A pioneering project in Mexico has developed a new method of fig production which triples yields compared conventional farms and allows for fruit to be produced in a far shorter time.
Using a new variety bred by researchers at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, Joaquín Piña, general director of Agskill, is successfully growing the fruit on a commercial scale in a greenhouse and has been able to boost per-hectare yields from around 20 metric tons (MT) to 60MT.
Piña spoke with Fresh Fruit Portal that the new production technique took three years to develop following the research of the Brown Turkey 2.
“This here is an innovation - as far as I know there is no one else doing this in the world,” he said.
“This variety has the particularity that it can prosper under in a greenhouse, for a very curious reason - that it doesn’t need an insect to pollinate it.”
He added that by using an aggressive pruning method that involves three or four prunes per year, the self-pollinating variety begins to produce fruit very soon after planting. While on conventional farms it takes around two years for a tree to begin producing after two years, Piña’s trees can produce fruit in just four months, he said.
“The work that we did over the three years was to take control of the productive side, through learning about how to prune the plant so that it doesn’t grow to become a tree,” he said, adding that there are numerous blooms per plant every year.
The greenhouse farm has been producing figs on a commercial scale for one year.
For now Piña has only been selling to the domestic Mexican market, where the fruit has been fetching around US$2.70 per kilo, but it said that if he were to export to Europe during the winter, prices would be around US$3.50 per kilo.
“In the European summer there is a lot of production from Turkey and Egypt and so prices aren’t very good, but in the winter prices increase,” he said.
Piña in the future hopes to export the technology to other fig-growing countries like Chile.