produce new varieties with sweeter fruits thereby leading to the increase in relatively low
fresh fruit market (Brennan, 1996; 2008).
Currently, there are several active breeding programmes established in Scotland,
Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Norway, Finland
and New Zealand to develop cultivars with enhanced nutritional composition in combination
with field resistance to damaging pests and diseases, suitable to be grown in local climatic
conditions. It is estimated at present about 15 breeding programmes is ongoing in the world.
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5.4 Heritability studies
The genetic analysis in black currants has been fairly restricted till date, and most
information is linked to agronomic traits. Zurawicz et al. (1996) using a 5 x 5 diallel cross
focusing on variation and heritability of some agronomic traits like fruit yield, leaf spot
resistance, plant habit etc., showed that additive genetic effects were mostly higher than non-
additive genetic effects for some traits studied. Non additive effects were greater than
additive effects for the traits such as plant vigour, bush size etc. Narrow sense heritability was
mostly dominating for all these traits, suggesting breeding would be difficult and costly. An
early identification of the best parental genotypes would therefore be highly desirable. Pluta
et al. (2008) identified promising parents for the development of ‘dessert quality’ black
currants among six black currant genotypes, which differed phenotypically and genetically.
The clone ‘SCRI C2/15/40’ (now released as `Big Ben’) and the Swedish cultivar ‘Storklas’,
were found the most suitable dessert quality parental types due to their stable and reasonable
GCA (General combining ability) effects (Pluta et al., 2008).
Inheritance of quality traits in black currants was not well known, until recent studies
on heritability and breeding values for nine antioxidant traits performed by Currie et al.
(2006) using a six parent half diallel cross. For most of the antioxidant traits additive gene
action was the main effect with heritability estimates being moderate to high (0.46-0.80).
An initial full 6 x 6 diallel experiment during the authors MSc. project at SCRI revealed
that some traits like AsA, have large components of genetic variance. AsA content had a high
narrow sense heritability indicating that it is highly heritable. Traits like anthocyanin had
significant reciprocal effects suggesting that the right parental combination should be chosen
for creation of crosses, hence amenable to future breeding. However the data needs to be
confirmed as limited information is available on genotype-environment interactions.
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6. Bioactive compounds
6.1 Phenolic compounds
Phenolic compounds are secondary plant metabolites, present mostly in consumed
foods of plant origin. These compounds are reported as bioactive components having health
benefits against cancer or cardiovascular diseases (Shahidi and Naczk, 1995; Scalbert et al.,
2005; Karjalainen et al., 2009). They have also been attributed to play an important role
against microbial attacks (Mikkonen et al., 2001). Reviews have indicated that many phenolic
compounds are epicuticular and thus give quick response to infections and injury (Witzell et
al., 2003). The molecules range from simple individual hydroxylated aromatic ring to
complex polymeric molecules (Harborne and Williams, 1995).
The polyphenol molecules are separated into different classes according to their number
of phenol rings and to the structural elements connecting these rings. The berry fruits are
known to contain a wide array of phenolic compounds (Figure 5) such as flavonoids,
phenolic acids, tannin, lignans and stilbenes. The diverse array of phenolic compounds
present in the berry fruits, especially black currants contribute to their astringency, bitterness,
colour, part of flavor and also for the oxidative stability of their derived products.
!
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Figure 5. The classification of phenolic compounds found in berry fruits (Paredes-López et
al., 2010).
Generally black currants contain high levels of polyphenols (500-1342 mg/100g of
fresh weight) especially anthocyanins, phenolic acid derivatives (both hydroxybenzoic and
hydroxycinnamic acids), flavonols (glycosides of myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol and
isorhamnetin) as well as proanthocyanidins as compared to other berries (e.g., strawberry and
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raspberry) making them an interesting target for the functional food sector (Karjalainen et al.,
2009; Mattila et al., 2011). Many studies report about the high concentrations of phenolic
compounds in black currants; a number of investigations have evaluated the different
polyphenolic fractions of the fruits and to a lesser extent other plant parts like buds and leaves
(Mikkonen et al., 2001; Määttä et al., 2003; Anttonen and Karjalainen, 2006; Tabart et al.,
2006, 2007; Sojka et al., 2009; Raudsepp et al., 2010). The phenolic extracts from black
currant have been demonstrated to provide effective neuroprotection against oxidative stress
induced by neuronal damages in human cell cultures (Karjalainen et al., 2009). McGhie et al.
(2007) in a recent intervention showed that plasma antioxidant capacity to be significantly
increased in response to black currant juice intake compared with a placebo control,
providing evidence that black currants may offer protection against oxidative stress-related
health-conditions.
