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plant health centre.

Material at the centre is classified as nuclear (Generation 1).

When it is sent to PICO, it becomes elite (G2).

“If we send wood to a certified nursery, the resulting trees would be at the G3 or foundation level. If the nursery sells those trees, they become G4 certified. Wood from those trees then drops to being non-certified,” Haddrell explained.

To ensure that the PICO orchard remains healthy, trees are tested using an enzyme immunoassay and removed if found to be contaminated. Sterilization of pruning implements after use on each tree helps to prevent accidental spread of virus within the orchard which itself is isolated from other orchards.

PICO works closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to maintain the orchard’s virus-free status. The propagation material supplied by PICO consists of twigs referred to as sticks with several buds on them. If the wood is dormant, it is called scionwood and if active, budwood. “When an order is received, sticks containing at least 10 buds are cut and wrapped in wet newsprint and wax paper and labelled,” Ibuki explained. Orders are stored in cold rooms until pick-up or delivery.

“The orchard is managed to maximize vegetative growth while minimizing fruit production. It’s exactly the opposite of what orchardists do,” Ibuki said.

The largest challenge is predicting what will be the next popular variety in order to have enough material available to growers.

A particularly promising variety is the yet-to-be named variety, SPA493. SPA493, a cross of Splendor and Gala from the PARC breeding program, is a medium sized, bicoloured red-over- yellow apple with crisp, juicy, slightly tart tasting flesh.

It stores well, has good tree structure and is currently being test-grown at six locations in the Okanagan. Research associated with the budwood orchard will account for approximately half of a $3.2 million project to be conducted by PICO to deliver new apple and cherry varieties and commercialize them during the next three years.

“Approximately 75 percent of the funds will come from federal funding and the remainder from growers’

groups and PARC,” said Ibuki, who now holds the newly created position of horticultural research technician for the project. The two main thrusts of the orchard-related work are to do trial testing in fruit-growing regions of Ontario and Quebec in addition to B.C. and to develop more

comprehensive and stricter testing regimes. “Apple and cherry varieties will be tested in B.C. and apples in the east,” Ibuki said.

The basic goal is to

determine the varieties best suited for each geographic location.

In turn this information is anticipated to lead to better returns for growers, greater selection of high quality fruit for the consumer and increased sales of PICO budwood.


Customers receive propagation material from the PICO budwood orchard in the form of sticks with at least 10 buds on each. Here, Nick Ibuki wraps SPA493 sticks in wet newsprint, which will be stored in a cold room until pick-up or delivery.

Even within the tree fruit growing areas of B.C. there is a broad spectrum of growing conditions, ranging from the semi-arid South Okanagan to the cooler, wetter regions in the north part of the valley and the coastal climes on Vancouver Island.

Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula produces most of that province’s fruit, especially soft fruit, but a substantial amount of

apples are grown in other areas such as the Georgian Sound region. Apple growing regions of Quebec include the Eastern Townships, Charlevoix and the Laurentides. All tested varieties will receive rigorous assessments by growers, packers, marketers and consumers. “There will be a more comprehensive approach to evaluation. Whether or not to develop a particular variety will be an industry decision,” Ibuki said.


Wild Goose Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, BC

Stag’s Hollow Winery, Okanagan Falls, BC

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