New nectarines guarantee fruit supply for longer to consumers

The three cultivars have ripening periods that complement each other, guaranteeing production from the end of October to the end of December

22.01.2024 | 16:21 (UTC -3)
Francisco Lima
Photo: Paulo Lanzetta
Photo: Paulo Lanzetta

Three new nectarine cultivars were launched together to provide producers with fruit availability in orchards for longer. Developed by the Stone Fruit Genetic Improvement Program, led by Embrapa Clima Temperado (RS), the varieties BRS Cathy, BRS Dani and BRS Janita have ripening periods that complement each other, guaranteeing production from the end of October to the end of December.

“In general, we launch one cultivar at a time, because it takes an average of five years for them to be adopted and actually reach the market. But these were launched together because they have the common characteristics of being sweet, with low acidity and with a sequence in maturation”, explains researcher Maria Bassols Raseira, one of those responsible for developing the materials.

Considering the region of Pelotas (RS), where the main field evaluations took place, maturation and consequent harvesting is early and begins at the end of October or at the beginning of November in the case of BRS Cathy. Subsequently, BRS Dani can be harvested from the second half of November and BRS Janita from the second week of December. The focus of the fruits is for the fresh market.

Availability of seedlings

Currently, five producers have already been licensed to multiply the materials. The seedlings should be available to the production sector starting next year. The list of suppliers can be found on the page for each cultivar on the Embrapa portal or in this document.

The expectation is that in the next two to three years, the research will make three more varieties of nectarine trees available. In 2018, the white-fleshed variety BRS SCS Nina was launched, in partnership with the Agricultural Research and Rural Extension Company of Santa Catarina (Epagri), to meet part of the need for cultivars adapted to cultivation in Brazil. With future launches, Embrapa should make seven varieties available to the production sector by 2026.

Characteristics of fruits and plants

BRS Cathy and BRS Dani produce white-fleshed fruits, with a cream-colored skin and a mostly red coating; BRS Janita produces yellow-fleshed fruits, with a greenish-yellow skin and a predominantly red coating. The first two varieties have fruits with an average weight of between 80 g and 100 g. BRS Janita increases this average to between 90 g and 110 g. 

In terms of productivity, BRS Cathy starts at 15 tons per hectare (t/ha), and can exceed 20 t/ha, depending on the growing region and orchard management. The BRS Dani and BRS Janita varieties, in turn, have an average productivity of around 20 t/ha and can also exceed this mark depending on the production context.

Photo: Rodrigo Franzon
Photo: Rodrigo Franzon

The evaluations were carried out for more than 15 years in experimental areas at Embrapa, in Pelotas (RS); for six to eight years in Bento Gonçalves (RS), by Embrapa Uva e Vinho (RS); and in partner producers in the states of the South and Southeast of Brazil. The cultivation recommendation is for the South and Southeast regions of the country. The three varieties have a low need for cold, especially BRS Cathy (200-250 hours of cold), which means that they are better adapted to warmer regions, where there is lower incidence of cold periods (below 7,2º C).

Baptism of cultivars and support from producers

The fantasy names of cultivars tend to be chosen based on important characteristics of the materials, but this time the team decided to recognize people relevant to the breeding work. BRS Cathy pays homage to North American researcher Catherine Bailey, one of the first fruit breeders, who made relevant contributions to world fruit growing; and BRS Janita is a tribute to Janita Moore, wife and supporter of breeder James Moore, by whom Maria do Carmo was guided.

BRS Dani pays a national tribute and recognizes the young Daniel Staloch, currently fifteen years old, who since he was a child has helped his father, Marcos Staloch, in growing peaches and evaluating nectarine selections. “At the time, he was a boy who accompanied us on visits to the Observation Units (OU) on his father’s property. With the tribute to Daniel, we also honor all the producers and partners who have collaborated with us over the years”, adds the researcher.

Daniel's father, Marcos, currently cultivates around eleven hectares of peaches and maintains a nectarine OU, but was awaiting the results of evaluations and launches to invest in nectarine cultivation. The idea is to cultivate around one hectare over the next two years. “With the tribute to Daniel, we also honor all the producers and partners who have collaborated with us over the years”, adds the researcher.

For the president of the Association of Fruit Producers of Pinto Bandeira (Asprofruta), Rubiane Rubbo, the fruit has the potential to grow. “As nectarines don’t have hairs, you don’t need to peel them or use a knife, so I see a lot of potential. We cultivate it and believe in it as a fruit of the future, for children, in snacks… And these varieties that are being launched are sweet, bring practicality and only tend to expand cultivation here in our municipality”, she declares.

Differences between nectarines and peaches

The researcher clarifies that the nectarine is a mutation of the peach and, therefore, belongs to the same species, Prunus persica L.. “Many think it is a cross between a peach and a plum, but it is not”, she comments. The main difference between the fruits is in the skin, as the nectarine has no hairs. Nectarine pulp also tends to concentrate a higher level of soluble solids, that is, it tends to have more sugar. 

In general, nectarine cultivation has grown around the world, while peach cultivation has stabilized, although in Brazil nectarines are not yet very popular. The most recent IBGE data, from 2017, indicates a harvested area of ​​355 hectares, with production estimated at 4,2 thousand tons, in around 280 establishments. The state of Santa Catarina was the largest producer, with 2,1 thousand tons harvested, followed by Rio Grande do Sul, with 605 tons at the time.

According to the most recent data from the Gaúcha Agricultural Radiography 2023, prepared by the Department of Governance of Productive Systems of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Sustainable Production and Irrigation (Seapi) of Rio Grande do Sul, the State is currently home to around 60 hectares of the fruit, in 74 producers. In 2022, the estimated production volume was 950 tons.

The potential for growth in nectarine cultivation would be related to the volume of imports, as, for researchers, this would indicate an increase in demand for the fruit. According to information from the Foreign Trade Secretariat of the Ministry of Development, Industry, Commerce and Services (Secex/MDIC), Brazil imported, on average, 5,2 thousand tons and 6,5 million dollars worth of nectarines annually, considering the last six years. 

Cultivation trend of nectarine trees compared to peach trees

Photo: Francisco Lima
Photo: Francisco Lima

According to the researcher in the area of ​​rural socioeconomics at Embrapa Clima Temperado, Luiz Clóvis Belarmino, the trend in the main peach-producing countries in the West, mainly Spain, has been a change in the type of production and marketing. According to the Fructidor website, which brings together international information on fruits and vegetables, growth in that country was 63% in nectarine production in 2023 compared to the previous year (which did not reach full harvest).

Adding the main producing countries in Europe in 2023 (Italy, Greece, Spain and France), 3,3 million tons of fruit of the Prunus persica species were harvested, classified as nectarines (39%), traditional peaches (30%), pavia (20%) and flat peaches (10%). Regarding nectarines, 1,3 million tons were produced, which represented growth of 16% compared to the previous year. 

According to IBGE, Brazil harvested 208.823 tons of peaches in 2022. “Diversification is already happening abroad and the tendency is for this change to occur here. Our future will be to repeat the consumption habits of North America and European exporting countries, such as Spain”, adds the researcher.

LS Tractor February