Progress 07/01/22 to 06/30/23
Target Audience: All target audiences were reached in this reporting period. Regional winemakers; extension and research personnel; and end user wine consumers were all directly engaged. Another group served by the project was also engaged: prospective growers of the crop. Outreach to regional winemakers and end user wine consumers was accomplished through presentation and wine competition entry at the 2022 Florida Wine and Grape Growers Association annual conference. An invitation to present on the project and general enological and cultivation topics for the crop was accepted in 2022, and allowed Hyldemoer +Co. to reach both regional winemakers and consumers through an initial introduction to our company and the SBIR project. Entry of Hyldemoer +Co.'s non-commercial wines followed our presentation on the Phase I project. Of our wines entered, the elder/white muscadine blend was judged the winner in its category, and the award for best label was taken home for a varietal elder dry red wine. More importantly, subsequent participation in the 2023 conference led to additional on-going evaluations of our vinous-quality extract product by both commercial and cottage wineries. Another first touch in engaging wine consumers was accomplished through the initial sensory evaluation panels, which were open to the public. University professionals including extension and research personnel attended various meetings at Hyldemoer +Co.'s farm property. Throughout this reporting period, a total of 15 university contacts attended meetings on 9 separate occasions throughout the first twelve months of the project. Expanded research resulting from this outreach is also underway through the UF/IFAS SEEDIT program, with that cooperative project focusing on postharvest processing efficiency for the crop. Additionally, a pilot plot reflecting key attributes of the main research plot was established under contract at the property of a private winery. This expansion was specifically executed for the cultivation of vinous-quality elder production for the winery's own use. Further in-field instruction on cultivation and propagation of the crop was given to two additional prospective growers. An international group of research professionals in attendance of The Berry Health Benefits Symposium was also reached by way of Hyldemoer +Co.'s participation and sponsorship of the biannual conference held in Tampa, Florida for 2023. Changes/Problems:While budgeting was appropriate as presented in the original proposal, inflation experienced globally had a significant impact on the cost of a range of materials and services necassary for the research over this performance period. From irrigation and planting materials, fertilizer components to reagents for comp. quality analysis and vinification supplies, many budgetary line items were affected by this pressure. Still, the project remains on target and within budget due to our stewardship of the funds as allocated. The remaining budget is also reconciled to be sufficient to complete the work as originally intended. The only specific budgetary change was related to the Berry Health Benefits Symposium described above, which replaced the Project Director and Company Owner's planned attendance of a SBIR/STTR conference in D.C. Permission was requested, even though no budgetary alteration was necassary. A near 180° shift in schedule and full-term production expectation resulting from the change in start date from December 1st, 2022 to July 1st, 2022 was worked through, and Hyldemoer +Co. was able to divert a sufficient volume of our 2022 commercial harvest to the purpose of the initial enological and analytical work as required by the proposed plan, which has been successfully executed to-date as documented herein. The December research plot establishment activities then proceeded as planned and an exceptional establishment rate was achieved. An unforeseen benefit to the drastic change in workflow was the opportunity to analyze a greater number of genotypes from the established plantings currently in production. This in turn lead to enhancements to the research plot planting variety selections. The single appreciable downside of the schedule change's effect on the scope of the research will play out over the next 2 to 3 months. As a first year planting currently at only 6.5 months from unrooted hardwood cuttings planted directly in row, Hyldemoer +Co.'s typical expectation would be for a modest, and depending on the season, potentially even sparse harvest in establishment year 0. In fact, current cultivation guidance such as it exists routinely calls for "pinching" or terminating the young plants' inflorescence immediately upon formation. Hyldemoer +Co. had previously demonstrated the ability of the crop to produce a worthwhile volume of fruit in the establishment year, along with no evidence of negative affect on production in subsequent years, but the Phase I SBIR research plot planting has exceeded even these expectations, as detailed under objective 3 above. The number and volume of varietal wines which can be produced in the remainder of Phase I will hinge on the establishment accomplishments described above, and the potential impact of severe weather events as they materialize headed into hurricane season. