Horticultural Science

The SROC horticultural science research and outreach program is dedicated to developing production systems that maximize health potential. We work to increase healthful benefits not only in terms of vitamins, minerals and nutrients but also chemopreventative, or disease preventing, compounds.

Our research projects focus on studying and improving: 1) production systems that enhance health benefits in vegetable and spice crops, 2) nitrogen use efficiency and variety development in the vegetable processing industry, and 3) hop production and processing. 

Our research is based out of the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. We share our research and management tips at educational conferences, field days, through Minnesota’s Master Gardener program, and on the University of Minnesota Extension Garden website.

Nutraceuticals

Fruits and vegetables contain a vast array of naturally produced, chemical compounds. Some of these “phytonutrients” have been associated with specific benefits for human health, including cancer prevention. Our research program aims to increase the concentration of compounds shown to benefit human health in common foods. 

Currently, we are developing unique production systems to increase glucosinolate concentration in the cabbage family of crops, specifically cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and studying the concentration variability among different varieties. We also focus on understanding the genetic x environment interactions related to phytonutrient concentrations to discover how certain production practices enhance phytonutrient concentration. 

Spice crops also contain nutraceuticals that provide anti-inflammatory benefits and can help prevent cancer, nausea, and cholesterol build up. We’ve learned to grow ginger in high tunnels and are studying cultural practices that alter the concentration [6]-gingerol concentration, the beneficial nutraceutical in ginger.

We collaborate with the Hormel Institute, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center on nutraceutical research through the Minnesota Chemoprevention Consortium (MC2).

Vegetable Crops

Much of our vegetable crop research supports the sweet corn and pea processing industries in the southern half of Minnesota and the statewide fresh market. We are studying ways to improve nitrogen efficiency and sustainability in sweet corn production through variety development and management approaches. We also conduct pea variety trials and have a pea root-rot nursery to study diseases. 

We share our results with commercial and fresh-market growers through various research reports, publications and presentations. Midwest Food Processors Association (MWFPA), Agricultural Fertilizer Research & Education Council (AFREC), and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture support our vegetable crops research.

Hops

Hops are a perennial bine, and the female inflorescence is used to add bitterness and aroma to beer. Midwest craft breweries are interested in using locally grown raw products, and hops provide a potential profitable source of diversification to farmers.

We began hops research in 2010 and are collaborating with various groups and individuals to study production and processing. Projects are investigating:

  • Hop diseases, with Angela Orshinsky
  • Hop processing, with the University of Minnesota NRRI in Duluth
  • Other breeding and trellis work

Faculty and staff

Students

Ilse Renner, Ph.D. candidate, Applied Plant Sciences