The municipality of Elche has become the world capital of the pomegranate on the occasion of the 4th International Symposium on Pomegranates, held until 22 September in the Congress Centre.
The opening of this event, which includes the participation of more than a hundred scientists from about twenty countries, has served to highlight Spain's important contribution to research on pomegranates at a global level.
From left to right: Ricardo Abadía, director of the Superior Polytechnic School of Orihuela of the UMH; María Teresa Cháfer, General Director of Rural Development and Common Policy of the Government of Valencia; Julián Bartual, director of the Agrarian Experimental Station of Elche and member of the organizing committee; the mayor of Elche, Carlos González; the president of the PDO Granada Mollar de Elche, Francisco Oliva, and the Councillor of Rural Environment, Antonio García.
In this regard, the director of the Agrarian Experimental Station of Elche and a member of the event's organizing committee, Julián Bartual, said that "Spain is at the highest level in the field of research on pomegranates, together with countries like Israel, China, Turkey and India."
From the communications presented, it is clear that most of the work focused on pomegranates in Spain is mainly carried out in the Region of Valencia, namely by the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research (IVIA) and the Miguel Hernández University; and also in the region of Murcia by the CEBAS of the Centre for Scientific Research and the University of Cartagena.
The priority lines of action for the IVIA and the Technology Transfer Service of the Council of Agriculture, Environment, Climate Change and Rural Development mainly address the optimization of irrigation and fertilization, the agronomic behaviour of varieties, the follow-up and control of pests and diseases in the field and post-harvest treatments, as well as the quality and storage of the fruit.
The General Director of Rural Development and Common Agricultural Policy of the Government of Valencia, María Teresa Cháfer, has pointed out that in the Region of Valencia "we have leading researchers addressing the greatest challenges for Valencian agriculture at local and global level" and added that "we are in luck, because our Region was chosen for the most important event in the world, where we have the chance to show our appreciation for the important work carried out by our researchers."
The UMH is also mainly focused on pre-harvest and post-harvest treatments and on nutritional and sensory quality studies, as stated by Ricardo Abadía, director of the Polytechnic University of Orihuela of the Miguel Hernández University.
For its part, the CEBAS-CSIC, in close collaboration in aspects such as irrigation with the aforementioned entities, is also addressing issues related to the health properties of pomegranates. Lastly, the University of Cartagena is focusing its research on issues related to arils and post-harvest treatments.
The president of the Protected Designation of Origin Granada Mollar de Elche, Francisco Oliva.
The president of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Granada Mollar de Elche, Francisco Oliva, highlighted "the high scientific level in our environment and the work of communication, training and transfer of knowledge carried out by different research centres in order to ensure that all these advances will benefit the sector and help improve the quality of Elche's pomegranates, which were granted the PDO in 2016."
In this sense, Oliva pointed out that this congress "will also serve to show the world that we have a unique pomegranate and that we are a leading name worldwide."
Leading position in irrigation
As far as irrigation is concerned, Julián Bartual pointed out that Spain "is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to knowledge of the fruit's water needs and the application of controlled irrigation deficit from a scientific point of view."
The IVIA has supplied an application to technicians and producers that gives advice on irrigation on a weekly basis depending on the agroecological conditions and characteristics of the plot. It is considered important to optimise irrigation water, not only because it is a scarce resource, but also due to its impact from an environmental point of view. It is also considered essential to improve the crop's profitability and guarantee the supply of quality pomegranates.
Furthermore, and thanks to the latest research projects on fertilization, it will soon be possible to offer the sector a computer program able to advise on the crop's needs.
Elche, the world capital of the pomegranate
The Mayor of Elche, Carlos González, who was in charge of officially opening the event, pointed out that "we are enormously satisfied about hosting such an important congress in Elche" and highlighted the importance of pomegranates for the municipality's agro-food sector.
The event "will allow us to improve our knowledge in aspects that are fundamental to improve the production and its quality. In short, it could lead to Elche's pomegranates having more value added and enjoying a greater projection."
Drinking pomegranate juice during a coffee break
For his part, the Councillor for Rural Affairs of the Municipality of Elche, Antonio García, believes that the fact that the international congress on pomegranates is held in Elche "is recognition to the work carried out locally in recent years, which led to the great success that was the granting of the PDO Granada Mollar de Elche."
The 40 municipalities of the PDO account for more than 75% of the national pomegranate production and are the fruit's largest producers in Europe, as well as the first in the world when it comes to the Mollar variety of Elche.
Science, training and field work
During the first two days of the event (19 and 20 September), the conferences have been aimed mainly at scientific professionals, with presentations in English given by respected professionals such as Dr Doron Holland, of the Centre for Agricultural Research of Israel; Professor Zhaone Yuang, of the University of Nanjing, China; Dr Ahsen Isik Özgüven, of the University of Cyprus, and Dr María Victoria Selma, of the Centre for Applied Biology of the Segura CEBAS-CSIC.
On the morning of 21 September, the schedule includes visits to plantations and businesses of the area, while in the afternoon there will be a training session open to producers, technicians and professionals in the sector.
Moreover, there has been an area set aside for exhibitors during the entire congress to allow companies in the sector to promote their pomegranate products, as well as to organise tastings of dishes made with pomegranates.