New tropical fruit varieties to flood US markets
New York, January 17, 2008
New varieties of tropical fruit may soon flood the US mainland, if the work by scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico proves successful.
The ARS team is mainly focusing on bananas and plantains (in the Musa genus), cacao, papaya, beans and sorghum.
The research evaluating Musa germplasm is being led by horticulturist Brian Irish and Ricardo Goenaga.
The team wants to boost yield and obtain high-quality tropical fruit through crop management practices and import them safely into the continental United States.
Though they seem right at home, many exotic fruits studied at the research station come from lands far from Puerto Rico.
“The island's climate and soils, which include 10 of the 12 soil orders recognised globally, provide a unique laboratory for assessing the best ways to develop these crops for commercial production,” Goenaga said.
For instance, US imports of mamey sapote--a cantaloupe-sized fruit prized by the Hispanic community in the US--have been restricted by concerns that it may serve as a host for the West Indian fruit fly.
But studies conducted by TARS entomologist David Jenkins indicate that these insects are unlikely to infest mamey sapote crops produced in Puerto Rico.
The station also maintains a germplasm collection of other exotic tropical and subtropical plants, including sapodilla, Spanish lime, and species of Annona and Garcinia.
According to Irish, the human activity, pests, diseases, weather-related causes and uniformity requirements for dessert bananas have hit the diversity of cultivated bananas.
The germplasm collection at the research centre holds 29 accessions of plantain and 92 accessions of banana, including the popularly-grown cultivars, insect- and disease-resistant cultivars and other previously uncharacterized accessions.
The team is working towards helping the tropical fruit industry expand its trade. They also hope to provide small farms and socially-disadvantaged farmers with alternative high-value crops and effective management practices.