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Elvio Bellini, Stefania Nin and Maurizio Cocchi

The Horticulture Department of the University of Florence has been studying the pawpaw (Asimina triloba) since 1990 through collaboration with Italian fruit grower Domenico Montanari, who currently hosts the largest pawpaw orchard and variety collection in Italy. Research efforts are focused mainly on the development of new varieties and selections with desirable ornamental characteristics. New variety selection is based on high tree productivity, large fruit size, good organoleptic quality and improved fruit postharvest handling. The breeding program has resulted in 3,000 seedlings that are currently being evaluated in Tuscany, Italy. In addition to breeding efforts, 15 commercially available varieties were evaluated in replicated trials in 2000 and 2001, with selections characterized for vegetative, reproductive and pomological traits. In 2000 and 2001, the varieties `Prima 1216' and `Prolific' had high yields and should be suitable for production in Italian fruit-growing areas. Experiments to establish explants of pawpaw in culture were also performed testing a range of genotypes, disinfestation procedures, and methods to induce callus culture. Protocols for the propagation of pawpaw in vitro would offer many advantages for mass multiplication of desirable plants; however, the propagation of pawpaw in vitro has so far been met with limited success.