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Addressing food scarcity through research

Written by Allison Cooper

As with fashion, consumers are always looking for something new when it comes to fresh fruit. Something to excite the palate, something sensational, something like the Agricultural Research Council’s (ARC) six new fruit cultivars!

ARC stole the show with the recent introduction of extraordinary new varieties of citrus, pear and passion fruit. The ARC Nadorcott, a citrus fruit that contains fewer seeds and has been trade named Clemengold.

Cultivars are plants that are produced for farming.

ARC conducts research and fosters innovation to support and develop the agricultural sector.

With its dedicated fruit research facilities around the country, the ARC is actively involved in breeding new varieties of indigenous citrus and deciduous fruit.

 The ARC’s citrus cultivar breeding programme develops improved young citrus twig cultivars for cooler climates, in response to changing climate conditions.

It focuses mainly on high- quality mandarins and niche market cultivars, to develop seedless, easy peeling fruits with an excellent appearance and flavour.

Its six new cultivars are;

  • a seedless lemon, called Eureka, which is the first and only commercial lemon variety;
  • Valley Gold and African Sunset, attractive, late-maturing mandarins with excellent flavour;
  • ARC Nadorcott, a citrus fruit that contains fewer seeds and has been trade named Clemengold;
  • Sonet, an early-maturing mandarin that has an excellent fruit quality;
  • Cheeky Pear, a blush pear variety that may just be the answer to maintaining a continual supply of South African two colour pears.

Cheeky pear was cultivated in the ARC’s Infruitec-Nietvoorbij research facility. It is also more stable in higher temperatures, compared to other blush varieties which totally lose their colour, and it’s unique in the world.

“We developed the fruit cultivars in response to the demand for fruits that ripen when there is a demand for them in the market,” said the ARC’s chief executive officer Shadrack Moephuli.

With the export of a huge variety of fruit to over 90 countries, South Africa has a reputation for premium quality, consistency and innovation in fruit markets across the globe.

Naturally breeding outstan- ding export quality fruits like these new ARC cultivars is the result of many years of research.

ARC leading the pack in 4IR technologies

The ARC’s mandate is primarily to conduct research and technology development to provide productivity of the agricultural sector.

“South Africa is one of the top fruit producers in the world, competing with California, Australia, Chilli, France and Spain. This is possible only through research, and is what makes South Africa competitive globally,” said Professor Bongani Ndimba, senior research manager at the ARC.

ARC’s mandate is in line with the much talked about fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) which President Cyril Ramaphosa has said is about using research and technology to enhanced food security, better disease management, and cheaper, cleaner and more efficient energy.

The ARC wants to empower smallholder farmers, by providing them with a licence to produce ARC-cultivated fruits and export them to international markets.

“We affirm our commitment to investing our knowledge and expertise to provide solutions for farmers’ challenges and to improve socio-economic conditions for the people, especially those who work
the land,” said Professor Ndimba.