Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) are exploring pomegranates as a possible cash crop for the Sunshine State. Ali Sarkhosh, assistant professor at UF, recently updated growers on some promising varieties for Florida.
According to Sarkhosh, pomegranates with red or dark red skin that have red or dark red arils (the flesh inside the pomegranate) do the best in the market. As for taste, sweet or sweet and sour are desired. So, producing a variety that meets all these requirements will be key for Florida growers.
Right now, Ariana, Girkanet and Vietnam varieties are showing promising fruit-quality results for Florida production. However, an area of concern for Sarkhosh is yield. “We need to do a little more research because the quality is one side; then the yield is another,” he explains. “We have some varieties that produce good quality, but the yield isn’t there. So, it’s hard to recommend a good variety for Florida.”
Sarkhosh also wants to find out what market window Florida pomegranates could fall in to. Ideally, he hopes Florida growers could begin harvest at the end of July and finish before California pomegranates hit the market. California’s climate is much more suitable for pomegranate production, which would make it difficult for the Florida-grown product to compete.
Sarkhosh has been working with a grower on the three most promising varieties, but on a very small scale. He says he is working on getting more funding for the pomegranate research. Sarkhosh hopes pomegranates can be grown commercially in Florida, but research needs to be done on a bigger scale to make that happen. “Hopefully we will continue our research to see how many pounds of fruit we can get from these varieties that seem promising, to see if it can be commercialized,” he says. He also wants to put some funds toward grower education so they can learn how to grow the crop.
Sarkhosh thanks his colleagues (Gary Vallad, Shinsuke Agehara and Zhanao Deng) at the UF Gulf Coast Research and Education Center that have been working with pomegranates.
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