Prof Aims to Break Dependency on Imported Fruit

September 02, 2010 - News Release

Peach season is in full swing, and fresh fruit is in demand in Ontario. But many of the fruits sold in the province are imported. A University of Guelph researcher is trying to change that by creating peaches that are more tolerant of colder conditions.

Prof. Jay Subramanian of the Department of Plant Agriculture is developing a series of peach varieties that he hopes will allow Ontario to extend its peach-growing season and serve the fresh-fruit market. (Read more about his research in the Globe and Mail and on the CBC News website).

"Tender fruits such as peaches taste better and have their full aroma and flavour when consumed fresh, as opposed to apples and bananas, where the taste continues to improve after picking," he said. “People are also realizing that the health benefits of these fruits are at their highest when they are consumed fresh.”

Consumption of fresh fruit in Canada has increased by 12 per cent over the past 20 years, according to a recent report by Deloitte and Touche LLP.

Peaches are commonly grown in Ontario’s Niagara Region, where more than 200 producers serve open markets. But like most fresh foods, peaches have a limited shelf life. And in Ontario, the peach-growing season is relatively short compared with other exporting nations.

Subramanian says developing peach varieties that are more resistant to colder temperatures isn’t easy. It takes time because perennial fruits such as peaches have a long breeding cycle of about 15 years. But after several years of breeding, he has created a number of genotypes that are resistant to cold temperatures. The next step is to identify the correct combinations — cold-resistant varieties with rich quality and commercial attributes.

This discovery is important for local growers, who are always searching for better varieties, including those that appeal to different ethnic tastes, he said. Indeed, the Deloitte and Touche report found that demand for fresh fruit is rising as the population ages and becomes more ethnically diverse.

“People from different countries prefer different types of peaches," said Subramanian. North Americans, for example, prefer a yellow-fleshed peach with bright red skin and a lot of stripes or blotches. The Asian market favours a white-fleshed peach with more greenish skin. And Europeans tend to prefer a uniform garnet-skinned peach with minimal stripes.

“I won’t rest until peaches are grown comfortably in the Niagara Region to satisfy both the consumers' demands and the growers’ needs," he said. "(With Niagara) being the fruit bowl of Canada — and perhaps the only region to commercially produce peaches — it’s imperative that the industry remain vibrant to supply the needs of not just Ontarians but as many Canadians as possible.”

This research is supported by the University’s partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Prof. Jay Subramanian
Department of Plant Agriculture
905 562-4141, Ext. 134

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or

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