Black currants contain a wide range of flavonols (Figure 6) with high levels of
myricetin and relatively high amount of quercetin. Both myricetin and quercetin have been
reported to possess neuroprotective activity. Recently, isorhamnetin was found in black
currants which is also of interest in terms of neuroprotective effect (Anttonen and
Karjalainen, 2006). Myricetin also inhibits the formation and extension of beta-amyloid
fibrils in a dose dependent manner and destabilise the performed amyloid beta in vitro.
Furthermore, quercetin and isorhamnetin are known to reduce blood pressure and improve
blood flow evoking a potential protective function against development of vascular type of
dementia (Karjalainen et al., 2009).
Figure 6. Image depicting the structures of major flavonols present in black currant.
The above mentioned therapeutic effects of black currant polyphenols, increase its
importance as a natural functional food product. Hence breeding and selection of high total
OR5
R4
R3
R2
R1
O
OH
(
Compound
R1
R2
R3
R4
R5
Quercetin
OH
OH
H
OH
OH
Kaempferol
H
OH
H
OH
OH
Myrecetin
OH
OH
OH
OH
OH
Isorhamnetin
OCH3
OH
H
OH
OH
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and individual polyphenolic content among germplasm available, raises the possibility of
breeding for improved antioxidant activity.
6.2 Anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are naturally occurring water-soluble pigments responsible for imparting
colour to fruits, vegetables and other plant parts. They play a crucial role in attracting animals
to carry out pollination and to disperse seeds in plants. The most common anthocyanins
found in plants include pelargonidin, cyanidin, delphinidin, penonidin, petunidin and
malvidin, their classification is based on the number and position of hydroxyl and carboxyl
groups on the flavinium nucleus. Anthocyanins belonging to the flavonoid class of phenolic
compounds are the most important, with a mean content in fresh fruit of approximately 250
mg/100g, constituting about 80% of all the flavonoids. The common anthocyanins in
blackcurrants (Figure 7) have been found to be cyanidin-3-O-#-glucoside, cyanidin-3-O-#-
rutinoside, delphinidin-3-O-#-glucoside and delphinidin-3-O-#-rutinoside and the proportions
of these compounds vary between different cultivars (Anttonen and Karjalainen, 2006).
Figure 7.! Image depicting the structures of anthocyanins present in black currant.
The anthocyanin content may vary from one fruit to the other and the reason for this
might be variation in the action of internal and external factors including genetic and
agronomic ones. Thus intensity of light and temperature might influence as might processing
and storage. The stability of anthocyanins might be improved by microencapsulation
techniques such as spray drying (Ersus and Yurdagel, 2007). Barczak and Kolodziejczyk
(2011) used maltodextrins as a coating or cell wall material resulting in the highest content of
anthocyanin and polyphenol content at the end of the spray drying process. Earlier
O
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R
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Compound
R1
R2
R3
Cyanidin-3-O-!-glucoside
H
O-glucose
OH
Cyanidin-3-O-!-rutinoside
H
O-rutinose
OH
Delphinidin-3-O-!-glucoside
OH
O-glucose
OH
Delphinidin-3-O-!-rutinoside
OH
O-rutinose
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anthocyanins have not been studied and recognized as a physiological functional food factor.
However, recent studies demonstrate that anthocyanin extracts display a wide range of
biological activities, including antioxidant, antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic activities;
maintaining eye health and vision and neuroprotective effects (Han et al., 2007; Ramos
2008). Anti-inflammatory activities of anthocyanins have also been reported recently
(Seeram et al., 2001). Matsumoto et al. (2006) demonstrated in animal models that black
currant anthocyanins were absorbed in ocular tissues. The oral administration of anthocyanins
in the same animal models prevented a myopic refractory shift partially through relaxing
effect on bovine ciliary smooth muscles. Although anthocyanins have been shown to exhibit
a protective effect against human diseases in vitro, there is a need for further research to be
done on the low and partial bio availability demonstrated in many studies (Karjalainen et al.,
2009).
From breeding point of view, cultivars with enhanced levels of anthocyanins are now in
demand from juice processors and consumers due to an increasing interest in the antioxidant
activity and potential health benefits of fruits (Lister et al., 2002). Black currants have high
anthocyanins levels especially of delphinidins which are highly stable. Breeding programmes
in Scotland have preferentially selected on delphinidins levels in black currants for over 15
years, which are now favoured by the processing market and breeders have included it among
the breeding objectives because of the deep colour it imparts. Processors are particularly
interested in the dark coloured fruits as the quality of the juice depends on the fruit which
have rich colour (Brennan, 1996). To satisfy these requirements breeding programmes
regularly screen cultivars which possess high anthocyanin levels and thereby enabling the
feasibility of breeding cultivars with enhanced levels in combination with other quality and
agronomic traits.
