Horticulture of Ribes



The genus Ribes L., known as currants and gooseberries, contains more than 150 diverse species indigenous throughout the northern hemisphere and along the Rocky Mountain, Sierra Nevada and Sierra Madres in North America through mountain ranges of Central America to the Andes in South America. Beginning in the 1400s, four main crop types, black currants (Ribes, subgenus: Ribes, section: Botrycarpum), red and white currants (Ribes, subgenus: Ribes, section: Ribes) and gooseberries (Ribes, subgenus: Grossularia) were domesticated from European species. American and Eurasian species were selected and combined into the germplasm base of European and American breeding programmes in the 1900s. Black currants (R. nigrum and hybrids) are a major economic crop in many European countries but are minor in North America, although they can be produced successfully in the northern states and southern portion of the Canadian provinces. Ribes plants can be hosts for white pine blister rust, caused by Cronartium ribicola. This disease was introduced from Asia through Europe into North America ca. 1900. Restrictions were imposed on currants and gooseberries in the United States when the rust was observed on this continent. Although some states have recently repealed these restrictions, by 2009, 12 states continue to have 40-year-old laws prohibiting or restricting Ribes cultivation. The purpose of this paper is to describe the cultivation of currants and gooseberries and their interaction with rust. Ribes production has a potentially great economic value in American, niche markets that could help sustain small-acreage, berry farmers.