New Fungicide Revolutionizes the California Pomegranate Industry

Untreated vs. Treated

Untreated vs. Treated

In recent years, the California pomegranate industry has grown dramatically. Pomegranates have gained high visibility with the public through a number of health benefits due to some of the fruit’s constituents in preventing cancer. The crop’s recent success was not assured until a fungicide was registered to prevent mold from developing on the fruit in storage. In fact, before the introduction of the fungicide, the pomegranate industry in California was almost destroyed by the mold problem.

“Gray mold, caused by Botrytis cinerea, is a fungal disease that can be a serious threat to the pomegranate industry. In the 1999 and 2000 growing seasons, gray mold destroyed approximately 30% of California’s harvested pomegranates. California pomegranate packers had difficulties storing fruit for two to three weeks, let alone the goal of two to three months of storage that they needed to reach holiday markets from November to January around the world. Costs associated with repackaging, box losses, and price discounts, as well as crop rejections by retailers, almost destroyed California’s pomegranate industry.

In 2001, Scholar, a new postharvest fungicide containing the active ingredient fludioxonil, received a Section 18 emergency exemption registration for use on pomegranate in California. With this, a postharvest treatment was registered on this crop for the first time.

With these treatments, fruit losses due to gray mold were reduced substantially. Thus, in 2003, 5% of the harvested crop was lost as compared to the previous average of 30% lost in 1999 to 2002 when postharvest treatments were either not available (1999 and 2000) or were not widely  used because most packinghouses had not  installed treatment equipment (2001 and 2002). As a direct result, the crop yield (boxes per acre) in 2003 increased by 66.9% and the gross revenue increased by 61.8% as compared to the average yield and average revenue from 1999 to 2002, respectively.

Profitability to the California pomegranate industry was also regained through an extended storage life of the Scholar-treated fruit. Thus, fruit can now be stored for up to five months as compared to approximately one month before use of the fungicide. This now vastly extends the marketing potential of this fruit of passion.”

Authors: Eric C. Tedford (1), James E. Adaskaveg (2), and Alex J. Ott. (3).
Affiliations: (1) Syngenta Crop Protection. (2) Department of Plant Pathology, University of California. (3) California Grape and Tree Fruit League.
Title: Impact of Scholar (A New Post-harvest Fungicide) on the California Pomegranate Industry
Source: Plant Health Progress. February 16, 2005.

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