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6.3 Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), also known as ascorbate (Walker et al., 2006), is a water-
soluble antioxidant present in plant tissues (Smirnoff, 2000). AsA plays an important role in
cellular metabolism like photoprotection, cell cycle control, expansion of cells, cell
loosening, stress perception and response to pathogens in plants (Hancock and Viola, 2005).
Vitamin C is easily absorbed by the human body due to its active transport in the intestines as
it is a water-soluble compound, but it is not stored. Hence a natural intake of vitamin C can
be obtained from a diet that involves the consumption of fresh fruits and green leafy
vegetables.
Black currants are considered to be a rich source of AsA (Table 4). In particular the
proven high AsA levels in the fruits are an important attribute of the crop. Also, the high
concentration of AsA in the fruit is also an important marketing tool and an important
breeding target (Brennan and Gordon, 2002). Commonly grown black currant cultivars
contain AsA levels ranging from 130-200 mg/100ml juice to over 350-450 mg/100 ml juice
in some breeding lines (Brennan, 2008).
Even higher levels have reported in sub species of R. nigrum in particular R. nigrum
var. sibricum (Volunez and Zazulina, 1980). In Scandinavian cultivars it has been reported
that the content of AsA in fruits was found to be lower in comparison with the western
European types (Kuusi, 1965; Heiberg et al., 1992). The AsA content in black currants is
found more stable than that of most other sources, solely due to the protective effect of
anthocyanins and other flavonoids present within the berries (Hooper and Ayers, 1950;
Morton, 1968). Sugars act as substrates for the biosynthesis of AsA. The AsA accumulation
in the black currant fruit occurs during the early berry expansion phase after flowering. The
AsA content established at this early stages remain stable thereafter (Hancock et al., 2007).
The inheritance of high AsA levels in black currants is known to be strongly connected with
the maternal influence but there are reports of variation due to environmental factors
(Brennan, 2008). The actual content of AsA was shown to vary in between years although
cultivar rankings remained stable (Walker et al., 2010). Hence, breeding of cultivars that are
high in AsA is an achievable objective.
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Table 4. AsA content (mg 100g-1 fruit) in black currant in comparison with other fruits
(Belitz et al., 2004).
6.4 Sensory components
Sensory properties of black currants are of considerable importance to the processing
sector and ultimately to the consumers. Sensory components like sugars and organic acids are
among the important drivers that contribute to the quality of the juice. Additionally flavour,
mouth feel, aroma and after taste are important quality factors of fruits and juices (Brennan et
al., 2003). Very little information is available about the evolution of sugars and organic acids
in blackcurrant fruits. However, recent work by Hancock et al. (2007) brought some light
towards understanding the accumulation of ascorbic acid and other constituents such as
sugars, during fruit ripening and development.
Fruits with pleasant sensory characteristics are often considered to have high content of
sugars with relatively low amount of acids (Zheng et al., 2009). Sugars and organic acids play
an important role in the normal metabolism, e.g. during maturation and senescence of the
fruit, and are therefore important parameters at harvest. Sugars impart sweetness to the juice
thereby increasing its palatability; organic acids on the other hand regulate the pH within the
fruit and affect the formation of off-flavours that might affect the product quality during
processing. Black currant berries might be prone to rejection if they are too acidic and
astringent. The content of sugars and sugar/acid ratio contribute to the overall sensory quality
of the fruit. Glucose, fructose and sucrose are the major sugars found in blackcurrant fruits
(Pérez et al., 1997). Citric acid is the major organic acid of the fruits (about 44.08 mg$g-1 fw)
Fruit
AsA content
Fruit
AsA content
Apple
3-35
Black currant
177
Apricot
5-15
Orange
50
Cherry
8-37
Grapefruit
40
Peach
5-29
Lemon
50
Strawberry
75
Pineapple
25
Raspberry
25
Blackberry
17
Red currant
40
Melons
6-32
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with minor concentrations of succinic, malic and quinic acid. The content of different acids
considerably varies between genotypes (Zheng at al., 2009).
Brennan et al. (1997) reported high level of variation in sensory profile (flavour, mouth
feel, aroma, after taste) within blackcurrant and further research showed that the sensory
attributes associated with particular genotypes endure in processed juice products even at
juice concentrations of only 25% (Brennan et al., 2003). Utilization of other Ribes species in
breeding for pest and disease resistance can severely affect the sensory characters of the fruit,
at least in the early generations - for instance, off-tastes have been noted in the flavour
profiles of genotypes developed from R. ussuriense and R. petiolare (Brennan and Graham,
2009).