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?The Project Director's professional development was enhanced through BeCrop Advisor (BCA) Certification training and completion, and through invitation to collaborate on university research via the SEEDIT project in progress and in parallel to this SBIR Phase I project. An upcoming AFRI project proposal is another example of expanded opportunities for professional development enabled by the Phase I project. The Company Owner's professional development was also substantially enhanced by the project. Opportunities seized include: IAP Career College Winery Owner course completion / NASDA Foundation's Farm2Food Accelerator participant and two guest speaker appearances / Women in Nutraceuticals membership / Guest panelist in Florida High Tech Corridor's 2022 Synapse Florida presentation. Additional opportunities enabled include Fresh From Florida program acceptance and relationships formed and knowledge gained through sponsorship of the Berry Health Benefits Symposium. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Presentations at university hosted field days on vineyard and alternative fruit crops topics were entitled "Sambucus" and "The Englishman's Grape." These presentations resulted in regional press for the company and engagement with new prospective growers and customers. Outreach to regional winemakers and end user wine consumers was accomplished through presentation and wine competition entry at the 2022 Florida Wine and Grape Growers Association annual conference. An invitation to present on the project and general enological and cultivation topics for the crop was accepted in 2022, and allowed Hyldemoer +Co. to reach both regional winemakers and consumers through an initial introduction to our company and the SBIR project. Subsequent participation in the 2023 conference led to on-going evaluations of our vinous-quality extract product by both commercial and cottage wineries. FWGGA conference participation as a producer, nursery supplier, and presenter was later enhanced by sponsorship of the 2023 Berry Health Benefits Symposium. An international group of research professionals in attendance of The Berry Health Benefits Symposium were reached by way of Hyldemoer +Co.'s participation and sponsorship of the biannual conference held in Tampa, Florida for 2023. In this performance period, three additional plots were established including a plot at a private winery and two university research center plots. The contracted private winery plot and two university plots were all enabled by consulting services offered by Hyldemoer + Co. via the Phase I project. These demonstration sites provide hands-on engagement by university researchers and other interested target audience members and expand beyond the main research plot central to the project. The pilot plot reflects key attributes of the main research plot and was established under contract at the property of a private winery. This expansion was specifically executed for the cultivation of vinous-quality elder production for the winery's own use. University professionals including extension and research personnel attended various meetings at Hyldemoer +Co.'s farm property. Throughout this reporting period, a total of 15 university contacts attended meetings on 9 separate occasions throughout the first twelve months of the project. Further in-field instruction on cultivation and propagation of the crop was given to two additional prospective growers. Physical collections of germplasm were expanded and demonstrated to a variety of visitors to the farm. This expansion now enables a minimum propagation material production potential of 0.5 acres of clonal material for each of 8 of the 12 genotypes selected for evaluation, and as much as 10 acres of propagation material for each of 3 cultivars. Expansion potential of over 30 acres of propagation material is now immediately available upon the end date of the Phase I project in Feb. of 2024. Development of phenology documentation and in-depth documentation of establishment rate and production development timing of 12 cultivars was collected in a series of data sets, availble to interested researchers and growers. This data will continue to be built through the remainder of the 2023 season and beyond. Fertilization and crop protection methods and materials evaluations, and inspection of adherence to NOP standards via Certified Naturally Grown status was expanded to the Phase I research plot on 6/15/23, Hyldemoer + Co.'s 4th consecutive successful inspection. H+Co.'s commitment to utilize a new inspector annually for the duration of CNG-certification was maintained, and serves to enage new university professionals with the company going forward. Transition to USDA certified organic status at an appropriate time is also enabled through this ongoing documentation. A wide variety of demonstrations were made both on- and off-site pertaining to cultivation and vinification topics for a range of interested parties. Soil microbiome analyses documenting species of bacterial and fungal colonization in the substrate utilized in the establishment of the research plot include PLFA analysis and DNA-sequencing of the soil microbiome. This data was analyzed by researchers for comparison against conventional soil analyses and soil health related analyses along with leaf tissue analysis performed at 2, 4 and 6 months from planting. The documented inoculant prescriptions used in conjunction with the fertilization documentation described within the related activities above are well organized and ready for in-depth interpretation during the fall season in preparation for refinements to next season's program. