Research Suggests Drought Conditions Could Improve Produce Quality
- by Kyle Braver
CENTRAL VALLEY, CA – New research is suggesting that there might be an unexpected side-effect of the historic drought conditions California has experienced over the past several years: enhanced fruit quality. By studying how pomegranates and grapes react to drought conditions compared to produce raised under standard conditions, Tiziana Centofanti, a research scientist working at the Department of Agriculture lab in Parlier, CA, showed that stress conditions can in fact enhance a crop's nutritional profile, according to NPR.
"My research is about physiological response to stresses and drought is one of those," Centofanti explained to NPR. "Plants, when they are stressed...tend to produce higher content of phenolics, antioxidants."
The negative effects of drought conditions on the physical appearance of the fruit which Centofanti documented is something California's farmers are sadly all too accustomed to. Pomegranates grown in Centofanti's experiments are often cracked and less aesthetically appealing looking than their well-watered counterparts. Yet, the interaction of salt, boron, and selenium during the fruit's growth cycle has been demonstrated to double the antioxidant content of pomegranates, NPR reports.
Centofanti believes that this enhanced nutritional value offers tantalizing possibilities to California farmers operating under the strained conditions imposed by the weather.
"I believe that if we're able to market this fruit as environmentally friendly because it uses less water, and it's grown in the Central Valley, where we have so much drought problems, consumers will be ready to buy the fruit, because it's environmentally friendly," she explains.
It's no secret that the sustainability movement, especially in California, is one with tremendous market power. Could California farmers capitalize on these market forces in order to make the most of difficult circumstances? Maybe. After all, it wouldn't be the first time our industry pulled a silver lining out of challenging circumstances.
According to NPR, Centofanti's team plans on submitting its findings on grapes and pomegranates for publication next year. She is also experimenting on the effect of drought conditions on peaches, as well as the specialty foods, opuntia cacti and agretti. I know I certainly will be waiting with anticipation to read the her full findings when they are published.
Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow for future updates on the California drought and the steps the resilient farmers of our industry are taking to combat it.