Researchers in Summerland are continuing their tradition of developing new fruit varieties to meet changing agricultural needs. Nick Ibuki, operations manager at the Summerland Varieties Corporation, said continual development has resulted in many new varieties of apples and cherries. Summerland Varieties Corporation works to test and commercialize new fruit varieties. Fruit research in Summerland has led to many new varieties over the years. Cherry varieties from Summerland include the Stella, Sweetheart, Staccato, Sentennial and Lapins cherries. The Stella cherry, developed in 1968, was the first self-fertile cherry variety. Self-fertile varieties do not require pollinators in order to produce fruit. The Sweetheart cherry, another Summerland variety, is self-fertile, has a good taste and ships well. Other cherry varieties have been developed to mature at various times in the season, to resist splitting and to have other characteristics, such as specific sizes and flavours. Today, 80 per cent of all commercial varieties worldwide have their origins in Summerland, Ibuki said. New varieties are in development at present and are expected to become commercially available in the next several years.
Apple varieties are also being developed locally. While the Spartan apple, developed in Summerland and made available in 1936, is one of the best-known apples from Summerland, many more have been developed at the Summerland Research and Development Centre, and apple breeding continues today.
Some of these are bred for traits such as colour, flavour, non-browning characteristics and long shelf life. “Each apple has different attributes, depending on what you want to do with it,” Ibuki said. He added that there are at least eight different test sites throughout the Okanagan, where new varieties are tested before they come onto the market. Once an apple is available to fruit growers, it will still take six to seven years before new trees are in full production.
Many of the cherries grown commercially around the world have had their origins in Summerland.
Research continues to develop fruit varieties with specific traits and qualities.