Sep 10, 2020
New Australian plum varieties to be marketed in U.S.

A trio of Australia-bred, Japanese-type plum varieties will be marketed to U.S. growers as an opportunity for growth.

Sweetah, Queen Garnet and Vitaplum have been selected by the Associated International Group of Nurseries (AIGN) to be shared with its members for global commercialization, the company recently announced. AIGN has contracted with the varieties three separate owners to provide global management and marketing services.

Packaged together, the varieties offer growers the possibility of harvesting three new varieties in succession, with 4-6 weeks between maturity times, said Gavin Porter, CEO of AIGN and the Australian Nurserymen’s Fruit Improvement Co. Ltd.

“While we have seen the release of new plum varieties over many years and the introduction of brands to try and differentiate these new plums in the market, the challenge has always been breeding enough plum varieties with different maturity dates and very similar fruit quality and fruit characteristics to meet these brand expectations,” Porter said. “A single plum variety in a single fruit growing area will harvest over a one- to two-week period, so to meet the length of the plum growing season, you need at least five to six varieties. This is a challenge for any breeding program.”

Multiple new plum varieties, with complementary harvest timing, superior storage ability and (in Vitaplum and Queen Garnet) almost identical fruit quality characteristics grown in a range of early to late growing areas could create renewed interest in plums, Porter said.

Related: Australia’s Plum Varieties: The Big Three››

The U.S. crop has seen little growth in recent years. While the category’s total value of utilized production went up about $1 million from 2017, almost reaching $116 million in 2019 due to a price increase, total U.S. production decreased 16 million tons. The average yield per acre dropped to 6.77 tons per acre from 7.86, according to statistics from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Sweetah, Queen Garnet and Vitaplum would be released through “coordinated marketing” groups, which Porter said is the best way to manage these new varieties to meet the expected royalty requirements of the variety owners. It’s also the only way to manage a global program with coordinated imports and exports, he said.

While Queen Garnet has been in commercial production in Australia, the other two have been in semi-commercial production, Porter said. In the U.S., some growers are trying out Queen Garnet plum, but no growers have the other two yet.

“These are all Japanese-type plum varieties, with higher fruit quality characteristics, but experience the same disease and pest tolerance as most other Japanese plum varieties,” he said. “We have used mainly standard plum rootstocks, Marianna or Myrobolan, and it would be expected the same will be used globally. In certain situations, there may be additional trials done with semi-dwarfing or disease tolerant rootstocks, but … this will be planned in the future.”

New marketing names for the different plums, along with artwork, would also likely have to be decided in the future, Porter said.

“These were some initial Australian trademark names which will not be applicable to all other territories,” he said. “New trademark names, marketing materials and artwork will be developed as part of the global marketing strategy. It is too early in the commercialization process for these to be have been developed as yet. It’s very early days in the global commercialization process but I am sure the initial interest received, especially for high health plum varieties managed in a coordinated manner globally, is of great interest to some growers.”

— Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor


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