Research in Organic Blueberry Production
Horticulture and Health
By Roman J. Miller, professor of biology
My current research project includes two areas related to blueberries: horticulture and health. I am willing to accept three or four students to work on specific aspects of these projects. Rising sophomores or juniors are given preference in selecting research participants.
Best organic practices
In the first area (horticulture) we want to examine best organic practices that enhance optimal blueberry production by using techniques from soil science, plant physiology, biochemistry, and plant anatomy. Focus will be on the blueberry production site at Knoll Acres. A website that describes this project more fully can be found at: www.knollacresblueberries.com Specific techniques that will be used and learned include soil testing for macro- and micronutrients coupled with foliar (plant leaf) analysis for macro- and micronutrients.
Another project will measure anthocyanins and polyphenols in mature blueberry fruit from various cultivars; a related project will examine the microstructure (histological) characteristics of blueberry fruits. Finally, growth vigor and productivity will be determined from plants representing various cultivars and treatments. Some of these projects will require work during parts of the summer months.
Consumption and uptake patterns of blueberry components in mice
In the second area (health) we are most interested in tracing the consumption and uptake patterns of blueberry components (primarily anthocyanins, the primary antioxidant compounds in blueberries) in mice, our mammalian model system. Organ and tissue localization of ingested anthocyanins will be matched with consumption patterns while monitoring health, growth, and reproductive parameters.
Student research collaboration
Students must be available to participate in a minimum of two semesters and/or a portion of the summer to complete a project. Typically the first period is spent on reading background literature and mastering a given technique. The second period of time is spent applying the research technique and recording data. The third period of time is spent writing up the research results initially as a report for the professor and also as part of a manuscript that will be submitted for publication.
Weekly hour long group meetings are held; individual or pairs of students will be expected to average an additional five to six hours per week on their particular aspect of the project. Students who consistently give appropriate priority to their research project will reap great benefits!