A research program for obtaining new varieties of mandarins with red pulp and without seeds, meeting the tastes of the consumer, has been launched by CREA. With its Center for Olive, Fruit and Citrus Growing, it has already created five unique mandarins, Tacle, Mandared, Early Sicily, Sun Red and Red Sunset. This research center alone has developed more than a dozen red-fleshed oranges grown in Italy on about 40 thousand hectares.
"Over the past 15-20 years, the international interest in red-fleshed citrus fruits has increased because of their health benefits," said to ANSA the CREA researcher Marco Caruso. "In China, for instance, the number of hectares cultivated with blood orange has increased from 7 thousand to 30 thousand in 12 years, by using exclusively varieties of Italian origin."
The reddish color of the fruit is a result of the presence of anthocyanins, antioxidants that provide pigmented oranges and tangerines with greater health properties than citrus fruit with blond pulp. The variety produced by CREA "accumulates anthocyanins 3 times more than the Moro orange. Such high antioxidant properties are found in the Sun Red mandarin that can also be used for juices with high health benefits," explained the researcher.
CREA has signed agreements with the Producers' Organizations in Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Apulia to test the adaptability of new varieties in different environments, since the accumulation of anthocyanins changes with the variation of the cultivation environment and is strongly correlated to the hours of cold. The aim of this collaboration is also to evaluate market strategies, by reserving to producers a preferential lane for commercial management.
"This is one way to foster competitiveness and speed up the innovation process of the product, since it takes no less than 15 years to obtain a new variety," concluded Caruso. This work on improving the variety of red-fleshed oranges has also allowed us to extend the production and marketing period, to the point where these citrus fruits are now available from December to May.