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New Prune Varieties Show Promise in Reducing Fruit Drying Costs

2022 is a year of ugly jerks in input costs. Fuel and fertilizer prices are way up. Higher natural gas and labor costs are pushing up drying costs, further reducing net grower returns in what looked to be a good market year. Mechanical pruning and careful production practices (to name a few steps) may help cut costs in the short term in established orchards. In the long run, cutting drying costs and increasing harvest timing flexibility may help prune growers net returns and stay in business. This long-term picture will require developing and field-testing new prune varieties that market like ‘French’ prune but have much lower dry away ratios (2-2.5) and hang longer on the tree without harming dried fruit quality.

The UC Davis Prune Variety Development program, funded by the CA Prune Board, has developed several French-type prune varieties with low dry away numbers (2-2.5). These varieties “dry on the tree” while retaining good fruit quality. Projected savings for grower could be hundreds of dollars per acre in drying costs (see projected costs in the table below). These new varieties can be harvested over a longer time period giving growers more flexibility in managing harvest. More information on new varieties and contact information for UCD Prune Devo program are available on-line.

 Four new, numbered varieties performed well in small trials over several years. These varieties must be field-tested in small plantings (1-2 acres) before a large orchard should be planted. Test trees are available to interested growers. For more information on availability of test trees, contact Sarah Castro (scastro@ucdavis.edu) with UC Davis Prune Variety Devolopment program. 

Projected differences in hauling and drying costs for ‘French’ prune (thinned or unthinned) and a new, unreleased ‘French’-type prune variety (J2N-128). These figures are intended as an example of possible production values.

**This variety selected only as an example. There are four ‘French’ type varieties that show promise.  By Franz Niederholzer, UCCE Farm Advisor, Colusa and Sutter/Yuba Counites

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