CURRANT, originally, the small black seedless raisins popularly used in cookery, and so named from the Greek city of Corinth, where they first became commercially important; by extension, various species of the genus Ribes and their fruits. The former belongs to the genus Vitis (see GRAPE CULTURE) of the natural order Vitacecr or Ampelidezr; the latter of the Saxifragacecr. Only the thornless species of the latter genus which bear grape-like clusters of smooth fruits are called currants; the spiny species are known as gooseberries.
The most widely cultivated species is un questionably the red currant (R. rubrum) which has developed several white horticultural varieties as well as numerous red ones which are commercially important, both in the fresh state and when manufactured into jelly. The black currant (R. nigrum) is next in importance as a fruit but is less popular in America be cause of its peculiar flavor, less prolific habit and smaller range of usefulness. The first is a native of the north temperate zone, the second of Europe and Siberia. The American black currant (R. floridum or americanum) resembles the common black currant but, though some times found in gardens, is little esteemed. The flowering currant (R. aureum), an American species, has produced several horticultural va rieties but is not cultivated for its fruit, which ripens very unevenly, but for its bright yellow sweet-scented flowers which appear in the spring. Several other species are grown for ornament, the most notable of which is the red-flowered sanguirseum) which is found on the Pacific Coast from British Colum bia to South America. It has developed several varieties which are all attractive in flower but which bear rather dry, bitter berries errone ously reputed poisonous. Only the first three species are economically important, and that only in the North or in the higher altitudes of the South, where the hot summers injure the bushes. In the dry plains region they succeed only under specially favorable conditions such as irrigation and partial shade, etc. Several unrelated species of plants are called currant, but compared with the above are unimportant.
The currant thrives besf in cool, rather hu mid climates, upon well-drained but moist strong clayey loam; and less attention to cultivation, pruning, etc., than any other small fruit. However, it will respond liberally to good treatment and deserves better attention than it usually receives. The plants are gen erally propagated by means of hard wood cut tings which are transplanted to the field when one or two years old. The usual distances for planting are four by six feet, upon land well prepared by plowing and harrowing. The bushes are cultivated until mid-summer, when a cover crop is sown to be plowed under the following spring. Annually, two or three neW stems should be allowed to grow, preferably from below ground, at the centre of the bush, and when this wood has borne fruit twice (that is, when three years old) should be cut out, since younger wood is more productive and less likely to become infested with insects and disease. On this account, training to the tree
form is not recommended. A plantation should continue to be commercially profitable for 6 or 10 years after coming into bearing and should yield 100 bushels an acre if properly cared for. Yields of 250 bushels have been reported. Individual plants in gardens should produce from two to four pounds.
Of the many insects that attack the plant, the currant sawfly or currant ribesii) is the best known. It is a European four-winged fly somewhat larger than a large housefly, which lays its eggs upon the midribs of the under sides of the leaves, particularly those near the ground, in early spring. The green, black-dotted worms frequently do con siderable damage before their presence is sus pected. Spraying with arsenites or hellebore as soon as the leaves appear and at intervals of about a week is a positive remedy. As a result of neglect, however, the bushes are frequently defoliated. A long-horned beetle (Psenocons: i supernotatus) lays its eggs upon the shoots and branches into which the larva burrow and emerge as adults during late spring of the fol lowing year. When troublesome the bushes should be heavily pruned during the winter and the prunings This treatment will also destroy other species of borer, the adult of which is a moth (Sesia tipuliformis). No prac ticable remedy has been discovered for the cur rant fly (Epockra canadensis) which sometimes is seriously troublesome, since its attacks the fruit, which ripens prematurely from the pres ence of larva beneath the skin.
All leaf diseases of the currant, the best known of which are anthracnose (Gkeosporium ribis) and leaf spot (Septoria ribis), may be controlled by thorough spraying with a stand ard fungicide (q.v.). The former of these dis eases is characterized by small black spots on the upper surfaces of the leaves and white ones beneath; the latter has black-centred white spots. The leaves fall prematurely in each case. The currant tubercle, a disease which attacks the whole plant, has become locally destructive in some of the Eastern States. The leaves wilt, the fruit colors prematurely, the dusters be come small and few, and both foliage and fruit shrivel and fall. The plant soon dies. No remedy is known except prompt digging and burning. No diseased plants should be used for propagation because the disease seems to per meate the whole plant. Consult Card, (Bush Fruits> (latest ed., New York 1911) ; Bailey, (Cyclopedia of American Horticulture' (4 vols., ib. 1910).