As the fresh fruit market for dessert quality black currants is steadily increasing, there is
a need to develop naturally sweet cultivars. Additionally, the juice processing industry wants
to reduce the addition of sugars to the processed fruit. Hence breeding programmes are
focused on screening the cultivars with high level of sugars and relatively low acid content to
produce new varieties with sweeter fruits, thereby leading to increase in sales of relatively
low fresh fruit market for black currants.
6.5 Essential fatty acids
The presence of a high content of "-linolenic acid (GLA) and of other nutritionally
important fatty acids like %-linolenic acid (ALA) in black currant seeds, impact positively on
the marketability of its oil as a health supplement. Over 20% variation in the content of GLA
has been reported among black currant genotypes (Ruiz Del Catillo et al., 2004). The other
minor nutritionally important fatty acids, stearidonic acid and %-linolenic acid, varied in a
range of 2-4% and 10-19% among genotypes respectively. The breeding for high GLA
content in seeds is achievable with possibilities of integrating other fruit quality
characteristics (Brennan, 2008).
6.6 Volatile compounds
The volatile fractions of black currant constitutes of more than 150 compounds
responsible for the characteristic flavour and aroma impact from black currants (Varming et
al., 2004). Black currants possess glandular trichomes containing characteristic terpenoids on
the surface of leaves, buds and fruits (Iversen et al., 1998). The aroma compounds of black
currant are composed of a complex mixture of saturated and unsaturated aldehydes and
ketones, esters and alcohols (Varming et al., 2004). Oxygenated compounds which include
linalool, citronellol, isodiosphenol, diosphenol, p-mentha-1,8-dien-4-ol, m-cymen-8-ol, cis-
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carverol, isopulegol and perillyl alcohol are responsible for the characteristic ‘floral’, ‘minty’,
‘coniferous’ and ‘terpene’ like aroma of fresh black currant fruits (Dvaranauskaite et al.,
2009). Unripe fruits lack the characteristic flavor; hence it has been assumed that volatile
components of fruits are developed during the ripening process. In addition, the essential oils
of black currant buds accumulate large amounts of volatile compounds where the
monoterpenes that include %-and #-pinene, sabiene, &-3-carene, limonene, phellandrene and
terpinolene make up the major part. The rest of the volatile compounds in the black currant
buds are sesquiterpenes (Le Quere and Latrasse, 1990). Remarkable variation in the content
of total and specific essential oil volatile components has been found in the buds of black
currant cultivars at different developmental stages (Dvaranauskaite et al., 2009).
Changes in volatile compositions have been reported during the processing of black
currant fruits (Iversen et al., 1998). Thermal treatment on black currant juices decreases the
intensity of aroma and quality (Varming et al., 2004). The effects of heating were correlated
with a decrease in concentration of terpenes and a general increase in concentration of
aldehydes (Boccorh et al., 1999). During the process of concentration of juice an overall
deficit of some esters, alcohols, carbonyls and terpenes have been seen, with recovery of
some volatiles (Varming et al., 2004). Variations in the aroma compositions have been found
to be affected by several factors like genotypes, length of growing season, climatic factors,
ripeness at harvest, and post harvest storage conditions (Boccorh et al., 1999; Kampuss et al.,
2008).
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7. Pests and disease resistance
7.1 Black currant gall mite (Cecidophyopsis ribis Westw.)
One of the biggest problems encountered in commercial black currant plantations in the
majority of the European countries is the infestation by arachnid gall mite (Cecidophyopsis
ribis Westw.). De Lillo and Duso (1996) describe Cecidophyopsis ribis as a cigar shaped
Eriophyid mite comprising of four functional legs. Gall mites cause galling of the buds
leading to a damaging condition known as “big bud” (Brennan et al., 2008; 2009).
Furthermore, the gall mite is the sole vector of black currant reversion virus (BRV) which
could render the plant sterile within two years thereby leading to severe yield losses (Jones,
and McGavin, 2002). In Sweden this pest is a matter of concern for many black currant
growers and the most efficient pesticides for mite control have been withdrawn due to
environmental reasons.
Gall mites disperse rapidly between the bushes and start to infest new buds (Smolarz, 1993).
Egg laying by female mites starts in January in the buds when the temperature is over 5oC
and mites population begin to rapidly increase by late March (Mitchell et al., 2011). The
infestation commences during the time of flowering and later during the vegetative season at
temperatures between 13-14oC. Low temperatures and rainy weather hinder the chances of its
transmission (Rubauskis et al., 2006). The mites disperse from the infected buds and migrate
to the branches to infect new buds. The common agent for mite dispersal is wind, although
some of them maybe carried by insects and birds that visit infected bushes (Thresh, 1996).
The adult and larvae cause damage by feeding inside buds (Figure 8) leading to malformation
and irregular growth. The drying of the galled buds has a negative impact on the development
of leaves and flowers. The damage caused depends on the percentage of galled buds per bush
and an infected bush can contain over 100-galled buds (Mitchell et al., 2011).
