Is it safe to plant currants and gooseberries in home gardens in Iowa?
Early in the 1900's, white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) became a serious disease problem in the United States. White pine blister rust requires both a currant or gooseberry (Ribes species) and white pine to complete its life cycle. The disease causes little harm to currants and gooseberries, but is often deadly to white pines. (Black currants are very susceptible to white pine blister rust. Gooseberries and red and white currants are somewhat resistant.) In an attempt to prevent the spread of white pine blister rust, the federal government banned the planting and cultivation of currants and gooseberries early in the twentieth century. The federal government lifted the ban in 1966. In recent years, several white pine blister rust resistant black currant varieties have been introduced. Rust resistant black currant varieties include ‘Ben Sarek,’ ‘Consort,’ and ‘Crusader.’
A site near a large number of white pines would not be a good location for gooseberries and currants. However, there shouldn’t be serious problems planting currants and gooseberries in most home gardens in Iowa. If planting black currants, be sure to select white pine blister rust resistant varieties.