Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Queen Garnet Plum Variety has Extra Nutrition

This post follows on quite well from the previous one, and does provide some answers as to why, and what can be the fantastic outcomes from agricultural research and development.

There is no doubt that for urbanised populations, the role of the nutracetical is a rising issue. Eat well and combat all sorts of issues from vitamin depletion to avoiding cancer to increased libido......nutraceticals offer hope, at a price.

Why shouldn't agriculture also join this group? There is already at least one publicly listed company here in Australia in a quest for market development with a strong nutracetical product, based on agricultural wastes. Doesn't a new fresh plum offer something a bit special? Eat fresh fruit and become extra healthy too?

This current new fruit tree has some serious potential. And yes, as someone has already observed, it will be grown overseas too. Just that this needs to be better managed to gain maximise potential for Australia. But in reality, barriers to entry sometimes make growing food nearer the market desirable, not to mention the seasonality of production for the fresh market, and that particular niche is very, and increasingly, important in some regions........that bogy of "food miles" can suface, and derail marketing. So why not develop production close to the market??

This is a VERY interesting new fruit variety, and the push to rapidly develop adequate fruit supplies will be vital in reaching a critical mass for marketing purposes. An area that often can be the failure point for new varieties, especially for slower developing tree fruits.

Partner for queen of plums given thumbs up

A commercial agreement has just been signed for a plum bred by Queensland scientists that could help fight the effects of aging and lifestyle diseases.

The Bligh Government has partnered with Nutrafruit Pty Ltd to see the Queen Garnet plum produced as a high-antioxidant fresh fruit variety and as a nutraceutical ingredient.

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland Tim Mulherin said the plum’s major drawcard was its high levels of anthocyanin-the antioxidant responsible for giving the fruit its rich, garnet-red colour. “Researchers have determined that one glass of Queen Garnet plum juice contains as much antioxidants as drinking two small glasses of red wine, six cups of tea or 12 glasses of orange juice,” Mr Mulherin said. “Research suggests that high levels of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, can help reduce the inflammation that is an underlying cause of certain cancers, heart disease and neurological degenerative disorders.
“The compounds have been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth in several studies overseas."
“Anthocyanin levels are two to five times higher in Queen Garnet than other red-flesh plums, and between 10 and 30 times higher than in yellow plums.”

Nutrafruit director Hugh Macintosh said apart from investing in research into the health benefits of the plum, the company had other big plans for the fruit. “We are looking at processing the plum as a high-antioxidant ingredient for health drinks and related products, and as other nutraceuticals, such as vitamin tablets,” Mr Macintosh said. “Because the fresh plum is currently only available for about one month on the market, processing it into a range of health products would allow a year-round supply. “It also opens up export options to markets, which currently have trade restrictions on stone fruit, but not on processed products." “We’re currently conducting a small trial on ready-to-drink Queen Garnet juice products and our ultimate plan is to get the juice products into large chain and health-food stores."

Department of Environment Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) principal experimentalist Dougal Russell said researchers were continuing work on other healthy plum breeding lines, as the commercial agreement with Nutrafruit extended to include collaborations through future research.

“Our breeding program here in Queensland is in a selection phase where we are identifying other new high-anthocyanin plums,” Mr Russell said. “The aim is to increase the harvest window by developing a suite of high-antioxidant fresh-market and processing plum varieties that ripen from December through to March. “Queen Garnet is a plum that can be multiplied and grown in an orchard easily rather than hiking around a mountain in the Andes picking berries. “Growing Queen Garnet fruit for processing also has many advantages for primary producers." “There are no grading or sorting issues and little waste – 95 per cent or more of the crop will be used, against 60 to 70 per cent when growing for first-grade quality." “Fruit can also be frozen and processed when more convenient.”

There are currently 13,000 to 14,000 Queen Garnet plum trees dedicated for juice production planted around Australia and the same amount is expected to be planted in June/July this year, with a further 60,000 trees to be planted in 2011.

The fruit will also be grown offshore, with growers in Spain negotiating to produce process-quality fruit.

In addition to its high-antioxidant levels, Queen Garnet is known to have a delicious taste, with excellent size, colour and flavour, and it stores extremely well.

Some limited volumes of fresh fruit will be available in markets in 2011.

Nutrafruit is currently in negotiations with companies in New Zealand, South Africa, France and the United States interested in establishing fresh market production of Queen Garnet.

For more information on DEEDI’s fruit and vegetable breeding programs, visit au and click on ‘Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’ in the ‘Innovation’ box.

[ partially sourced from on-line resources of Qld Country Life and QDEEDI]

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