Figure 8. Image of galled buds (picture by the author) and electron microscopic image of a
gall mite feeding on the cells within a galled bud. Image accessed from Fruitgateway, 2011)
(http://www.fruitdisease.co.uk/EntomologyResearchPage6.asp)
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Control ingredients such as endosulfan and amitraz have been used to control gall mite
but permitted plant protection sprays are now restricted to sulphur sprays. The two mentioned
chemical agents have been withdrawn from the EU countries due to environmental and health
risks and growing interest towards promoting integrated and organic production systems.
Hence the best strategy to support organic and sustainable black currant growing would be to
breed and introduce resistant cultivars. Resistant germplasm is available within the Ribes
genus, derived notably from gooseberry (R. grossularia) (Knight et al., 1974). The
introgression of the resistant single dominant gene Ce from R. grossularia into black currant
to give resistant cultivars have been successful through development of resistant F1
allotetraploids followed by an extensive back crossing programme (Brennan, 2008). Another
useful sources of resistance determined by a dominant gene, P has been transferred from
Ribes nigrum var. sibiricum, R. pauciflorum, R. petiolare and R. ussuriense (Anderson,
1971). In the genotypes containing the gene P, the mites can infest the buds and transmit the
reversion virus even though they don’t survive long enough inside the buds (Jones et al.,
1998). In contrast mites cannot infect the buds in bushes carrying the resistant gene Ce
proving that resistance conferred by the Ce gene is far superior than that by the gene P in
preventing mite infestation.
In Scotland, breeding programmes have led to the development of numerous gall mite
resistant cultivars with commercial quality. One such cultivar is ‘Ben Hope’ preferably
developed for integrated growing. However, recently indications of mite symptoms were
observed in this cultivar leading to the assumption that the resistance might have been broken
down by the mite (Brennan et al., 2009). Inspite of all this, the use of cultivars containing Ce
gene seems so far to be the best mean of control against the mites. The development of a
PCR-based marker linked to the Ce resistance gene now facilitates the screening of a large
number of germplasm already in the seedling stage (Brennan et al., 2009). The newly
released commercial cultivar ‘Ben Finlay’ has resistance to gall mite as well as to reversion
virus solely due to the Ce gene (Mitchell et al., 2011). However other alternative sources
have to be investigated with comprehensive sources of resistance to gall mite as well as to
reversion virus which it transmits, especially if virulence develops for the gene Ce in the
future.
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7.2 Black currant reversion disease
Reversion disease, which affects both black and red currants is the most important viral
disease and it was described over 100 years ago in Netherlands (Jones, 2000). Immunity to
the disease has been reported in gooseberry (Adam and Thresh, 1987). The severity of the
disease is marked by the crop loss it causes and its occurrence worldwide except in North
America. In the plants affected by reversion, symptoms usually take 2-3 years to develop but
only on few branches which is later followed by infection which is fully systemic causing
substantial losses in production (Adams and Thresh, 1987; Jones and McGavin, 2002).
Attempts to identify the casual agent of reversion disease were made for several years with
no success. However Lemmetty et al. (1997) was able to isolate the virus from the black
currants infected with the R form of the reversion disease by transmitting the virus through
mechanical inoculation of sap. The virus has been characterised as the black currant
reversion virus (BRV), genus Nepovirus, family Comoviridae (Jones and McGavin, 2002).
Two distinct strains of reversion disease are distinguished, the common European form
(E) and a more severe (R) form found through Scandinavia and the former Soviet Union
(Jones et al., 1998). The two forms differ based on the degree of severity expressed among
the affected black currant plants (Adams and Thresh, 1987). Effective control of this disease
is difficult because the virus is spread through the feeding of the buds by the Eriophyid mite
in the genus Cecidophyopsis within the buds (Jones, 2000; Jones and McGavin, 2002).
The disease causes changes in plant physiological state, mostly on the leaf appearance
and reduction in the density of hairs on flower buds followed by increase in pigmentation of
the buds. In black currants the disease is characterised by a decrease in the leaf number and
size, with reduced marginal serrations and number of veins. Furthermore, a less clearly
defined sinus at the petiole is observed (Jones and McGavin, 2002). The flowers infected by
either E or R forms are usually sterile leading to severe yield losses in production. In contrast,
the leaf and flower symptoms are much less noticeable in red currants making it the most
difficult Ribes material to detect BRV reliably (Adams and Thresh, 1987).
Previously, the detection of reversion disease was difficult by the use of biological
techniques. Normally the disease could not be evaluated until 2 years after the transmittance.
