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Celina – Changing the South African pear industry

Plant breeders agree that a cultivar that changes the industry as we know it, only comes along once a decade at best. Stargrow Fruit Marketing is confident that this new blushed pear called Celina is such a revolutionary variety and that innovative producers wanting to expand their blushed pear portfolio, should consider this newcomer.

Celina, with its large beautiful blushed fruit, was developed in Scandinavia by Graminor and SLU Balsgård. Its first harvest was in 2001 and was brought to South Africa in 2005. The variety was established for evaluation in 2007. Celina is harvested in early January, about the same time as Williams Bon Chrétien. In terms of the South African harvest calendar, Celina will open the season and be followed by Rosemary, Flamingo, Cheeky and ultimately, Forelle.

Blushed pear cultivars currently available, especially those with an intense red blush and a weight of between 160 and 250 grams, or 65-75 mm in diameter fetch a premium in the marketplace. For most of the cultivars, however, only a small percentage of the harvest fits these criteria.

“Celina can potentially play a key role in the South African pear export programme,” says Stargrow’s Andries van der Westhuizen. “It is one of those varietals that ticks all the boxes.”

Favourable production factors
- Harvest time. Prices for early blushed pears are traditionally high. Celina is harvested before other established pome fruit cultivars, with the exception of Williams Bon Chrétien. Celina’s harvest window will therefore not clash with that of other varieties, which is a great advantage when it comes to labour and infrastructure constraints.

- Fruit size and appearance. An average fruit weight of 202 grams is recorded in experimental orchards. It is an attractive pear with a bright red blush on a green background and prominent lenticels. The shape of the fruit is obviously aesthetically important to the consumer, but it also plays a role in the picking and packing process. This cultivar has a uniform shape that is described as oblong-ovate-pyriform.

- Fertility. There are as yet no commercial orchards that bear fruit in South Africa, but it is evident from the experimental orchards that these trees are productive and precocious. Good fruit set was already seen in the third leaf.

- Cold requirement. The oldest experimental orchard is in the Koue Bokkeveld and in 2013 were the only trees that bore a substantial harvest. The other experimental sites include Grabouw, Greyton, Wolseley and the Witzenberg valley planted in 2011 and 2012. Stargrow hope to see fruit from all these trees in 2014. “Then only can we determine its cold requirements with certainty. We suspect that its cold requirements shouldn’t be higher than those of other Summer pears. It means that it should be suited to almost all pome fruit producing areas in South Africa.”

- Rootstock compatibility. Celina is compatible with standard pear rootstocks, such as BP1 and BP3.

- Cross Pollinators. 10% Conference is being used in Europe and also recommended for South Africa. It is expected that Packham’s Triumph will also be a suitable cross pollinator. This will be confirmed with future research.

- Other qualities. It was also observed that it has a very good stem-to-trunk attachment. “Even with 2013’s windy season, very few fruit were blown from the trees,” says Van der Westhuizen. Furthermore, the blush doesn’t disappear shortly before harvest, as is the case with some of the existing cultivars – even with high daytime temperatures.

Handling and Storage
Celina has a fantastic storage capability, something not common to summer pears. The ARC Infruitec tested its storage ability and recorded successful storage for five months under normal atmosphere circumstances. No wilting was detected around the necks and the internal quality was excellent. After storage the pears were held at 15 degrees Celsius for seven days to test shelf life, during which the background colour changed from green to bright yellow. The pears have not been commercially packed, however the results of the storage tests suggest that the skin is not sensitive to mechanical bruising and chafing.

A receptive market
The most lucrative markets for blushed pears are those in Europe and Scandinavia and are the markets that are to be targeted. During 2013/2014, Fruithandel Wouters and ABCz will be planting 100,000 trees in Belgium, which should give Celina the necessary exposure before commercial volumes from South Africa hit the market. Given its attractive appearance, supermarkets and importers should be keen to receive Celina.

Kobus van der Merwe from ARC Infruitec commented on this variety. “This selection has an excellent appearance, good texture and an above average taste. It shows great storage potential after 20 weeks at -0.5 °C with a good shelf life. It is recommended for the domestic as well as the export market.”

At present, the trees are propagated as fast as possible. There should be 25,000 trees available for commercial planting in 2014 and from 2015 the trees should be freely available.

For more information:
Andries van der Westhuizen
Stargrow Fruit Marketing
Tel: +27 21 880 1882
Mob: +27 82 873 3336

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