Kiwifruit in Mississippi: Feast or Famine?

Most of us have seen kiwifruit in the grocery store and have even eaten it sometimes.  The bright green flesh with the black seeds and fuzzy exterior all make for a strange looking fruit.  That species of kiwifruit is Actinidia deliciosa. This species is the most commercial, but also has difficulties growing in temperate climates.  It is not especially cold hardy, has a moderate chilling requirement, and requires a very long growing season.  Other species have been used to overcome some of these obstacles — such as Actinidia chinensis .  Auburn University has done considerable work to develop new kiwifruit cultivars from this species. The USDA-ARS in Poplarville is trialing some of these cultivars now, but it will be a good bit yet to know any results as the vines are still very young.  A couple problems have cropped up though — vines die for unknown reasons and pollination has not been great (low fruit yields).  Time will tell if these are isolated problems or long-term issues.  Auburn has a Kiwifruit Production Guide.  Below are some photos of Kiwifruit at the USDA-ARS station in Poplarville, MS (from summer 2014).

Vining growth of a vigorous female kiwifruit plant

Vining growth of a vigorous female kiwifruit plant

Developing kiwifruit

Developing kiwifruit

Although we don’t know a lot about how this fruit will do in Mississippi, other states like Alabama and Georgia have begun to explore planting this fruit in larger quantities.  It will certainly be interesting to see how the market develops over the next few years.

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