Two years was the time it took for the symptoms to clearly develop after mite infection. In
breeding mite infection took place by graft inoculating material to susceptible black currant
cultivars (Adams and Thresh, 1987; Jones, 1992). However, new molecular methods like the
improved RT-PCR technique to analyse BRV, allows early infection to be conclusively and
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rapidly detected in 1-2 days thereby enabling efficient screening and a means to follow
disease development accurately (Jones and McGavin, 2002; Dolan et al., 2011).
7.3 Mildew (Sphaerotheca mors-uvae (Schwein) Berk & Curtis)
Powdery mildew is a common foliar problem caused by Sphaerotheca mors-uvae
(Schwein) currently known as Podosphaera mors-uvae (Schwein.) Braun & Takam. (Braun
and Tackamatsu, 2000). The fungus overwinters on shoot twigs and during the spring and
summer it infects leaves, shoots tips and fruits. First recorded on gooseberries (R.
grossularia) in 1900 in Ireland, the fungus has been a major limiting factor for successful
production of gooseberries. The disease also spread in an alarming rate throughout Europe on
black currants by 1960 (Brennan, 1996). On susceptible cultivars, the symptoms of the
disease (Figure 9) are characterized by white powdery growths on surface of leaves and
young green shoots. Scorch like symptoms appear on the leaves that become deformed and
dry out. The infected leaves may fall off during warm weather and infected plants have a
stunted growth. The severely affected fruits develop a dark brown, felt-like coating that
renders the fruits unmarketable (Hummer and Dale, 2010).
A range of resistance genes for powdery mildew has been identified in black currant
varieties: the Sph series comprising Sph1 from gooseberry species (R. oxyacanthoides) and
Sph2 from the Swedish cultivar ‘Öjebyn’. Two complimentary genes M1 and M2 control the
resistance in the Finish cultivar ‘Brödtorp’. The Sph2 is among the best know resistance
genes against mildew (Brennan, 1996). However, the resistance to mildew seems to be
broken down at least in parts as 14 different races of Sphaerotheca mors-uvae were identified
by Trajkovski and Pääsuke (1976). Trajkovski and co-worker identified two black currant
cultivars from northern Sweden, ‘Sunderbyn II’ and ‘Matkakoski’ as resistant cultivars with
high fruit quality. The identification of these cultivars had a great impact on breeding of
mildew resistant genotypes in Sweden. ‘Sunderbyn II’ has remained resistant for over 50
years and the resistance is thought to be associated with epidermal cell developmental factors
(Temmen et al., 1980). This resistance appears to be operated by a single dominant gene or a
block of closely linked genes. According to Trajkovski (1976), durable resistance in the
genotypes is characterized by accumulation of low levels of ascorbic acid in the newly
developed shoots with the concentration of o-dihydroxy phenols being relatively high.
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((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((
Figure 9. Picture of mildew affected leaves of black currant (Picture by the author)
Furthermore, the content of certain polyphenols in black currant shoots has been
associated with resistance to mildew, thus indicating that the defense mechanism involves
biochemical reactions between the host tissues and the invading pathogen (Trajkovski and
Pääsuke, 1976). Further the breeding of interspecific black currant hybrids by utilizing R.
americanum as a potential source of resistance against mildew and other leaf diseases has
been reported (Siksnianas et al., 2005).
Control of mildew is otherwise dependent on the use of chemical sprays, but continued
breeding for durable resistance in black currant cultivars could successfully limit the
possibility of the disease and thus lower production costs.
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7.4 Septoria leaf spot (Mycosphaerella ribis (Fuckel) Lindau)
Septoria leaf spot is an important disease of black currants in Scandinavia, east
European countries, Russia and New Zealand. The disease causes premature leaf fall, stunted
growth in shoots and reduced crop yield. The disease (Figure 10) appears as small dark spots
with a pale brown centre surrounded with a dark brown margin, making them easy to
differentiate from anthracnose (Berrie, 2011).
Figure 10. Picture of septoria affected leaf of black currant (Picture by the author)
In bushes affected by septoria, reduced photosynthetic activity and increased respiration
and transpiration were observed (Lebedeva and Ivanteeva, 1975). The fungus survives during
winter periods in the form of sclerotia and sexual fruiting bodies (perithecia). The ascospores
mature during springtime and are dispersed from the perithecia infesting the leaves. This is
linked with bud burst. The conidia appear on the leaf spots in June and are spread by rain
splash during summer. The favourable conditions for fungal development ranges from 20-
25oC.
Resistance to septoria leaf spot has been found in R. americanum, R. dikuscha and R. nigrum
sibiricum (Brennan, 2008).
