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The Apple in the World:

Italy: Kurt Werth on the European apple sector

"The Apple in the World" International Congress will take place in conjunction with Interpoma, from Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 November 2012 in the Fiera Bolzano Exhibition Centre.

The agenda for the first day will focus on production, sales strategy and consumption; the second day will be devoted to soil fatigue, and the third to updates on research and genetic improvements. The following is Fiera Bolzano asking Kurt Werth, the congress curator, for more information.

Mr. Werth, among the speakers at the Interpoma Congress, which one would you most regret having to miss?

Kurt Werth: I think that all the contributions programmed for the first day will be extremely interesting, and especially the round table featuring representatives of the eight most important apple growing regions in Europe, namely South Tyrol, Trentino, Altes Land, Lake Constance, Benelux, France, Poland and Styria. Speakers will discuss the economic situation of apple-growing companies and how their commercial dimension is organised. They will debate the state of health of the fruit & vegetable sector in general and of its companies and their organization in particular, as well as forecasting prospects for the coming five years. This round table ought to be one of the highlights of the whole "The Apple in the World" congress.

Desmond O'Rourke, an American speaker, will speak on global trends in production, sales and consumption. What do you have to say about current trends?

Kurt Werth: We hope to find out more from the speech of Desmond O'Rourke, the author of the annual "World Apple Report" and widely considered one of the most authoritative experts in his field. I can certainly point out some notable changes: the performance of South Tyrolean apples, for example, shows a clear increase of sales to North Africa and a clear decrease in sales to Germany.

What about changes in production patterns?

Kurt Werth: Significant new apple growing areas have been established in southern Russia, Georgia, the Caucuses and Azerbaijan. O'Rourke will explain what the short term effects on production and sales will be. Consumption won't change much, but the factors influencing it - such as the economic crisis - will: we shall see whether consumers will continue to buy the same amount of apples as before.

We don't know whether apple production can maintain its past levels, since this will depend in part on soil fatigue. An important subject.

Kurt Werth: Absolutely. We believe that from a technical viewpoint this is a highly important matter, and we have consequently dedicated the congress's second day to it. Apples have been widely grown in South Tyrol for four or five generations now: soil fatigue takes place when you grow the same plants in the same place for years. In some places we're already seeing a fall in growth and profits, and this is going to get worse if we continue to plant trees underneath the same anti-hail structures in the same places. This subject will be explored in detail by various highly qualified speakers that we have invited to our congress.

A subject that concerns fruit growers above all…

Kurt Werth: True, but not only them. It's also an issue for researchers and soil scientists.

The convention's third day will focus on developments in research and genetic improvement. Among other things, red pulp apples will be discussed, right? Does such a thing already exist?

Kurt Werth: In the apple growing sector, red pulp is not a new phenomenon. Various varieties have been planted and are being observed: they're very good looking but don't have much taste. Before long this kind of apple will start being cultivated: it will be a niche product, but interest is growing.

Another contribution will focus on the long term multigenetic resistance of new apple varieties through the use of Cis-Genesis. What exactly is this?

Kurt Werth: Cis-Genesis involves gene transmission from apple to apple but not from other life forms to apples. This is a subject that will play an important role in varietal development in the future.

In what sense?

Kurt Werth: For example: a gene from a scab resistant variety could be transferred to a traditional variety and so cut down drastically on major antiparasitic treatments. While remaining the same apple variety.

In the “Novelties in research and genetic improvement” session, a study concerning apples and their components in cancer prevention will be presented. Are apples effective in this?

Kurt Werth: I can't wait to hear this subject discussed, because I don't know anything about it. Some fruit experts commissioned a study and its results will be presented during the Interpoma congress.

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