Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Eric Bishop-von Wettberg

Project Collaborators

Association of Africans Living in Vermont

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Program/Major

Ecological Agriculture

Primary Research Category

Biological Sciences

Secondary Research Category

Social Sciences

Presentation Title

Breeding for increased marketability and production scalability potential of African Eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum L.) for New Farmer stakeholders

Time

11:00 AM

Location

Silver Maple Ballroom - Biological Sciences

Abstract

African eggplant, or Solanum aethiopicum, is a locally loved perennial vegetables crop found throughout tropical Africa and South America. One of the most commonly consumed fruit vegetables in tropical Africa, parts of India, and tropical Brazil, its fruits are usually picked immature. It can be used in cooked stews, pickled, and in a variety of medicinal applications. This crop has significant importance for New Americans of the African diaspora with small businesses in Vermont shipping the fruit as far as Arizona, Texas, Utah, Michigan and Idaho. Since there has not been any commercial African eggplant production or marketing in the US in the past, the market for African eggplant presents an entrepreneurial opportunity for New Americans that are trying to establish profitable businesses and expand the diversity of Vermont crops available to its residents. Barriers to these businesses include a lack of supply in available cultivars adapted to Vermont’s growing environment and lack of demand as many mainstream American consumers who may find the bitter fruit unpalatable. The barriers to supply could be overcome or drastically reduced by breeding new cultivars that are both better adapted to Vermont’s growing conditions and stakeholder practices. Additionally, a cultivar with a lower level of bitterness could generate demand in non-traditional consumers within the American markets. Our initial breeding efforts at UVM in collaboration with the Association of African Living in Vermont are beginning to adapt this loved tropical fruit to Vermont by making crosses among the four market classes of this crop.

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Breeding for increased marketability and production scalability potential of African Eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum L.) for New Farmer stakeholders

African eggplant, or Solanum aethiopicum, is a locally loved perennial vegetables crop found throughout tropical Africa and South America. One of the most commonly consumed fruit vegetables in tropical Africa, parts of India, and tropical Brazil, its fruits are usually picked immature. It can be used in cooked stews, pickled, and in a variety of medicinal applications. This crop has significant importance for New Americans of the African diaspora with small businesses in Vermont shipping the fruit as far as Arizona, Texas, Utah, Michigan and Idaho. Since there has not been any commercial African eggplant production or marketing in the US in the past, the market for African eggplant presents an entrepreneurial opportunity for New Americans that are trying to establish profitable businesses and expand the diversity of Vermont crops available to its residents. Barriers to these businesses include a lack of supply in available cultivars adapted to Vermont’s growing environment and lack of demand as many mainstream American consumers who may find the bitter fruit unpalatable. The barriers to supply could be overcome or drastically reduced by breeding new cultivars that are both better adapted to Vermont’s growing conditions and stakeholder practices. Additionally, a cultivar with a lower level of bitterness could generate demand in non-traditional consumers within the American markets. Our initial breeding efforts at UVM in collaboration with the Association of African Living in Vermont are beginning to adapt this loved tropical fruit to Vermont by making crosses among the four market classes of this crop.