Growing Sea Buckthorn in South Africa
In recent years Sea Buckthorn started to become more popular for its health benefits, ornamental value and low maintenance. Although this berry originated in parts of Eastern Europe through to South Asian parts to the Himalayas and Mongolia regions, most of the cultivated plants were developed in Russia.
Sea Buckthorn is relatively new to South Africa, but as our market also tends to start focussing more on organic, nutrient loaded, healthier food options and products, the market for this highly valued berry is increasingly growing. Due to its many medicinal properties and nutrients, especially the very scarce Omega 7, there is a large growing demand for products made from the berries such as juices, oils, jams, lotions, liquors, powders, cosmetic and anti-aging products.
As Sea Buckthorn berries are also being known as one of the world’s super fruits, it is becoming a very attractive addition to other fruit crops.
Apart from the healthy fruit, the shrub also adapt in most soils and climates, is salt tolerant and also fixes nitrogen in the soil. It can therefore successfully be used for soil conservation or rehabilitation purposes.
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) belongs to the family Elaeagnaceae. Members of this family have root nodules which house nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which is why Sea buckthorns can thrive in poor soils. Sea Buckthorn is also called, Sandthorn, Sea Berry or Sallowthorn.
The shrubs reach 2–4 metres tall. The common sea buckthorn has dense and stiff branches and are very thorny. The leaves are a distinct pale silvery-green, lanceolate, 3–8 cm long and less than 7 mm broad. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The male produces brownish flowers which produce wind-distributed pollen. The female plants produce orange berries 6–9 mm in diameter, soft, juicy, and rich in oils. The roots distribute rapidly and extensively, providing a nonleguminous nitrogen fixation role in surrounding soils. In central Europe and Asia, it also occurs as a sub-alpine shrub above the tree line in mountains and other sunny areas such as river banks where it has been used to stabilize erosion. They are tolerant of salt in the air and soil, but demand full sunlight for good growth and do not tolerate shady conditions near larger trees. They typically grow in dry, sandy areas. The plants are extremely cold hardy and naturally found at high altitudes between 2500m and 3700m above sea level.
The berries of this plant have many beneficial properties. They are exceptionally high in vitamin C, but also in vitamins E and B group, carotenoids, biotin and folic acids. The berries also contain a unique combination of calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
The oil from the berries has healing, anti-inflammatory and bacteriostatic properties.
The seeds and leaves are also particularly rich in quercetin, a flavonoid linked to lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Interestingly, sea buckthorn oil may also be one of the only plant foods known to provide all four omega fatty acids — omega-3, omega-6, omega-7 and omega-9.
Apart from the healthy fruit, the plant has many uses such as landscaping properties where it can be used as a deciduous shrub. It can also be used to form a wind break or a hedge.
- Fresh eating
- The berries processed for pulps, juices, preserves, oils and medicinal products.
- It is also used as a flavouring component to beer, wine, liquors and cordials.
- The leaves are used for teas
- Nitrogen-fixing plant (puts nitrogen back into the soil) – inoculated with actinorhizal bacteria (Frankia).
- Windbreak (especially in coastal areas)
- Hedge/living fence
- Soil conservation. It can be used as a pioneer plant on previous industrial sites and can be used to counter soil erosion.
- Fall and winter food source for wildlife
- General insect nectar plant (Spring)
- Soaps, lotions, and other cosmetics
- Dye from the berries and sap
- A number of traditional medicinal uses
This shrub should only be grown in full sunlight. It can tolerate a little drought, but it is a moisture sensitive plant which can’t be grown in water logged soils. It is especially sensitive to excessive moisture during spring when it is flowering and making small new fruit. If planted in arid or semi-arid conditions, water must be supplied for establishment. It prefers well drained sandy to loamy soils and is able to handle environmental salt. In heavier soils it is advisable to form raised beds (ridges) in order for excessive water to run off. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments.[/luv_icon_box][luv_separator height=”50px”]
It is a dioecious plant which means that it requires male and female plants to produce fruit. It requires at least 1 male plant per 5 to 10 female plants for pollination. Only the female plants produce berries.[/luv_icon_box]
Raspberries are a type of fruit known as an aggregate fruit. Aggregate fruits have flowers with multiple ovaries and each ovary produces drupelets around a core formed by the flower. The fruit contain more vitamin C than oranges, are super high in fibre, low in calories and supply you with a good dose of folic acid. Further to that, raspberries are high in potassium, vitamin A, calcium and super tasty.
Overhead irrigation can be used but it may encourage diseases. Direct application of water to the root system by means of drip or trickle systems is a better practice.
The amount of water needed per plant or plantation would depend on the soil type, rainfall and climate conditions. Compared to other fruit crops, blackberries do not need much water. Care must be taken to keep the soil moist, but not overwatered especially on lower soils.
Younger, newly established plants require the most care to make sure that their roots do not dry out or get waterlogged. During the summer months, when the mature plant is growing and fruiting, about 20-30mm of water is needed per week. This amount is dramatically lowered during the winter season when the plants are in their dormant phase.[/luv_icon_box][luv_separator height=”50px”]
Sea buckthorn, just like any other crop, requires adequate soil nutrients for a high yield of good quality fruits. Sea buckthorn responds well to phosphorus fertilizer, especially in soils low in phosphorus. Fertilizer recommendations should be based on the results of soil analysis.
Fertilization greatly depends on many factors such as soil fertility, soil structure, composition and climate so it is advisable to have the soil tested before starting with a production system. Adding organic matter to soils will improve the soil’s fertility, help reduce soil compaction of clay soil, improves aeration and assist with the moisture holding capacity.
Organic materials such as compost and/or well-aged manures can be worked into the soil in late winter before planting.
In one experiment plants were provided with 7 grams of nitrogen with a 5-3-4 organic fertilizer which yielded an average yield of 2.7kg fruit per plant after the second year of planting
Suggested rates: In sandy soil rates: 50 kg/ha nitrogen, 35kg/ha P, 45 kg/ha K
Manure or compost supplies plant food over a period of time. Cow and poultry manures are commonly used. Maximum application rates of dairy manure should be about 45 tonnes/ha and poultry manure should be applied at no more than 20 tonnes/ha on cropped land.[/luv_icon_box][luv_separator height=”50px”]
The most serious diseases in sea buckthorn is verticillium wilt, scab, damping-off and fusarium wilt.
Many authors, both in research and field production, note no significant disease under normal field conditions. Weeds can be problematic. Mulching with plastic and removing it after two-three years as the plants sucker into a hedgerow. Weed control within rows is usually not needed after 3-4 years.[/luv_icon_box][luv_separator height=”50px”]
Years to start fruiting: 2-3 years
Years to mature plants: 4-5 years
Commercial growing – yields
Yields of as high as 7kg per mature plant has been reported.[/luv_icon_box][luv_separator height=”50px”]