To meet the changing needs of the marketplace and the challenges of new pests and diseases, the B.C. tree fruit industry has received $3.2 million in federal funding for research into new varieties of apples and cherries and handling and growing issues.
The funding announcement was made in a two-year-old planting of Staccato cherries on an orchard in the Belgo area of Kelowna, a variety that was developed at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre in Summerland and was commercialized by the Plant Improvement Company.
PICO is wholly-owned by the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association and will administer the new funding.
PICO president and Summerland grower Keith Carlson noted that 80 per cent of the new cherry varieties being grown around the world now are varieties like Staccato, Sweetheart, Lapin, Sentennial and Sovereign, that were developed here in the Okanagan.
Some new varieties handled by PICO are privately-owned, like the Ambrosia apple, which was discovered by the Mennell family in Cawston, he noted.
“In the world sense, we’re (the industry) relatively small, so we have to move quickly. If we’re first with new varieties we get the benefits from them,” he explained.
The funds were announced by government house leader Peter Van Loan and Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan, who noted there have been many changes in the industry and in the world, and growers have to adapt to continue to be competitive.
Van Loan agreed it’s important the industry innovate for long-term growth and profitability.
Apples and cherries are responsible for more than 80 per cent of farm gate value in Canadian tree fruits.
Projects to be funded include an ongoing apple and cherry new variety breeding program at PARC as well as research into apple storage characteristics for new varieties, an evaluation of cherry handling techniques, work on replant issues, research into new pests and consumer research.
The funding will carry on from Growing Forward funds which ran out at the end of March for some of this research, and will be used over the next five years.