Surrounded by Pacific Agri-food Research Centre staff

Research Centre receives agricultural award

For the past 100 years, the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre has been developing fruit varieties and improving farming methods.

For the past 100 years, the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre in Summerland has been helping farmers by developing new fruit varieties and improving farming methods.

On Thursday, the centre received the Century Farm Award, in recognition of this service.

“It really has made a difference in our food industry,” MLA Dan Ashton said. “It has made a difference for so many lives around the world.”

MP Dan Albas also acknowledged the work done at the centre over the years.

“You all stand on the shoulders of a century of research,” he said.

In 1914, the federal government purchased 162 hectares from Antoine Pierre for the centre. The portion below the railway tracks was for irrigated farming while the portion above the tracks was for dry farming.

In the years following, the centre has gone through numerous changes.

At times, it has worked with beef and dairy cattle, poultry and sheep and even tobacco production in the 1920s.

Throughout its history, the centre has been best known for its fruit research.

Today, the cherry varieties developed in Summerland have a worldwide reputation.

Dr. Kenna MacKenzie, assistant director, research development and technology at the centre, said 75 to 80 per cent of cherry trees planted worldwide today have their origins in Summerland.

Numerous apple varieties have been developed at the centre.

The best known is the Spartan apple, a hybrid of the Macintosh and Newton apples. Work on this variety began in 1924. In 1936, the commercial trial took place.

Many other fruit varieties have come out of the centre’s research over the years.

MacKenzie said fruit research is continuing and new varieties may reach consumers within the next five to 10 years.

“The quality of fruit from here is better than anything I have had from anywhere else,” MacKenzie said.

Other developments in recent years have included technological improvements for the harvest, handling and storage of fruit.

As the wine industry grows, the centre has been working on vineyard and winery innovations including irrigation and water management.

Other research includes plant viruses, pest management, food production and more.

Today, there are between 130 and 170 people at the centre, depending on the time of year. These include scientists, corporate management, students and others involved in agricultural research.

In the years to come, MacKenzie said different crop varieties may be studied at the centre.

She added that some of the future research will be at the molecular level, to gain a greater understanding of how the genome works.