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Exciting time ahead for red flesh early mandarins

Early Sicily is one of the many natural hybrid varieties created for the seedless red-flesh mandarin category from CREA (Citrus Breeding Institute) in Italy.

For Australian growers speculating on success by committing to some early significant plantings of the Early Sicily mandarin, these are now approaching the stage where some precommercial volumes will reach the market this season. This has created genuine excitement within this group, and it also recognised the need to start now with organising the harvest to marketing structure, and not when significant volumes arrive in 2 to 3 years’ time.

Significant volumes are expected from current plantings in the Riverland of South Australia and Murray Valley in Victoria over the next 2 to 3 years.

What is unique about this variety (pictured below) apart from the seedlessness, early season maturity and being sweet and juicy with excellent flavour, is the red flesh (anthocyanin) characteristics (pictured below right) found in blood orange when placed under cool storage. 

This provides longer marketing windows to suit changing consumer preferences. 

Fruit at market maturity mid-May.

Flesh developing anthocyanin pigment mid-June.

Horticulture Fresh Australia (HFA), under its parent company ANFIC, have been working with growers to ensure the whole supply chain from growing to promotion and marketing is coordinated across all of their Early Sicily stakeholders since the variety’s release from plant quarantine 18 years ago.

To coincide with the oncoming pre-commercial harvest for this season, a technical field day was recently held in Loxton, South Australia. Present on the day were the Italian variety breeders from Sicily, citrus growers including prospective growers, licensed processer/packers, marketers and exporters. 

The theme of the day was to learn more about how to grow the variety, but also to stimulate discussion amongst the stakeholders on their expectations for the Early Sicily fruit and how to meet the challenges ahead for the coordinated fruit quality marketing strategy throughout the supply chain.

The day provided an opportunity to visit orchards to see best practice with newly planted trees, rootstock selection for certain soil types and to see fruit on trees from a top-worked precommercial block which promotes earlier fruit bearing under commercial conditions to acquire technical expertise sooner for fruit production, processing, and retailing. 

To complement the technical field day was a workshop hosted by HFA/ANFIC (figure 3), where open and confidential discussions could take place between growers, packers and marketers to share their thoughts on the best approach for premium and sustainable returns of the variety for all stakeholders.

Field visits to gain insight to best practice and sharing of ideas including the Italian breeders from CREA.

Breeders of the Early Sicily variety from CREA in Italy, Marco Caruso and Giuseppe Russo (pictured far top left) also provided some key information on the variety’s characteristics for production and marketing, which included their observations on the quality traits of the fruit grown under Australian conditions.

Presently the Early Sicily variety performance is very promising, and the site selection choices have appeared to work favourably, where growers in the program have tried to ensure rootstock selection matches soil types and growth pattern to achieve desired marketable attributes.

HFA/ANFIC hosted a workshop with stakeholder participation

To show HFA’s commitment to the success of the program, it is currently running the second year of a three-year post-harvest research trial, to provide key information on cultural practice strategies, which will ensure high quality fruit will reach the consumer for economic and sustainable returns to the grower.

Early Sicily (C1867) is managed in Australia by ANFIC under Plant Breeders Rights protection and is released to growers under a coordinated production/marketing group. 

For more information:
Anfic
Tel: +61 734919905
Email info@anfic.com.au 
www.anfic.com.au  


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