A fruit too far

Kate Mar­shall shares some of the lat­est fruit cul­ti­vars that have been re­leased over­seas – and ex­plains what’s in­volved in get­ting a new va­ri­ety here.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

New fruit va­ri­eties from over­seas – and what’s in­volved in re­leas­ing them here

In the days of the early Euro­pean set­tlers, bring­ing new fruit tree va­ri­eties into New Zealand was as sim­ple as plac­ing an order with a nurs­ery in the UK and then await­ing de­liv­ery via in­ter­na­tional shipping. Of­ten the trees were supplied with the soil in­tact around the roots, wrapped in burlap.

In 1884, the gov­ern­ment re­alised that there was a dan­ger of also un­wit­tingly im­port­ing un­wanted pests and dis­eases this way, so es­tab­lished laws gov­ern­ing the mat­ter, in­clud­ing the Codling Moth Act of 1884 and the Or­chard & Gar­den Pests Act of 1896. Specif­i­cally, the im­por­ta­tion of plants and fruit in­fected with scale in­sects, codling moth, Queens­land fruit fly and phyl­lox­era was banned.

Un­for­tu­nately, all but the fruit fly have now ar­rived (and thrived).

The reg­u­la­tions have since been de­vel­oped fur­ther. Nowa­days, the im­por­ta­tion of most plants is re­stricted to small quan­ti­ties through a quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity. The process helps to en­sure that new pest or­gan­isms don’t piggy-back their way into New Zealand.

The reg­u­la­tions are par­tic­u­larly strict on fruit species, in order to pro­tect our hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try.

Xylella fas­tid­iosa (a bac­te­ria also known as Pierce’s dis­ease), citrus green­ing dis­ease (huan­g­long­bing or HLB) or plum pox virus would be dev­as­tat­ing to the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try and home fruit grow­ers.

Be­cause of the po­ten­tial risks that must be man­aged, bring­ing new va­ri­eties into New Zealand has be­come a costly and lengthy process.

In ad­di­tion, nurs­eries want to be cer­tain when com­mit­ting to im­port­ing a new va­ri­ety that it will be suc­cess­ful in our cli­mate as well as have suf­fi­cient sales po­ten­tial to cover the costs of im­por­ta­tion and de­vel­op­ment. So while a quick Google search might bring up a range of ex­cit­ing fruit cul­ti­vars re­leased over­seas, many will likely never reach our shores.

What’s new over­seas?

We have heard of plum­cots and peach­cots (which are avail­able here), but what about a pea­co­tum, pluerry, nec­ta­plum or aprium? The Zaiger fam­ily in Cal­i­for­nia, US, spe­cialise in hy­bri­dis­ing stone­fruits into novel new fruits which bring out the best char­ac­ter­is­tics of each of their fruit par­ent. Some of these unique fruit va­ri­eties are avail­able in New Zealand, but only to com­mer­cial fruit grow­ers.

How about a grape which tastes just like candy floss? In­tro­duc­ing the ‘Cot­ton Candy’ grape va­ri­ety. After 10 years of breed­ing for bet­ter flavour in grape va­ri­eties, the hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists at Grap­ery in Cal­i­for­nia (spe­cial­ists in grow­ing ta­ble grapes) found this plump, juicy, green va­ri­ety which gives a sweet hit, with­out the guilt. Know­ing they were onto a win­ner, Grap­ery have kept this va­ri­ety to them­selves. So if you want to try this su­per-sweet grape, you’ll have to visit the US dur­ing their short sea­son in Au­gust and Septem­ber.

The pineberry was launched in the UK on April 1, 2010 – and many thought then that it was an April Fool’s prank. But it was no joke. It re­ally is a white straw­berry with red seeds and a pineapple-like flavour.

While this is a new va­ri­ety, white strawberries have been around for hun­dreds of years but were on the verge of ex­tinc­tion. Clever plant breed­ers in Hol­land cre­ated this hy­brid of the tra­di­tional North Amer­i­can red straw­berry ( Fra­garia

vir­gini­ana) and the Chilean white straw­berry ( Fra­garia chiloen­sis).

Keen ur­ban fruit grow­ers will know the range of dwarf peach and nec­tarine va­ri­eties in­tro­duced to New Zealand gar­den­ers by Dun­can & Davies in the 1960s and 1970s, in­clud­ing ‘Honey Babe’ peach and ‘Gar­den De­light’ nec­tarine. There have been fur­ther de­vel­op­ments

Im­port reg­u­la­tions are par­tic­u­larly strict on fruit species, in order to pro­tect our hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try.

with new dwarf va­ri­eties with the same cute, mop­head habit, but with deep pur­ple fo­liage.

Grown in Aus­tralia, UK and the US, the ‘Crim­son Bon­fire’ peach and ‘Sun­set’ nec­tarine were un­for­tu­nately not in­tro­duced here in time to en­joy the pro­tec­tion of the Plant Va­ri­ety Rights (which must be ap­plied for here within six years of the plant’s first sale any­where in the world).

This means that while a nurs­ery in New Zealand could go through the process to im­port these va­ri­eties, it would not hold ex­clu­siv­ity – other nurs­eries could prop­a­gate and sell the plants, so the im­port­ing nurs­ery loses out on the pos­si­bil­ity of re­coup­ing the costs of im­por­ta­tion.

Im­por­ta­tion process

The process of im­port­ing a new fruit va­ri­ety (such as a dwarf ap­ple or unique peach tree) can take 10 years from the time the first plant ma­te­rial en­ters the coun­try. The cost of bring­ing in new va­ri­eties de­pend on the test­ing and quar­an­tine pe­riod re­quired, but would be be­tween $20,000 and $100,000 per va­ri­ety.

And then there are some new va­ri­eties over­seas which can not be im­ported in to New Zealand at all. For in­stance, gar­den­ers might know the ‘Bal­le­rina’ se­ries of colum­nar ap­ple trees which naturally grow into a tall, skinny form. In the US, there is now a small range of colum­nar peach tree va­ri­eties, known as pil­lar peaches. But these won’t reach our shores as the breed­ing used ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion to se­lect the colum­nar gene marker.

So when you are next in the fruit tree aisle at a gar­den cen­tre, per­haps you can ap­pre­ci­ate why the new va­ri­eties are priced slightly higher than ones that have been here a while. And don’t even get me started on how long the plant breeder has taken to de­velop the new va­ri­ety!

The process of im­port­ing a new fruit va­ri­ety can take 10 years from the time the first plant ma­te­rial en­ters the coun­try.

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Pineberry.

Plum­cots.

‘Bal­le­rina’ apples.

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