Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Prof aims to break dependency on imported fruit


September 20, 2010
By University of Guelph

Topics

September
16, 2010 – Peach season is in full swing, and fresh fruit is in demand in
Ontario. But many of the fruits sold in the province are imported. A University
of Guelph professor is trying to change that by creating peaches that are more
tolerant to colder conditions.

September
16, 2010 – Peach season is in full swing, and fresh fruit is in demand in
Ontario. But many of the fruits sold in the province are imported. A University
of Guelph
professor is trying to change that by creating peaches that are more
tolerant to colder conditions.

Jay
Subramanian is developing a series of peach varieties that he hopes will allow
Ontario to extend its peach-growing season and serve the fresh-fruit market.

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“Tender
fruits such as peaches taste better and have their full aroma and flavour when
consumed fresh, as opposed to apples and bananas where the taste continues to
improve after picking,” he said.

“People
are also realizing that the health benefits of these fruits are at their highest
when they are consumed fresh.”

Consumption
of fresh fruit in Canada has increased by 12 per cent over the past 20 years,
according to a recent report by Deloitte and Touche LLP.

Peaches
are commonly grown in Ontario’s Niagara region, where more than 200 producers
serve open markets. But like most fresh foods, peaches have a limited shelf
life. And in Ontario, the peach-growing season is relatively short, compared to
other exporting nations.

Subramanian
says developing peach varieties that are more resistant to colder temperatures
isn’t easy. It takes time because perennial fruits such as peaches have a long
breeding cycle of about 15 years. But after several years of breeding,
Subramanian has now created a number of genotypes that are resistant to cold
temperatures. The next step is to identify the correct combinations –
cold-resistant varieties with rich quality and commercial attributes.

This
discovery is important for local growers who are always searching for better
varieties, including varieties that appeal to different ethnic tastes. Indeed,
the Deloitte and Touche report found that demand for fresh fruit is rising as
the population ages and becomes more ethnically diverse.

“People
from different countries prefer different type of peaches," said
Subramanian. For instance, the North American public prefers a yellow-fleshed
peach with bright red skin and a lot of stripes or blotches. The Asian
population prefers a white-fleshed peach with more greenish skin. Europeans
tend to prefer a uniform garnet-skinned peach with minimal stripes, he said.

Subramanian’s
research is being supported by the university’s partnership with the Ontario
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
.

“I
won’t rest until peaches are grown comfortably in the Niagara region, to
satisfy both the consumers demands and the growers’ needs," he said.
"Being the fruit bowl of Canada – and perhaps the only region to
commercially produce peaches – it’s imperative that the industry remains
vibrant to supply the needs of not just Ontarians, but as many Canadians as
possible.”