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?1) Evaluation of enological factors and vinification techniques to optimize elder winemaking processes: Enhancement of vinification procedures and sensory evaluations will culminate in completion of the goals under objective 1. The data obtained from the first-season sensory panels will allow Hyldemoer +Co.to refine both how we produce wines for the second round of sensory panels, and how we market the wines commercially. Several major take-aways for the first round of sensory panels are vital to the future direction of further Phase I sensory evaluation. The elder wine had only been aged for 2.5 months. Most literature that can be located on the topic of elder wine, and our own experience indicate that elder wine should be aged for at least six months and ideally one year, with a highly-prized wine resulting after 5 to 10 years of aging. We will utilize wine from the first season's production as one of our samples in the second season sensory panels. We feel strongly that this nearly 12-month aged wine will outshine its younger counterpart in flavor, but the staying-power of the anthocyanin concentration is also of high importance and relates directly to topics in objective 2, below. It should also be noted that the panelists did not know what fruit(s) comprised their samples in this first round of sensory panels. They only knew they were drinking red wines, as the 50/50 elder/white muscadine blend was in fact more deeply red than many red wines encountered on the shelf. In the second round of sensory panels, we will serve the selected wines, including varietal wines if possible, and competitive wines blind in an initial evaluation, and then inform the panelists to the fact they are drinking elderberry wine and see if that knowledge shows a change in their perceived overall liking. Visual evaluations on labeling, and price-matching exercises may also be introduced into the season two evaluations. We hypothesize that the current consumer demand for nutraceutically-oriented food and beverages will positively affect the acceptability of the elder wine and elder/muscadine blends in the greater, commercial sense. 2)Compositional Quality Analyses: The compositional quality data compiled under objective 2 is voluminous and has allowed Hyldemoer +Co. to reevaluate which testing was most applicable in the second performance period of the Phase I project, in anticipation of the commercial application planned for in Phase II. The upcoming testing plan and schedule were made to accommodate for the testing of more of the final wine products produced. This will allow for nearly the same series of tests to be completed on a young elder wine from aggregate, single varietal young elder wines as applicable, the season one aged elder wine and finally a commercially produced and nationally available dry red wine of similar color and dryness. As stated in objective 1, the anthocyanin concentration of the 12-month aged elder wine is of particular interest in and of itself, but also in comparison to the commercially produced dry red grape wine and its anthocyanin concentration. 3) Crop Establishment and Cultivation: After harvest, we will shift to a focus on improving our postharvest efficiency and exploration of more effective means of end of season plant maintenance in the remaining eight months of the project. Fully coppicing the plants during dormancy aids in keeping eriophyid mite pressure in check for a successful start to next season while also encouraging rapid row-bed colonization and primocane growth. This pruning method will be possible at the end of season 1 of the establishment period, due to the excellent establishment achieved between early December through the end of June. This procedure is typically not employed until the end of the second or third season, depending on efficacy of cultivation. We will further develop our phenology study so as to further define those characteristics most desirable for commercial elderberry cultivation in Florida and throughout the Southeast. The establishment and development tracking will proceed as planned and are expected to demonstrate that production yields for a minimum of 2 genotypes, and up to 4 are expected to rival any second season production across all previously trialed genotypes in previously established plots at the farm. Sufficient production yields enabling varietal wine production may be accomplished in season 1, rather than in the second season of the research plot cultivation work as originally planned for. Moisture sensors and solar-powered irrigation use and scheduling may already be 100% optimized, but any opportunity to further refine irrigation procedures will be sought out.
What was accomplished under these goals?
