Mainland Markets for Tropical Fruit
By Ann Perry
January 9, 2008
New varieties of tropical fruit may soon make landfall on the U.S.
mainland, thanks to work by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service
(ARS) in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. They are
using crop management practices to increase yield and obtain high-quality
tropical fruit that can be imported safely into the continental United States.
Though they seem right at home, many exotic fruits studied at the ARS
Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS)
come from lands far from Puerto Rico. The island's climate and soils, which
include 10 of the 12 soil orders recognized worldwide, provide a unique
laboratory for assessing the best ways to develop these crops for commercial
For instance, U.S. imports of mamey sapote--a cantaloupe-sized fruit
prized by the Hispanic community in the United States--have been restricted by
concerns that it may serve as a host for the West Indian fruit fly. But studies
conducted by TARS entomologist
Jenkins indicate that these insects are unlikely to infest mamey sapote
crops produced in Puerto Rico.
The station also maintains a germplasm collection of other exotic
tropical and subtropical plants, including sapodilla, Spanish lime, and species
of Annona and Garcinia.
Large-scale cash crop research at TARS focuses on bananas and
plantains (in the Musa genus), cacao, papaya, beans and sorghum. Horticulturist
Irish and research leader
Goenaga are conducting research evaluating Musa germplasm.
Human activity, pests, diseases, weather-related causes and uniformity
requirements for dessert bananas have diminished the diversity of cultivated
bananas. The TARS germplasm collection holds 29 accessions of plantain and 92
accessions of banana, including popularly grown cultivars, insect- and
disease-resistant cultivars and other previously uncharacterized accessions.
TARS researchers want to help the tropical fruit industry expand its
trade. They also hope to provide small farms and socially disadvantaged farmers
with alternative high-value crops and effective management practices.
about the research in the January 2008 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.