New mandarin variety woos consumers

Leanri new mandarinFollowing deregulation of the South African Citrus Industry in 1997, the previously, rather pedestrian pace of citrus farming has changed for growers and has become fast paced with more direct risks and opportunities. Growers are now compelled to better acquaint themselves with the ‘marketplace’ and its numerous requirements. Factors such as fruit quality and taste, shape and size, colour and ripening periods can have a big impact on income and profit. This has led to the introduction of many new cultivars.

One such exciting new cultivar is the Leanri mandarin hybrid, which is being commercialised by Citrogold in South Africa and Biogold International in other parts of the world. These companies are part of the ANB Group that is also renowned for the globally successful ClemenGold mandarin brand.

Leanri is an induced mutation of the Furr cultivar (Clementine x Murcott) and boasts a rich flavour, has deep orange external and internal colour, low seed content and easy peeling attributes. ‘Its ripening period is from the middle of May to the end of June in the northern areas of South Africa which places it in the mid ripening slot, starting at the latter end of the Nova and Clementine picking period and ending shortly after the commencement of Nadorcott harvesting. No other exceptional cultivar currently fills this slot,’ explains Frederik Veldman, Citrogold product development manager responsible for this new creation.

‘The market increasingly expresses a preference for mandarins. A limited supply of great mandarin hybrids exists,’ says Veldman. ‘The Furr mandarin offers one of the best eating experiences and the challenge was to breed a seedless/low seeded, smooth skinned and smaller fruited version of the variety.’ One of the surprising results of the mutation was that the Leanri ripened nearly four weeks earlier than the Furr – a rare consequence of this type of breeding.

Technical insights

Following the recent harvest from experimental plantings in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa, a thorough technical report has been drafted confirming the viability of the cultivar:

  • The Leanri is a moderately vigorous tree with an upright to spreading growth habit with no thorns.
  • Fruit has a deep-orange, fairly thin rind with relatively low oil content and is very easy to peel.
  • Its shape varies from oblate and medium sized (calibre 2 – 1) to round and large (calibre 1X – 1XX) or extra-large (calibre 1XXX).
  • A distinguishing characteristic is the open core.
  • Fruit has high sugars, good acid levels and high juice percentages.
  • Is low-seeded in solid blocks.

Leanri fruit was evaluated for suitability to cold sterilisation (-0.6°C) and cold storage (2°C and 4°C) temperatures for 30 days. The fruit was also evaluated for internal and external quality before cold storage, and again seven days after removal from cold storage (fruit was kept at 25°C to simulate typical shelf-life conditions). The fruit performed well at all temperature regimes with no external chilling injury, and minimal rind pitting or staining, while the internal quality remained good.

Citrogold seeks to balance the interests of breeders and of farmers who are willing to take the risks involved with planting new cultivars. ‘We realise that planting a new cultivar is a long-term investment and involves a certain amount of risk,’ says Bryan Offer, Citrogold general manger. ‘Therefore we encourage growers to invest the required time, effort and costs to obtain the necessary information about new cultivars such as the Leanri.’

Citrogold has limited the hectarage of the first commercial plantings of Leanri in the Southern Hemisphere, thereby providing growers who are prepared to take risks with a new variety, with an assurance that markets will not be oversupplied in the early years of the its commercial development. This limit has already been fully subscribed in South Africa (2 200 hectares) and any further allocations will only be made in 2020 and will depend on the market response to the variety.”

During the last 15 years Citrogold has licensed over 10 000 hectares of plantings of new cultivars in South Africa, thereby contributing significantly to the competitiveness of the South African citrus industry. Citrogold’s current product range includes citrus (oranges, lemons, mandarins, and grapefruit), pomegranate, mango, macadamia and passiflora.