7.5 Black currant leaf spot (Anthracnose) (Drepanopeziza ribis (Kleb.) Höhnel)
Anthracnose occurs throughout Europe and North America affecting the leaves (Figure
11) causing small, dark brown necrotic lesions leading to premature defoliation in severe
cases. Small greyish disc like fruiting bodies (acervuli) developing in the center of the spots
characterize the disease. The disease can also be found on fruits, where in severe cases the
fruits crack open and develop bad taste. Further, the disease may lead to loss of crop in
subsequent years. Infection levels are increasing in rainy conditions, due to splash dispersal
of spores. The fungi over winters in the sexual state on fallen leaves affected by the disease
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and subsequently infect newly emerging leaves the following spring (Berrie, 2011). Xu et al.
(2009) suggest that infection by conidia takes place on old leaves on extension shoots and
that wet conditions are favorable for the disease to develop. Field monitoring has revealed
that significant disease infestation occurs only by late July in Sweden.
Figure 11. Image showing black currant leaves affected by anthracnose (Picture by the
author)(
Resistance sources identified are R. nigrum var. sibricum and R. dikuscha. The robust
resistance of R. dikuscha is controlled by two complementary genes, Pr1 and Pr2 (Anderson,
1972). Other sources of resistance that relate to black currants are R. americanum, R.
pauciflorum and R. glutinosum (Brennan, 2008).
The majority of new black currant cultivars have reasonable resistance to anthracnose
and screening for resistant germplasm is a routine in most breeding programs.
7.6 White pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola Fisch.)
The two species of rust identified on black currants are Cronartium ribicola Fisch.
(white pine blister rust) and Puccinia ribesii-caricis. European black currants are more
susceptible to white pine blister rust than red or white currants. In gooseberries Puccinia
ribesii-caricis is the most common rust than in currants generally (Hummer and Dale, 2010).
Rust occurs in Asia, Europe and North America. The emerging Ribes industry in North
America was brought to a halt with the introduction of white pine blister rust on timber stocks
imported from Europe in the 1920s (Barney and Hummer, 2005).
Black currant bushes have a significant role in the lifecycle of this disease and as a
result there is a need for resistant cultivars in areas where susceptible pines are grown, often
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resulting in death of the trees or young plantations. In North America, where pine is an
important crop, eradication programmes for Ribes were introduced as a strategy for disease
control. Nowadays quarantine procedures are still severe for the germplasm to be introduced
into the U.S (Brennan, 2008).
Figure 12. Typical symptoms of rust on black currant leaves (Picture by the author)
The rust disease is not noticeable until late summer. After infection the symptoms
(Figure 12) appear as lesions, with small yellow cup like spots on leaf upper surface and
developing uredinia on the leaf abaxial surfaces formed from minute orange hair like
structures. The infected plants are weakened and may defoliate prematurely with a negative
impact on yield the following season (Hummer and Barney, 2002).
In black currants, resistance to C. ribicola was achieved by incorporating of the
dominant gene Cr from R. ussuriense which lead to the development of the resistant cultivars
'Consort', 'Coronet' and 'Crusader'. Further breeding efforts in Sweden produced the rust
immune cultivar ‘Titania’, with ‘Consort’ in its parentage. The resistance conferred by the Cr
gene is fairly robust and research is being carried out currently to align Ribes resistance with
resistance in Pinus spp. (Brennan, 2008).
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7.7 Aphids
The most important aphids (Homoptera, Aphididae) that commonly infest Ribes are the
permanent currant aphid (Aphis scheneideri Börne), the red currant blister aphid
(Cryptomyzus ribis), the currant-sowthistle aphid (Hyperomyzus lactucae), and the European
gooseberry aphid (Aphis grossulariacae) (Mitchell et al., 2011). These pests feed on the
underside of the leaf (Figure 13) causing a characteristic blistering and distortion of the
leaves. The leaf damages caused by aphids ranges from cosmetic to severe. The colour of the
blistering is purple to red in red currants while yellowish green in black currants. During
spring, infestation can cause the curling down and yellow mottling of leaves, preferably on
shoot tips. In some cases the growth of the shoot may be stunted.
Figure 13. Images showing the European currant aphid (Aphis schneideri Börne) and
distorted leaves caused by feeding. (Pictures by the author)
Differences in susceptibilities of aphids between Ribes species and cultivars towards
ahpids have been reported by Keep and Briggs (1971). Currently not much additional
information is available about resistant cultivars to aphids, as the aphid resistance has not
been included in most breeding programmes (Mitchell et al., 2011). Aphid damage to black
currant plantations can be controlled by application of pesticide or soap treatment before
flowering and after harvest (Hummer and Barney, 2002; Hummer and Dale, 2010).
