1 Jun 2018

Tasty new NZ apricots are on their way

From Country Life, 9:19 pm on 1 June 2018
Apricot on tree.

Photo: AFP

Disappointing apricots could be a thing of the past thanks to the work of Plant and Food Research scientists in Clyde.

They're breeding new apricot cultivars that should be a hit with both consumers and growers.

The scientists at their Clyde Research Orchard are breeding new apricot cultivars that have intense flavour and high sugars even when they are very firm.

There's a long wish-list of ideal attributes for apricots, says plant and food plant breeder Arlene Nixon.

"[Studies have] proven basically that once a consumer has a poor experience they don't buy that fruit again for quite a long time. And that can be your entire season that they are not going to buy that so the internal textures are very, very important."

Ideally, the look of an apricot should make the consumer want to eat it, she says.

"Usually it's a lovely, red-blushed, clean-looking piece of fruit, but it should also emit a little bit of perfume... and then it should be juicy and have high sugars but also enough acid to make it interesting."

No caption

Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

When selecting apricot trees it's not just consumers who need to be kept in mind, Nixon says.

Trees must yield well so growers can make money.

"The grower needs it to be disease-free, (a) nice healthy tree, big firm fruit that will handle shipping. So if you were just all about coming to Central Otago and eating a tree-ripened piece of fruit that's one thing, but actually for the grower to have it on the right day, have it go over a grader, through the packhouse, into boxes and be shipped somewhere requires a little bit more in the way of firmness and  good skin to handle the grader."

A year's cross of parent trees can yield 2,000 seeds and from that, only a couple will be deemed good enough to meet the criteria and become a new variety, she says.

Nixon says it can take up to 10 to 12 years for a promising new apricot tree seedling to be ready for commercial growing.