Commercialization of Underutilized Crops: Purple-fruited Pitanga—A Case Study

Thursday, July 25, 2013: 2:15 PM
Springs Salon D/E (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
John L. Griffis Jr. , Marine and Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers, FL
Carl E. Sams , The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Malcolm M. Manners, PhD , Horticulture Department, Florida Southern College, Lakeland, FL
Theodore J.K. Radovich , Tropical Plant and Soil Science, CTAHR, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Ty G. McDonald, Asst., Extn., Agent , Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Although thousands of species of plants on the planet produce some edible or medicinal component, fewer than 50 species yield almost all of the food products available on a commercial scale worldwide. Why have so many crops remained underutilized? Examination of the ongoing commercialization project of purple-fruited Pitanga (Eugenia uniflora L.) in Hawaii yields some explanations that may aid others in developing new crops in the future. Pitanga is not an entirely new crop. It has been spread throughout the tropics by various means, but it has seen only limited commercialization of the fruits and foliage in its native Brazil. Factors that may have limited further development of pitanga include considerable variation among seedlings and their fruits, difficulty in clonal propagation, lack of recognizably superior cultivars, limited production information, lack of pest and disease control recommendations, difficulty in determining when to harvest the fruits or foliage, lack of postharvest handling information, lack of nutritional content information, lack of marketing, limited development of commercial uses for the fruits and foliage, and lack of research funding. Our research project attempts to address many of these factors as the development and commercialization of the crop moves forward.