Major goals of the project and accomplishment under these areas is as follows. 1) Evaluation of enological factors and vinification techniques to optimize elder winemaking processes: Initial evaluations of enological factors and vinification techniques to optimize elder winemaking processes were completed in the course of the first 12 months. Elder has been used in winemaking for centuries both singly, and more often to enhance grape wines, often as an adulterant and subject to scandal. Today it is a unique fruit to make wine with, especially given its relative scarcity as resulting from the volume of its use in dietary supplement manufacture. The initial wine production materials and methods were produced by Hyldemoer +Co. and provided to UF/IFAS Food Sciences for replication. Along with the formulation, H+Co. provided all inputs necessary to reproduce the wine. The vinification process began in early November 2022.Fermentation was carried out at both UF/IFAS Food Sciences and at Hyldemoer +Co.'s own facility simultaneously. These identical wines were later compared directly and judged to be highly consistent, another important test of the procedures themselves, and the ability to transfer them. In culmination of the first season vinification work, the UF/ IFAS Sensory Laboratory performed the consumer acceptability testing on the wines during the month of April 2023. Due to the limited number of wine samples that a participant could have in one sitting, it was necessary to break the panels up into two sessions, a "sweet" wine panel and a "dry" wine panel held on separate days. The sweet wine panel was attended by a total of 85 over the age of 21 panelists.The dry wine panelhosted 83 over the age of 21 panelists. In the dry wine panel, 31% of panelists preferred the young dry elder wine to the commercially produced and nationally marketed Pinot Noir identified for comparison. In the sweet wine panel, the final elder/white muscadine blend selectionedged out both the sweet young elder wine version andthe commercially sold Noble muscadine wine. Results of each sensory panel evaluations were highly encouraging and the data obtained from the first-season sensory panels allowed Hyldemoer +Co. to refine wine production for the second round of sensory panels, slated for early 2024. 2)Compositional Quality Analyses: Standardization of benchmarks for the nutraceutical value of the farm products before and after conversion to wine were identified. The following tests were performed on fourteen whole berry samples, one pomace (after juice extraction) sample, one vinous-quality juice extract sample and one finished, dry wine sample: pH, °brix, Color/Hue, FRAP and DPPH, with eleven whole berry samples also being tested for Total Anthocyanin Content in a cursory round of analysis. Finally, all samples were tested for four classes of anthocyanins via HPLC: Delphinidins, Cyanidins, Peonidins and Malvidins. The evidence for retention of the species' signatureanthocyanin makeup throughout the raw farm product's conversation to wine was demonstrated through HPLC chromatography. Based upon review of the initial testing of raw berry materials from 14 genotypes of S. canadensis, twelve were selected for inclusion in the cultivation work described under objective 3 below. Evidence of the ability for Hyldemoer +Co.'s processes to enable retention of a maximum variety and concentration of anthocyanins throughout conversion to wine tops the list of key accomplishments over the performance period. Towards this aim we drew upon our own previously published research and data to hone the cultivation and analysis plans within the performance period reported on here and into the next portion of the Phase I project. As previously mentioned, elder is no stranger to scandal. With the meteoric rise in elder product sales over the past three years, adulteration issues and concerns have also continued to grow proportionally. Products purported to contain elder can now be found in grocery stores, corner markets and gas stations, and this was simply not the case only a few years ago. What quality of and how much elder they contain is questionable. Additionally, the means of processing and storage has the possible effect of negating the greatest possible benefit of consumption. Objective 2 was set out with the aim of qualifying and quantifying the phytochemical composition of the genotypes of elder grown in the Southeast starting with analysis in the raw state of the berry, through extraction and finally after conversion into wine. The long term goal beinga positive contribution toward creating and setting the US standard for quality and authenticity in S. canadensis culture and marketing. 3) Crop Establishment and Cultivation: Development of outreach communications from documented organic cultivation and postharvest processing activities for the crop in Florida was achieved, and numerous opportunities for outreach on cultivation topics were taken advantage of. Hyldemoer +Co. successfully executed the establishment of a 2-acre research plot eclipsing our own previous establishment rates by a wide margin. Hyldemoer +Co. employed advanced agricultural soil and foliar analysesvital to validation of the effectiveness of the regenerative fertilization regimen in use. Soil microbiome data was compiled and provided actionable information on soil microbial inoculant product lines to move forward with, along with data on the efficacy of the organic fertilization protocols and products revealed by additional in depth and frequent analysis including: conventional chemical soil analyses; foliar tissue analysis; Haney testing (soil respiration focus); and Phospholipid Fatty-Acid analysis differentiating bacterial and fungal colonization of the research plot rhizosphere. Terroir analysis from a microbial perspective was also employed, and is directly applicable to the proposed direction of cultivation work in Phase II, if awarded, in pursuit of compositional quality benefits with the potential to increase productivity and marketability of both the extract and wine products. The 2-acre plot was planted December 10th-12th, 2022 so as to encourage strong root growth over vegetative growth. Of 1,056 plants established from cuttings, only 3 cuttings required replacement. This equals a 99.7% establishment rate which was easily converted to 100% within the first 45 days of establishment. Establishment methods were later replicated at two UF/IFAS research center test plots resulting from outreach on the project. These plots were planted from material propagated from the same quarter-acre nursery plot established to enable the SBIR research plot itself. The results of the improved establishment methods were measurable, and we are on track to begin harvestmid-July, which is significantly early for an establishment year plot. This looks to be a substantial harvest at only at 7 months from unrooted hardwood cuttings. Though this is only the first production season for these plants, it remains possible that harvest yields will allow for one or more varietal wines to be made this fall.