The University of Prince Edward Island is researching what could be the region's newest commercial crop: rose hips.

It opened a new greenhouse on campus on Thursday that will be used to grow crops for researchers.

"We're specifically interested in the health benefits of these natural berries and fruits and how these can be used for commercial enterprise," said dean of science Roger Gordon.

The first research project will look at the benefits of berries from the wild roses that grow in abundance in Atlantic Canada. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C and other valuable nutrients.

UPEI scientist Jim Kemp said the wild roses may also provide help in fighting erosion. He foresees a day when they could be planted between fields of other cash crops.

"I very much hope that we will see it as a large crop. There's a lot of land that can be developed in this way and there's a 20 per cent slope, for example, that we're concerned about. This is a crop that might be a good crop for those lands."

The new greenhouse cost $180,000 to build.