Hawaii to lead on tropical fruit research

By Philippa Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agricultural research service Fruit

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has opened a research
center in Hawaii aimed at finding new ways to grow tropical crops

The $19-million, 35,000-square-foot office and laboratory structure is part of the US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, which is run by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). "Our researchers will develop new, environmentally-friendly ways for Hawaii's growers and home gardeners to raise premium tropical and subtropical crops - from bananas to papayas,"​ said Edward Knipling, an ARS administrator. "USDA research in the Hawaiian Islands dates back more than 100 years,"​ he added. "We're pleased to have this well-designed, state-of-the-art building in which to continue this tradition of discovery. The research benefits growers and everyone who enjoys the fruits, vegetables, flowers and other crops of Hawaii."​ He said that the new facilities were important to allow scientists extend the research already carried out in Hawaii, which he claimed had "helped reduce the need for pesticides, opened new markets for Hawaii-grown fresh produce and unlocked secrets about genes that hold the key to boosting plants' ability to survive drought or resist attack by disease."​ In recent years, scientists working in Hawaii have succeeded in creating papaya plants that resist attack by the papaya ringspot virus and helped develop technologies to control the spread of tropical fruit flies, according to the USDA. Scientists in Hawaii have refined the so-called "hot-forced-air"​ treatment used in packinghouses, which means that papayas shipped from Hawaii are free of living fruit flies and can be sold as premium products to food companies in the US and elsewhere. The new scientific facility is located about four miles from downtown Hilo in a science and technology park managed by the University of Hawaii-Hilo. Tropical fruits and flavors are a growing high-value market for food producers, as the Flavors and Ingredients Outlook 2007 report,​ published by Packaged Facts, highlighted earlier this year. It predicted that exotic fruits and flavours - especially pomegranate, acai, gogi berry, guarana, mangosteen, camu camu, cupuacu , mango and lychee -​ would be more in demand from US consumers as they covet bigger and bolder tastes.

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