“Variety is at the heart of the business”

Fruit Today euromagazine interviewed Joan Bonany, manager of the Mas Badia experimental station, integrated within the IRTA operating system, who told us about sustainable intensification, a concept that would seem to be a contradiction in terms

Can you tell us when this station was created?

It was created in 1983 as an initiative by the producing sector of the Girona regions aimed at studying the sector’s requirements right here.

What are its main lines of work on the fruit growing programme?

We have several different aspects. On the one hand, the vegetable material of varieties from other improvement programmes around the world is assessed to check whether any foreign variety can be adapted to the region. And, on the other hand, at IRTA, along with Fruit Futur and Plant and Food Research and ASF, we are developing our own improvement programme for apples, pears and peaches.

To what extent is the choice of a variety a key factor?

Choosing the right variety for the weather conditions where you are established is at the heart of the business. The sector cannot see this as a distant circumstance, but rather as something that concerns it from within. And for this reason we carry out trials with varieties from all over the world, but at the same time, we are looking for our own varieties. All of this is carried out on IRTA’s genetic improvement programme, formed by three associates: IRTA itself, PlantFoodResearch and Fruit Futur (in turn integrated by Actel, Fruits de Ponent, Nufri and the PGI Poma de Girona).

What features should an apple variety have to be successful in the future?

This is a difficult and complicated question. From all the work and projects in the world today, an important trend stands out, and that is that the produce must be resistant to pests and diseases. However, one of the most clarifying points is the one that arose from the ISAFRUIT project in 2012.

This project opts for a firm-textured apple, although not excessively, but above all one that is crunchy and juicy, with a high level of sweetness and a certain degree of acidity, but not too much. The paradigm of this apple would be the HoneyCrispp from the USA.

Which are the varieties most developed at the moment by Mas Badia?

We have pilot trials on three varieties: a snack type, small, red and very juicy. Another variety is a one hundred percent red apple, very sweet and with a very light texture and the last one belongs to the yellow apple types. All of them are in quite advanced phases.

What would the essential point for future development be?

Without any doubt, the key word is sustainability, which in many cases will involve intensifying the use of resources, the use of the inputs. It might seem a contradiction in terms, but there is a worldwide trend towards systems that are more sustainable, which, instead of making them more extensive, will intensify the use of resources. An example could be water: technology is needed to decrease the water footprint. In Girona, together with the apple producers, the GiroReg system has been developed, which has some sensors that send data to the cloud and allow us to analyse the water use. We have saved 25% of water using this technology.

Another example of intensification of resources is that of light, making the trees into flat shapes to ensure that they are easier to be machinable.

Sustainability must be economic, environmental and social

But does Mas Badia have any other goals?

Of course it does. There is a block devoted to all the aspects of crop and quality technology: training and pruning systems, regulation of processes such as setting, thinning, quality, ripening, replanting and irrigation methods.

And we also have an important project at hand, initiated with the Consell Catalán de Producción Integrada, which will be used to reflect on the direction Integrated Production will take in the future.

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