"The pomegranate harvest started a few weeks ago and the early varieties such as Smith and Acco were the first to go," said Gaetano Tirrò, a professional pomegranate grower.
"Compared to last year, the delay is about 15 days, because in 2020 we started harvesting in the last week of August, whereas this year the Acco variety matured only a two weeks ago (photo 1). The variety is more sensitive to the Alternaria ssp that causes black heart (photo 2) compared to the other varieties Wonderful, Parfianka, Mollar de Elche, Valenciana and Etna."
Photo 1 - Acco variety
"Alternaria infections usually start after rain during flowering and fruit development. The fungus can grow inside the fruit without showing any symptoms on the outside. Infected fruits are generally lighter, and the skin may be slightly discolored, such as lighter red. In the later stages of infection, the kernels become brown and black spores may be observed inside the fruit. In advanced stages of internal decay, the outside of the fruit shows some wilting. An effective system to control this pathogen is still being sought and there are promising results from trials of Isopyrazam 12.5% and Difenoconazole 12.5% w/v (250 SC) (Suresh D. Ekabote 2021). However, currently the use of these active substances is not allowed on pomegranates."
Photo 2 - Alternaria ssp
"The only option is a copper-based plant protection product and the application of good cultivation practices in the orchard, starting with dust control and hygiene to reduce the incidence of the disease. Also, the tree should be shaken gently at harvest to ensure that infected and unhealthy-looking fruit do not fall to the ground. Phenomena such as water stress and over-watering should be avoided, and the pomegranates should be carefully sorted and classified according to discoloration."
Pomegranate granita - photo 3
"The price for the first batches of Smith and Acco varies between €0.70 and €0.90 per kilo. As for the Wonderful variety, harvesting will start around 10 October and the prices are not yet known, as the contracts and therefore the selling price have not yet been set. In the coming days, we will have a clearer picture of the situation and I hope that this price will be higher than last year's €0.15 per kilo. This was a ridiculous amount that barely covered the costs of harvesting, transportation and processing."
Pomegranate jam - photo 5
"We also make pomegranate juice and jam and that gives this fruit even more possibilities. The pomegranate granita (photo 3 ) was a surprise that appealed to consumers, while the hotel and catering industry was very interested in the jam for food pairings with cheese and salami (photo 5)," concluded Tirrò.