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Ontario Tender Fruit News

Adapting to consumer tender-fruit wants

March 20, 2015

 It’s  a  plum job.

Michael Kauzlaric is on the hunt for tender-fruit growers looking to diversify their orchards by adding plum, nectarine or apricot trees bred by scientists from the University of Guelph in conjunction with the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Lincoln and the Ontario Tender Fruit Marketing Board.

It makes sense for growers to branch out from peaches, the technology scout and grower outreach at the research centre said, since retailers report an increased demand for plums, nectarines and apricots.

“A lot of it is being driven by retailers,” Kauzlaric said, noting they have seen consumers shifting away from peaches towards other imported tender fruit.

“And they’re relaying that message back to Ontario tender fruit growers and saying, ‘Hey, how about instead of just that little piece with plums you have on your property, how about expanding further, because we are seeing the demand from consumers?’ Consumers are pulling retailers into that direction.

Kauzlaric said while apricots, plums and nectarines have a long history of being grown in Niagara, “it’s always been a farmgate niche market.”

“There’s been a few growers that have larger plantings, but retailers want to see more of these crops go in,” Kauzlaric said. “If a grower is considering removing a block of peaches, hey, why not look at plums, nectarines or apricots?”

Vineland’s role is to take the varieties bred by the university, get them started in a research centre nursery and then 18 months later plant them privately-owned test orchards. The fruit of these new varieties will be weeded out by a Tender Fruit Evaluation Committee composed of tender fruit growers, fruit marketing and packing representatives, an evaluator, certified nurseries, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the university, research centre and tender fruit marketing board representatives. The trees that bear the best tasting fruit that do best in our growing climate will then be licensed to breeders for sale, with the university and research centre sharing in the licence fees.

The shift to other tender fruit requires long-term vision, as it takes many years for new platings to bear fruit. Current varieties would take 12 to 15 years before bearing fruit, Kauzlaric said.

“Part of Vineland’s role is we’re trying to compress that into seven or eight years by having on-site grower testing that runs parallel with the development of the variety,” Kauzlaric said.

The development of tastier and heartier varieties of nectarines, plums and apricots has a supporter in Phil Tregunno of Tregunno Fruit Farms in Niagara-on-the-Lake, who has made room in the 700 acres of peaches, wines and table grapes, nectarines and plums he grows for a test plot of a new variety of nectarines.

“We’re on board, the retailers are big time on board, too, with some of the new varieties that are out there,” Tregunno said.

While the trees being tested on his land are not expected to bear fruit until next year, he said this past winter will be a good indicator of their heartiness.

Tregunno said growers should take advantage of the buy-local movement by adapting to consumer wants. Fruit produced locally is far more tasty than that which is imported, he said.

“The taste is remarkably different than a product that has been on the road for 10 days.”

rob.houle@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: RobH_Twitter

Growers, orchards wanted

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre’s Michael Kauzlaric said he is looking for growers within Niagara to take on 50 to 100 plum, nectarine or apricot test trees. There is no cost to the growers for the trees. Anyone interested or wanting more information can call Kauzlaric at 905-562-0320, ext. 755 or e-mail him at michael.kauzlaricatvinelandresearch.com

This article is courtesy of The St.Catharines Standard You can find the original article here: http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2015/03/19/adapting-to-consumer-tender-fruit-wants

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