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7.8 Black currant leaf curling midge (Dasyneura tetensi Rübsaamen)
First recorded as a pest in Kent, England in 1928, the black currant leaf-curling midge
subsequently spread through the UK and parts of Europe. The pest is most noticeable during
the white larval stage. The larvae turn orange and grow to a length of about 2.5 mm. The
adult stage is a short-lived period characterised by a small, dark brown to orange body and
pale stripped abdomen (Mitchell et al., 2011). The life cycle of the midge has been
extensively studied by Cross and Crook (1999), where they describe the larvae to overwinter
in cocoons in the upper soil surface under the black currant bushes. In spring the midges
pupate and appear as adults, which begin to mate and lay eggs in the folds of young leaves
and growing points of green shoots. After the eggs begin to hatch, the larvae feeding on the
surface of the leaves causes a crinkled and folding like appearance. The crinkling and folding
has a direct impact on the expansion of the leaves. The midge attacks young shoots causing
stunted growth and temporary death of shoots, the effects of the pest on yield has not been
quantified (Hellqvist, 2005). The damaged buds at the base of the plant that break earliest
during the season are the first parts of the bush that show signs of damage. In black currant
nurseries, this pest is a matter of concern where in severe infections the young plants have to
be discarded or completely destroyed.
There is a large variation in susceptibility to this pest between black currant cultivars
(Brennan, 2008). Resistance has been reported from the species R. americanum and R.
dikuscha controlled by a dominant gene Dt within the wild species of Eucoreosma jointly
with cultivars such as ‘Ben Connan’ (Keep, 1985). Antibiosis resistance has been observed in
some genotypes, ranging from no gall formation and high larval mortality, to complete
galling and slow development of the larvae (Hellqvist and Larsson, 1998). In Sweden, two
strains of the midge have been recorded: a virulent biotype adaptable to the resistant host
(with the Dt gene) and an avirulent biotype that is not adaptable (Hellqvist, 2001).
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8. The current study on black currants
The present PhD project is an attempt to study the ontogenetic and genetic effects on
the health-promoting compounds in black currant material.
8.1 Overall objective
The objective of this project is to study and estimate the ontogenetic effects, effects of
genotype, and genotype-environment interaction on health-promoting compounds (single
polyphenols and ascorbic acid) in black currant buds, leaves and fruits. Additionally organic
acids and individual sugars will also be determined in the fruit. This entails the determination
of biochemical variations in different plant parts of advanced plant material established in
comparative organic trials in the(south (Balsgård) (56°06’ N, 14°10’ E) and north (Öjebyn)
(65°21’ N, 21°23’ E) of Sweden. In parallel, the project will investigate possible association
between content of polyphenols in leaves and different major leaf diseases and pests in black
currant seedling populations. This study takes place for three years thereby making it possible
to detect the yearly variation.
On completion, the project will provide valuable information of the phenolic
compounds in different plant organs that could be used to enhance the nutritional content in
the black currant material and support the development of resistant cultivars for sustainable
cultivation. The information will thus (i) aid black currant breeders to develop new cultivars,
adaptable and hardy enough for the changing climate, (ii) provide organic growers with
information on cultivars resistant to severe pests and diseases, and with enhanced nutritional
content, (iii) provide cultivars to north of Sweden with increased ascorbic acid and
polyphenol content, (iv) support the health industry in preparation of functional food
ingredients from different black currant parts with high antioxidant capacity, (v) support the
processing sector with the introduction of fruits with high quality and sensory attributes, (vi)
support researchers investigating the health properties of single polyphenols identified in this
study, and finally, (vii) benefit consumers and the nation on the whole due to health benefits
associated from consumption of antioxidant and polyphenol rich black currant products.
The specific objectives are to:
Optimize the conditions for extractions, identification and analysis of single
polyphenols in buds, leaves and fruits by HPLC-DAD and HPLC-ESI-MS
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Evaluate performance and field resistance towards pests and diseases in comparative
organic field trials in the north (Öjebyn) and south (Balsgård) of Sweden
Study genetic effects, G-E interactions and reveal the role of ontogenetic stage of
buds, leaves and fruits on the content of specific polyphenols
Study AsA, organic acids and sugars in fruits following their ontogenetic
development
Study possible association between polyphenols and leaf diseases and pests
Investigate the effect of yearly variation, latitude and growing seasons on the content
of AsA and specific polyphenols
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9. Acknowledgements
I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to my supervisors Prof. Eva Johansson,
Dr. Kimmo Rumpunen and Dr. Staffan Andersson for their invaluable suggestions and
guidance which enabled me to complete this paper.
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... In a study on buds, total phenolic and antioxidant content of buds were determined intensively (Tabart et al., 2011;Dvaranauskaite et al., 2009). Vagiri (2012) in a study on black currant buds sleeping buds were analyzed in different months by taking the highest total amount of phenolic buds were obtained in March. Table 1-2 shows some biochemical compounds of the ccurrant species. ...
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