by Michael Price, Science
The U.K. journalist Miles Kington quipped that knowledge is knowing tomatoes ares a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put one in a fruit salad. It wasn’t always this way. Decades of commercial growing have altered the tomato’s genetic makeup, turning it from a once-sweet fruit into today’s relatively tasteless sandwich topper. Now, a new study has uncovered which flavor-enhancing genes have been lost, giving growers a “roadmap” to breed tastiness back into their tomatoes.
“This is great work, which I believe could only be done by very few groups on Earth,” says Changbin Chen, a horticultural scientist at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, who wasn’t involved with the study. “This is doable for commercial growers who supply the fresh tomato market.”
Tomatoes are among the highest-value crops in the world. In the United States—the world’s second largest tomato grower behind China—they account for more than a billion dollars in sales annually. Nutritionally, they are important sources of vitamins A and C. But the large, plump, ruddy tomatoes available year-round in grocery stores taste much different than the small, multihued, berry-sized fruits that evolved more than 50 million years ago near Antarctica and were first domesticated in Central and South America some 2500 years ago. The fruits spread throughout the world following Spanish colonization in the 16th century. Over the next 400 years or so, hundreds of regional cultivars of tomatoes emerged, but they mostly stayed small, sweet, and flavorful.
Then, commercial agriculture exploded after World War II, and tomato crops were bred for higher yields, disease resistance, redder color, and firmness, explains Harry Klee, a horticultural scientist at the University of Florida in Gainesville and one of the study’s authors. These traits helped growers sell their crops for more money, but growers neglected genes responsible for taste, Klee says, and many of these were lost or tamped down over thousands of generations.
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While produce truckers haul thousands of load of Florida tomatoes each year, the Sunshine state still has a big time tomato waste problem. Some solutions to this problem may be coming from researchers in Florida.
They have been performing groundbreaking work on turning rotten, damaged and generally unfit for sale tomatoes into electricity, which could be a major source of green energy.
The researchers working on the pilot project see tremendous potential in the new “tomato battery.” They believe it could eventually generate enough energy from the state’s tomato waste to power Disney World’s 43 square mile complex of hotels, theme parks, golf courses and shopping centres for three months of the year.
The process could also reduce Florida’s tomato waste, which currently has 396,000 tons dumped into landfills and waterways annually, causing significant problems for the environment.
The scientists are using bacteria to break down and oxidise “defective” tomato waste – a chemical reaction which releases electrons that can be captured in a fuel cell and be a source of electricity.
Tomatoes are particularly well suited to the job because they contain a bright red carotene pigment, which the researchers have found to be an excellent catalyst for generating electrical charges.
Team leader Professor Venkataramana Gadhamshetty said: “We wanted to find a way to treat this waste that, when dumped in landfills, can produce methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – and when dumped in water bodies, can create major water treatment problems.”
He acknowledges that the amount of electricity they are generating from tomato waste is relatively small, but says with more research and development the energy output can be increased many times over.
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If you’re planning to haul New Jersey produce be extra cautious and know what you are loading when it comes to quality. Tomato and potato crops are being threatened by late blight.
It is a destructive fast-spreading disease and has been found on five farms in the state. The disease of Irish potato famine notoriety, creates fuzzy spores and dark lesions on leaves and stems of tomatoes and potatoes and quickly kills the entire plant.
Meanwhile, no quality problems have been reported with New Jersey peaches, which are now being shipped to destinations on the East Coast and some to the midwest.
New Jersey blueberry shipments have been going at a good, steady pace and should continue into mid August. The only distruptions have been a few occasions when rain has delayed harvest, which in turns affects packing and shipping.
A fair amount of Maine broccoli is being shipped between now and mid October. Up to a million cartons should be loaded during the season for destinations along the East coast and into the midwest.
Florida is pretty dead this time of year when comes to loads. A quick look back at the Florida citrus shipping season shows it was a little disppointing. There were fewer loads of oranges, grapefruit and a lot less tangerines.
In its July 11 final season report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported all orange production declining 9% from the previous season, and tangerines saw a 22% drop.
