Alternative fruit is defined as any fruit grown in an area where it is not grown traditionally. Thus, a fruit or vegetable that is routinely grown in one area could be considered as an alternative crop in another region. As the world population grows and people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds gather and live in a new region or city, the demand for diversification of fruits and vegetables increases to meet the needs of this new demography. Also alternative fruits have become extremely popular because of their health benefits. In addition to the increasing public demand, the increasing costs of fuel and labor and fluctuating prices of traditional fruits have created challenges for traditional tree fruit growers in recent years. These challenges have resulted in efforts to develop alternative fruit cultivars and to modify cultural practices, to produce cultivars in regions beyond California, to reduce the cost of transportation, and to create a niche market (Fallahi, 2006; Fallahi et al., 2001).
Table grapes are one of the most important alternative fruit crops for many regions and even at a small scale would fit perfectly in the operation of any wine grape and tree fruit grower in the Intermountain West region, which includes Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon. Table grapes in this region are harvested when most of the fresh table grapes in California are either finished or are only available in storages.
In the United States, various viticultural and berry sensory characteristics are well documented in California where V. vinifera is widely grown (Nelson, 1985; Nelson et al., 1973; Weaver, 1976). However, despite the importance of table grapes as an alternative fruit, berry characteristics and cultural practices are less studied in other states such as Idaho (Fallahi et al., 1995, 2001, 2006), Ohio (Cahoon et al., 1985), Florida (Mortensen and Balerdi, 1974), Canada (British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, 1993; Reynolds et al., 1992), and Western Oregon (Hemphill et al., 1992).
Fire blight [Erwinia amylovora (Burr.)] is a major limiting problem in the production of european pears (Pyrus communis L.) in the western United States. Fire blight–resistant european pears often are not precocious and productive. In an attempt to improve pollination, precocity, and productivity in fire blight–tolerant ‘Magness’ pear, asian pear trees were used as a pollinizer (Walsh et al., 2015). In this process, they found that asian pears could be planted as a viable alternative crop for local fruit growers. Some asian pear cultivars were tested in Maryland in the 1970s (Oitto et al., 1970), and most of that work focused on older Chinese cultivars, with little testing of japanese and korean juicy pears (Nashi types). Beutel (1990) reported general characteristics of various asian pears. More recently, Walsh et al. (2015) reported that ‘Yoinashi’, ‘Atago’, ‘Shinko’, and ‘Olympic’ asian pears were well received by consumers.
The quince (Cydonia oblonga Mill.) belongs to the family Rosaceae, subfamily Maloideae along with pears (Pyrus sp.) and apples (Malus sp.). The quince is native to Persia (Iran) and Asia Minor (Westwood, 1978). Quince has numerous uses in the fresh market, processing (such as jam, jellies, and syrup), and medicine in the Middle East, Latin America (particularly Mexico), Europe, and many other regions of the world. However, quinces have been mostly used as pear rootstocks in the Western world (Webster, 1998). Less than 30 or 40 variety names have been documented, and little or no effort has been made to increase the number of varieties (Hedrick, 1925). Morphological characteristics of the fruits and trees of the few known quince varieties are so similar that it is difficult to obtain a reliable classification. A crude attempt was sometimes made by the growers to classify them, such as ‘apple-shaped’, ‘pear-shaped’, and ‘orange-shaped’ (Hedrick, 1925). More recently, some morphological and genetic characteristics were reported in quince, using molecular markers (Yamamoto et al., 2001, 2002a, 2002b, 2002c; 2004).
During the past 26 years, the University of Idaho Pomology and Viticulture Program has experimented with several new fruit crops and as a result, a new alternative fruit industry consisting of different fruits is emerging in Idaho. The goal of this research was to evaluate different cultivars of the three most successful alternative fruits, including table grape, asian pear, and quince for their precocity, productivity, fire blight tolerance, and local consumer acceptance. The results of this research would be valuable to producers in the western United States, and perhaps other areas with similar growing conditions interested in establishing sustainable vineyards and orchards for direct-market sales.
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