A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted Zespri’s search for a kiwifruit with edible or easy-peel skin.
But Michele Hoard, marketing manager of Zespri North America, a division of Mount Maunganui, New Zealand-based Zespri, the exclusive exporter of the country’s kiwifruit, said it’s still very much a work in progress.
“So far no Zespri cultivars we have bred with edible or easy-peel skin have all the other attributes we need to consider them to be commercialized as a Zespri cultivar,” she said.
Those attributes can include taste, storeability and how resistant varieties are to the devastating disease Psa.
Once the company does find a plant that can produce a cultivar with the traits it wants, it will take about a decade to have a budwood ready to graft to commercialize a new variety, Hoard said.
That said, an edible or easy-peel kiwifruit is a very important goal for Zespri.
“Convenience is one of the factors we look to develop in our kiwifruit breeding,” Hoard said. “For consumers, attributes like easy-peel or edible skin cultivars are attractive.”
Zespri and Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand-based science company, run the largest kiwifruit breeding program in the world, using natural breeding techniques, Hoard said.
About $15 million is invested in the program every year by the industry, Plant & Food Research and the New Zealand government.
“Continued investment in Zespri’s new variety breeding program, in partnership with Plant & Food Research, is critical as the New Zealand kiwifruit industry competes in a rapidly-evolving global marketplace,” Hoard said.