This season, total orange production fell from 146.7 million equivalent cartons to 133.4 million cartons, with the late season valencias also seeing a 9% drop from last season’s 72.5 million cartons to 68.3 million cartons this year.
Grapefruit production fell 2.2% from the previous year, from 18.8 million equivalent cartons to 18.4 million cartons.
Though 96% of Florida’s oranges are grown for processing, about 60% of its navels, 70% of its tangerines and 40% of its colored grapefruit ship to fresh markets, primarily by truck.
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Following early shipments the past couple of years, Arkansas tomato loadings are expected to be more normal time-wise with light volume starting around June 10. Primary production is centered in south-central Arkansas around small towns such as Hermitage. Shipments should continue until about July 20th.
We’ll soon be entering the time of year when the bottom will drop out on Florida produce shipments as overall volume plummets. An exception is with Florida avocados.
South Florida had 7,500 acres in the 2012-13 season, shipping 1.16 million bushels. This was higher than the 819,594 bushel average growers shipped on an annual basis between 2006 and 2010.
Very light avocado shipments have started, but good volume will not hit until about July 1st. Peak shipments should take place in July through September.
It is the tail end of the Florida shipping season for citrus, but there may be a little more product for hauling than originally predicted. The updated estimate shows an increase in grapefruit and a small decline in tangerines, with orange volume remaining the same.
The grapefruit forecast has been increased by 1.3 million equivalent cartons in May from its April estimate.
Colored grapefruit production increased 500,000 cartons while white grapefruit jumped 800,000 cartons, according to the USDA. About 95% of the state’s grapefruit has been shipped. The tangerines forecast has been dropped by 100,000 boxes to 3.4 million boxes. About 97% of the state’s honey tangerines has been shipped.
As for oranges, volume remains at 138 million cartons, with the late season valencias volume staying at 71 million cartons. The majority of the Florida’s oranges are processed. As for the fresh market, about 70% of navels, half of the grapefruit and two-thirds of the tangerines are for fresh.
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California’s Santa Maria district currently leads the state in strawberry volume with nearly 800 truck loads being shipped a week, but the Watsonville district will be catching up – and surpassing Santa Maria very soon. Meanwhile, Salinas Valley vegetables are continuing to increase is volume led by lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. The San Joaquin Valley in cranking up with everything from stone fruit to vegetables.
The Imperial and Coachella valleys are shipping melons and mixed veggies, plus Coachella table grapes are now being shipped in volume.
Some produce loads, particularly from more northern Calilforna shipping areas, are already exceeding a rate of $9,000 to the East Coast.
Mexican tomatoes are being shipped in volume from Baja peninsula via distribution centers around San Diego. Product ranges from romas to grape, cherry and vine ripe tomatoes.
Looking ahead, warm April temperatures have pushed the California pear crop about 10 days ahead of last year. Early variety pears from the Sacramento River district should get underway around July 2-3, followed by bartletts about July 5.
The projected California almond crop is expected to reach 2 billion pounds this year. This would fall short only to 2011’s 2.03 billion pound crop and is 6% higher than 2012’s output, which was about 1.89 billion pounds. Almonds are the state’s largest agricultural export, with California alone producing 80 percent of the world’s supply.
California almond shipments come from over 810,000 acres.
Salinas vegetables – grossing about $9000 to Boston.
San Joaquin Valley stone fruit – about $6,000 to Chicago.
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It’s time for college bowl games! Football fans across the nation will head to their favorite grocery stores to purchase tailgating and party supplies, such as hot dogs, chips, avocados and Concord Foods Guacamole Mixes. Guacamole is one of the most popular food items for tailgating. Stores should prepare for the football bowl games and playoffs, by creating prominent displays of avocados, tomatoes and popular tie-in items, such as Concord Foods Guacamole Mixes.
