(Sept. 2) California could have its first marketable crop of gold kiwifruit this season as growers have adjusted growing practices to suit the new variety.

“This season could be a good one since the gold kiwi liked the heavy spring rains -- as long as the 105-degree weather (in July) does not affect them,” said Doug Phillips, president of Phillips Farms Marketing, Visalia, Calif.

California growers started grafting and planting gold kiwi about five years ago. Phillips grafted the gold variety in 2001 and planted more in 2004.

“There are a lot of cultural practices we had to learn, and the gold kiwis aren’t as tolerant (to heat) as the hayward,” Phillips said.

Karen Brux, North American general manager of Zespri International Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand, said Zespri will sell California-grown gold kiwifruit domestically this fall.

The variety will be harvested in early October, Brux said.

NEW GROUND

Finding the right ground for the gold kiwi has been difficult.

“It hasn’t done so well in California. There wasn’t any research on growing it here (when they were planted),” said Barbara Windmiller, assistant manager for the California Kiwifruit Commission, Sacramento.

An example of adjustments that growers make is Phillips Farms’ installation of additional foggers in his gold kiwi vineyards.

The foggers shoot mist up, cooling the air and raising the humidity levels, two things the variety likes, he said.

Production continues to grow, industry members say.

California is increasing every year in gold kiwi production, said Chris Kragie, sales manager for Western Fresh Marketing, Madera, Calif.

“This year is expected to the telltale year for the gold variety,” Windmiller said.

PROBLEMS

Phillips said the most difficult problem with the gold variety is getting a uniform yellow-flesh color. Warmer Central Valley temperatures make it difficult to achieve this.

But there may be a solution.

Equipment is being used in New Zealand to detect the flesh color inside kiwis, Phillips said, using near infrared technology. The technology is used in Washington to sort apples, he said.

Phillips is working to gain access to the equipment this season.

“This would allow fruit to be sorted based on internal color. Fruit that is pale yellow or green can be conditioned,” Phillips said. “In the case of the kiwi, this is perfect technology.”