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Ongoing project

Selecting and releasing to industry high quality fresh and dried Australian apricots for export and domestic markets (MT12015)

Key research provider: Dried Fruits Australia

What’s it all about?

This multi-industry project is responsible for developing and evaluating new apricot varieties that are locally adapted, through a partnership with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) National Apricot Breeding Program.

For the dried tree fruit industry, this means the delivery of consistent high-cropping varieties of easily handled and processed apricot. The project is aiming for fruit with high total soluble solids (TSS) levels and low dry ratios, to produce a high-quality, attractive dried product in the traditional Australian half-cut style.

For the fresh apricot industry, this means the delivery of varieties that can produce regular crops of robust fruit with a flavoursome eating experience for consumers.

The project continues to select and evaluate the remaining seedlings from the National Apricot Breeding Program, working towards the commercialisation of the best lines.

As the project has progressed, the lines under commercial consideration have been whittled down, with 15 lines progressing into the 2017/18 season based on production advantages. There are a range of evaluations taking place through the project, including grower trials, drying trials, consumer testing and more.

Fruit from the 2016/17 season was entered into drying trials to look at drying ratio, quality and storage ability. Assessment will be ongoing here, with the results of storage trials possibly taking up to two years to come through, as the fruit darkens naturally and heads towards unacceptable quality under the standardised storage conditions of 65 per cent humidity at 25°C.

During the winter of 2017, five consumer sensory panels were performed to compare new dried fruit samples to the industry standard Moorpark. Early analysis of the results has suggested most were comparable to, if not better than, Moorpark in overall liking by consumers.

The project continues to select and evaluate the remaining seedlings from the National Apricot Breeding Program, working towards the commercialisation of the best lines.

As part of the testing fruit from the 2016/17 season, consumer sensory panels were used for fresh fruit, looking at overall eating experience, flavour and sweetness, as well as toughness of skin, firmness of flesh, and sourness. This work compared apricot lines from the project with lines from a different period of the breeding program, and with two commercial varieties. Four of the project lines rated as ‘excellent’ in the testing, others also promisingly outperformed the commercial varieties, while for others insight was given – such as the need for longer time in cold storage, or pre-conditioning to lower acid levels.

Combined, all evaluation results of this latest season (including agronomic testing) have led to the removal of eight lines from the project, allowing more resources to focus on the now 16 lines remaining under commercial consideration.

Now in its third year, the project continues to select and evaluate breeding program varieties.

  • Results from previous seasons led to 14 of the 37 remaining lines being removed back in July 2016 – leaving more resources to focus on the 23 lines that are delivering good results for agronomic quality, fresh post-harvest handling and test drying.
  • The researchers report that early indications for the 2016/17 season appear good.
  • An extensive bee exclusion netting program to determine self-compatibility was to be implemented for the spring bloom period of 2016.
  • Commercial numbers of trees are also being trialled in partnership with commercial growers.

Details

This project is a multi-industry strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Dried Tree Fruit and Summerfruit Funds.