“Concord Foods Guacamole Mix is great for football parties and tailgating because it is quick and simple to prepare and tastes delicious. Just add two avocados to Concord Foods’ blend of spices for guacamole dip that is ready in minutes.” said Charles Olins, VP Sales and Marketing at Concord Foods. Concord Foods Guacamole Mix is available in grocery store produce departments nationwide and comes in five great flavors: Mild, Extra Spicy, Classic Mild, Classic Extra Spicy and Authentic. In the spirit of football season, Concord Foods has an attractive football-themed shipper display available and some great tailgating recipes available online.
“We’ve developed some amazing tailgating recipes that use guacamole mix, such as Fully Loaded Nachos or the Great Guacamole Burger.” Said Samantha McCaul, Marketing Manager at Concord Foods. “These recipes are easy-to-prepare and great for tailgating. They are available on our website and Facebook page.”
Concord Foods Guacamole Mixes are available in 18 packs and 144 pack floor shippers. Distribution channels include retail grocery stores, mass merchandisers and club stores in the U.S.
ABOUT CONCORD FOODS
Concord Foods Incorporated is a leading supplier of retail food products and custom ingredients to nationally recognized supermarkets, food service operators and leading food manufacturers. Concord Foods retail division offers a wide variety of produce friendly items from Candy Apple Kits to produce seasoning mixes. Consumers count on our quality products to glaze pies, create guacamole and batter onion rings. For more information, please visit www.concordfoods.com.
Source: Concord Foods Incorporated
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Entering the lightest season volume wise for produce loads, it’s not uncommon for multiple pick ups and drops to fill out the trailer. Pick ups starting in southern California may extend to the California desert, Yuma and perhaps even Nogales. Changes for the better are occuring at the Arizona, Mexico border that should improve produce crossings in the USA and reduce delays for loadings at the many Nogales warehouses.
The Mariposa port was built in the 1970s, designed to handled 400 trucks crossing into Arizona daily. Over the years changes have increased the truck count to around 1600 to 1800 a day. In the past an estimated 25 percent of the trucks crossing the border into Arizona were delayed because of gridlock on the Mariposa Road (State Route 189), which connects the port to I-19. Numerous stop lights on the state route often contribute to the delays.
In 2009 a $220 million expansion of the port was started and is scheduled for completion in 2014. This should increase traffic capabilities to 4,000 to 5,000 trucks a day crossing the border in Nogales.
Meanwhile, there is light volume of watermelon, honeydew, squash, bell peppers, tomatoes and other items crossing the border from Mexico, it will be another month of so before the volume really improves.
Nogales produce is grossing about $3400 to Chicago, about $5800 to New York.
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Allen Roberson has been trucking for 40 years and he’s got a few reasons why he has been a successful owner operator since 1972. But it may not be what you think.
He talks about working directly with shippers for starters. For example, the past six years Allen has worked directly with Lipman, a 60-year-old farming and shipping operation that was known as Six Ls until a name change in September 2011. Based in Immokalee, FL, Lipman is North America’s largest field grower of tomatoes with 4,000 workers and 22 locations.
Not only does Allen work directly with shippers, but good ones.
“Six Ls can call me anytime and I’ll be there. I stick with them, but it works both ways. They treat me well and I provide them with great service,” says Allen, who lives in Canton, NC.
Another reason the 64-year–old veteran trucker has always been able to make it as an owner operator is because he has his own operating authority.
“Having your own authority makes a big difference,” Allen says. “You don’t have to pay some else to run under their operating authority.”
How often does he haul produce? Everyday. He pretty much hauls exclusively for Six Ls (Lipman), a company that also has several vegetable items in addition to tomatoes. Most of his hauls are up and down the East Coast, although he occasionally delivers in the Midwest.
On this recent November day, Allen was at on the Atlanta State Farmers Market delivering tomatoes he had picked up in Asheville, NC. He didn’t know where the tomatoes were grown. Once unloaded, he would be deadheading the 200 miles back to Asheville.
“I’ll be paid for the deadhead miles,” Allen says, although he did not want the amount per mile publicized for the record. If I haul something up there then I’ll get full pay.”
Another key to being a successful owner operator is being on time.
“You have got to be dependable and on time. Wal Mart will charge (deduct from your freight) $100 if you are a minute late for arrival. It happened to me one time,” he recalls.
