New Prune Varieties Improve Prospects for Growers and Processors Alike

Brian GermanFruits & Vegetables, Industry

California prune growers will soon have new prune varieties in orchards as the UC Davis Prune Breeding Program announced its latest developments. The UC Yolo Gold and J2N varieties offer unique and enhanced characteristics to accompany the prevailing industry variety, the Improved French prune.

UC Davis Prune Breeding Program Manager Sarah Castro said UC Yolo Gold, a patented gourmet product, has a superior taste to other varieties and has a deep mahogany color. The UC Yolo Gold dries on the tree and maintains an oval shape throughout the growing and drying process.

Castro said that it is larger in size, compared to the Improved French, and that “last year there was a lot of heat damage in Improved French and we’ve seen less heat damage in Yolo Gold.” Additionally, “the flavor is unique and superior to Improved French.”

Speaking on the J2N varieties, Castro said “they’re the future of the prune industry in California.” The J2N prunes are identical in appearance and flavor to the Improved French but offer an improved production cycle.

Prune Varieties

J2N prunes grow on a comparatively smaller tree and can be farmed at a higher density, which could be advantageous to farmers so long as “harvesting technology can keep up,” Castro noted.

The new prune varieties are ready for harvest within two weeks following the Improved French, extending the production season for both growers and processors. The cultivars produce fruit in the first year of planting, which “is really remarkable and it can set a grower up for early crops and early successes,” Castro said.

The J2N cultivar blossoms are also resilient to harsh weather, said Castro. “Even in the years when we had a lot of frost and rain issues, they seem to produce fruit regardless,” she said.

The average prune consumer will not be able to distinguish between the new prune varieties in the J2N series, and Improved French varieties. “It’s really quite an interesting and fun time to be a part of the prune breeding program because we have such great things to offer the industry,” Castro said.

Contributing Author:
Lauren McEwen
AgNet West Intern