NOTES FROM SFA Gardens
By David Creech, Ph.D.
Is Kiwifruit the Next Texas Gold? A FEW MONTHS AGO, an email
arrived asking if I’d like to spend a week in Chile touring the kiwifruit industry. I replied, “Let me think about it, yes!” The invitation came from the owners of Miko Asia, Ltd., Ross and Colin Stevenson and Murray Malone. This global kiwifruit growing/import/ export/marketing business is based in Auckland, New Zealand, with offices and interests worldwide, including Chile. They have been visiting the Southern Gulf of the U.S. for several years, most lately Texas. The modest success of golden kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) plantings in Alabama and our small research planting at SFA Gardens in Nacogdoches has lured them to the Gulf South. Armed with climate models, spread sheets, and decades of experience, they hope to find a possible sweet spot in Texas for a significant commercial venture. We are coconspirators for a Texas golden kiwifruit world. Of course, what drives the excitement is money. With high management and a $2.99 per-pound retail value and potential production in the range of 40,000 pounds per acre, it’s easy to understand the interest in golden kiwifruit production. You do the math. SFA Gardens has had a tortuous path into kiwifruit research with our first planting in 2011, first crops in 2014, and good crops three out of the past five years. For the past three years, we’ve
TNLA Green May/June 2019
Dori golden kiwifruit
been fortunate to partner with Tim Hartmann at Texas A&M University to secure funding via a Texas Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops block grant, and we enter 2019 with research plantings in Morris, Smith, Nacogdoches, Brazos, Caldwell, and Waller counties. Another planting is
planned for Jasper County in 2020. Our variety picture is limited to three golden kiwifruits: Golden Dragon, Golden Sunshine, and Gulfcoast Sunshine, and those three came to us via Jay Spiers, Ph.D., associate professor of horticulture at Auburn University. All three are patented by