Allen also rarely eats in a restaurant, although he averages well over 100,000 miles a year on the road. He saves by taking and preparing his own meals.
While being on time, having your own authority and working directly with shippers are keys to his success, these are not the most important factors.
“The most important thing,” Allen says, “is you have got to have what it takes inside of you. You have to want to do it. You have to have that internal drive to work.”
Operating as E.A.R. (Edward Allen Robinson), he owns a 2006 Western Star he actually purchased new in 2007. It is powered by a 550 h.p. twin turbo Caterpillar diesel and features an 18-speed transmission. The sleeper is fully equipped with everything from a flat screen tv to a microwave oven. The Star has logged 700,000 miles. It pulls a 53-foot Utility trailer with a Thermo King reefer unit.
Allen is seriously considering retiring in May 2013. However, he admits not being sure whether he is going to keep the Western Star or not.
However, a little later he adds jokingly, “I’m going to leave my truck in the yard for a little while, just in case I wear out my welcome at home.” He has been married 20 years and has six granddaughters and two grandsons.
He’s looking forward to the holidays and taking some time to be off with the family and buying gifts for the grand kids.
“It’s really worth it, just seeing the smiles on their faces,” he concludes.
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WILLCOX, Ariz. — Redi Bits is a new snacking tomato variety from EuroFresh Farms, a year-round producer and marketer of greenhouse grown tomatoes and cucumbers located in Willcox and Snowflake, Ariz., Under the newly created label of ArtiSun™ Farms, Redi Bites are packaged in a greenhouse inspired clam shell that allows consumers to rinse, eat and store these grape-sized tomatoes.
“We are thrilled to introduce Redi Bites and ArtiSun™ Farms,” said Mark Cassius, executive vice president of EuroFresh Farms. “We spent more than a year creating the perfect container to package this distinctive, full-flavor snacking tomato for easy consumption. In addition, we feel the development our new label, ArtiSun™ Farms, reflects our passion for the artistry behind growing the best tasting produce possible, with the help of the bountiful Arizona sun.”
The reviews from the test markets are positive with retailers reporting their preference for the sweet taste of the tomato and attractive and yet functional packaging that easily stacks for display. With fewer than 100 calories per serving, Redi Bites will likely be favored as a healthy, on-the- go snack.
“This product is one of many that EuroFresh is considering for the produce-snacking category,” said Cassius. “We believe the snacking category will represent a growing part of our product line in the next year as we strive to meet our consumer demands for convenient, flavorful and healthy snacking options.””
ABOUT EUROFRESH FARMS
Eurofresh Farms is the leading year-round producer and marketer of greenhouse tomatoes in the United States and employs more than 1,100 Arizonans. A leading innovator in the branded, flavorful fresh tomato and cucumber industry, Eurofresh provides premium quality and certified pesticide-free products grown with care in one of the world’s largest greenhouse complexes with abundant Arizona sunlight. Eurofresh’s two greenhouse facilities span 318 acres in Willcox and Snowflake, Ariz.
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California continues to work its way through the peak summer shipping season as much of the middle part of the country stays in the weather’s frying pan. While this may not be good for crops and livestock in the Mid-west, it is contributing to strong, steady shipments off of the West Coast.
For example, tomato shipments from USA areas such as Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina have been hit hard by the heat wave. This is resulting in more demand and better California loadings, whether it is tomatoes from the San Joaquin Valley, Ventura County, San Diego County, or even from Mexico’s Baja California.
Meanwhile, California should be shipping 4 to 5 million trays of strawberries weekly right on through August — mostly from the Watsonville District. During September, loading are still expected to remain strong — in the 3.5 to 4 million-tray range. While quality of strawberries has been a little up and down this year, some observers are predicing the berries will be much better the latter part of the season. That would be great not only for strawberry lovers, but for the guys and gals hauling them. Better quality should mean fewer claims or rejected loads.
There also remains mostly steady shipments of Salinas Valley vegetables, plus fruits and vegetables from throughout much of the San Joaquin Valley.
Salinas Valley produce grossing – about $7500 to New York City.
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