An apple resistant to climate change?
The first apple tailored specifically for growing in hot climates has been released from the New Zealand-Spain collaborative Hot Climate Programme. The apple, which might be the first that’s resistant to climate change, could begin growing in Australia as soon as next year.
“HOT84A1” is a mid-season, partial red-skinned sweet apple with a lightly crisp and very juicy texture. The first commercial trees will be planted in early 2021 on the Iberian Peninsula by Spanish growers Fruit Futur. A global network has been developed by strategic commercialisation partner T&G Global, with partners including Montague in Australia, Waimea Nurseries in New Zealand and TopFruit in South Africa.
“It’s really exciting to see the first variety enter its commercialisation phase,” says Dr Richard Volz from Plant & Food Research, one of the partners in the Hot Climate Programme. “Breeding new varieties of apples and pears takes time. A new commercial variety is the culmination of years of testing to make sure we have a tree that produces fruit people want to eat, that we can grow and store the fruit in a way that will ensure the eating experience is consistent, and that growers can manage their orchards appropriately.”
The Hot Climate Programme develops new apple and pear varieties adapted to high temperature growing areas, and was initiated in 2002. At this time, growers in Spain, particularly in the Catalan region, had begun to experience issues with traditional varieties – the fruit was increasingly produced with low red colouring, sunburn, soft flesh textures and higher-than-average incidence of storage disorders. It was recognised that other apple and pear producing regions would begin to experience these issues as the global climate continued to change, and that varieties developed for these niche environments would be in increasing demand worldwide.
It’s taken researchers almost 20 years to develop HOT84A1, and the apple has been created to be able to withstand the hottest and driest climates while still keeping its red skin and crispness. Most apples don’t develop a red colouring or crunchiness when they’re grown in areas where there are hot temperatures. The apple is now in quarantine here in Australia, and it’s hoped that growers can begin trialling the new fruit here next year.