Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Horticultural Research Center
In 1908, the University of Minnesota created the Fruit Breeding Farm on 80 acres near Victoria, Minn., for the purpose of developing hardy apple trees for our northern climate. Each year thousands of trees were judged and eliminated if they did not meet strict standards. Hardiness, disease resistance, flavor, texture, size, appearance, storability, and productivity are traits by which apple trees are still evaluated. The excess of research apples continues to be sold to the public each fall to help support research efforts.
Among the apple varieties that have been named and released are ‘Fireside,' ‘Haralson,' ‘Honeygold,' and more recently ‘Honeycrisp' and ‘Zestar!.tm' Over the years, more than 98 fruit introductions have been made, including apricots, cherries, cherry-plums, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, and strawberries. Wine and table grapes and new hybrid blueberries such as ‘Polaris' are recent introductions.
In 1967, the Fruit Breeding Farm was renamed the Horticultural Research Center (HRC) to reflect the increased diversity on 230 acres. Additional activities include the breeding of landscape plants, including ornamental grasses, plant cold-hardiness research and restoration ecology research. Thirty-nine new trees and shrubs have been introduced, including the ‘Lights' azalea series, ‘Northwood' maple, and ‘Northern Sun' forsythia. The wetland ecology project started the successful Spring Peeper Meadow wetland restoration project in 1995 and uses Arboretum wetlands and former wild-rice research paddies for innovative research.
In 1985, the HRC was administratively merged with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (located 1 mile to the east of the research center). The combined unit continues to remain an important research arm of the Department of Horticultural Science at the University.
FRUIT BREEDING PROGRAM
Dr. Jim Luby currently directs the fruit-breeding program at the HRC, which is actively breeding apples, blueberries, grapes and strawberries, plus a selection of other species. New blueberry cultivars from the program led to the development of new commercial plantings in Minnesota and other parts of the country with similar cold climates. The apple cultivar ‘Honeycrisp' combines cold hardiness with outstanding fruit quality and has been in strong demand at licensed nurseries across the country and is increasingly attracting international interest. The grape research program has been pivotal in expanding the local wine industry with introductions such as the ‘Frontenac' red wine grape, which is now the most commonly grown grape in Minnesota.
PLANT BREEDING PROGRAM
The woody landscape plant-breeding program is based at the Arboretum and is headed by Dr. Stan Hokanson. Current research includes breeding cold hardy, disease resistant deciduous azaleas and shrub roses, development of improved shade trees and small-scale shade tolerant trees, and the development of new woody landscape plants derived from plant material native to the upper Midwestern United States.
The Horticultural Research Center is located 1 mile west of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on Hwy. 5 in Chanhassen.