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last year—to encourage growers to persist with new varieties which can be different to grow and handle than some of the old, traditional varieties of apples. “The value chain approach had never been used in B.C. before. There was a vacuum in starting varieties off. Unlike the supply chain, the value chain is very collaborative. Everyone is involved in the process, so they’ve all got some skin in the game,” Kingsmill explains.

“With the supply chain, it’s controlled by retailers, and it’s all about commodities; it’s commodity-driven.” PICO is not competing with the mainstream, but complements it with this assistance to get new varieties transitioned into the mainstream, he explains. Ultimately, he envisions the new varieties now in PICO’s Born in B.C. program will become mainstream varieties of apples, each with a consumer following and ample details available about the best methods of growing, picking and handling, as well as marketing, he says.

Fresh Fruit Distributors through high-end Lower Mainland retail outlets.

A new initiative by PICO, aimed at providing extension services for growers in the program, was arranging a bus tour of the Auvil Fruit Company Inc. in Orondo, WA, just north of Wenatchee in January. Auvil is an employee-owned, vertically-integrated fruit company that has been growing, packing and selling the delicate Aurora since 2006. (See separate story.) Salish is a red apple, slightly tart, and it displays well with Aurora Golden Gala for retail. Both are well-thought-of in taste panels, notes Kingsmill, right up there with Ambrosia. Another possibility for the future is SPA 628, which he feels is a likely candidate for the program, along with a number of others from the federal breeding program at PARC, not all of which have been identified.

Bob Kingsmill

Funds for the new program come not only from PICO’s royalties on budwood, but also from the Tree Fruit Innovation Fund, and funds have been applied for from the new provincial Buy Local Program.

There are other new varieties in the program, including the Salish, formerly SPA 493, which is another Gala x Splendour cross, so a sibling of Aurora Golden Gala, and Nicola, another sibling from the PARC breeding program. There are about 16 growers involved currently, and the program processed in the order of 300 bins of fruit this year at JIND Fruit Co., selling them through Rob Smith’s BerryMobile

“There’s no shortage of candidates,” he says. Growers get involved simply by testing new varieties. With funding from the federal Developing Innovative Agri- products Program there’s a national testing project underway, where the field-testing of new varieties is controlled and feedback acted upon.

As new varieties are identified by the plant breeders at PARC, they are turned over to PICO for testing and commercialization. “We work to separate the wheat from the chaff,” explains Kingsmill, “with the help of growers. It’s a crap-shoot with new varieties. There are a lot of variables.

“It would be great to have something like an Ambrosia every decade or so.”

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2013


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