From Neglected crops: 1492 from a different perspective
Botanical Garden of Cordoba, FAO Plant Production and Protection Series No. 26

Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana)

Botanical names: Feijoa sellowiana O. Berg, F. sellowiana var. rugosa Mattos
Common Names: feijoa (throughout the world); English: feijoa (throughout the world), pineapple guava (United States); Spanish: guayabo grande, guayabo chico (Uruguay); Portuguese: goiaba serrana, goiaba verde, goiaba abacaxi (Brazil)
Family: Myrtaceae

The feijoa is a subtropical fruit, known in southern Brazil. northeastern Argentina, Uruguay and eastern Paraguay since pre-Hispanic times. It has been known on the French Cote d'Azur since 1890, when it was introduced through seeds from Argentina by Professor Edouard André of the Versailles School of Horticulture. In 1990, it was introduced into California, where its cultivation has spread. In Uruguay, it has been grown commercially for 50 years. It is grown and greatly valued in New Zealand. In Brazil, studies and the selection of varieties have been carried out but it has never attained any commercial importance.

The fresh fruit is widely consumed because of its characteristic flavour and aroma, which are similar to pineapple. The fleshy petals of its beautiful flowers are also appreciated. In addition, there is a wide variety of industrialized products on the market in the form of paste, jam. crystallized fruits. preserves in syrup and liqueur. The flesh can be used in the soft drinks and ice-cream industries.

Botanical description
The feijoa plant is a shrub or small tree, 3 to 5 m in height and very branching. It has cylindrical trunks which are a reddish ash-grey in colour, with small pieces peeling off from the bark. The leaves are opposite, short petiolate, with lamina that are 2 to 5 cm long by 1 to 3 cm wide, coriaceous and oblong, with a shiny dark-green upper surface and whitish lower surface. It has axillary uniflorous peduncles. The flowers have four fleshy, oval petals which are white on the outside and purple on the inside, with four persistent sepals. There are numerous erect purple stamens. The fruit is oblong or spheroid, 5 to cm long and 3 to 7 cm in diameter. There are smooth or rough varieties of fruit which are green and yellow in colour. The feijoa flowers in spring and the fruit ripens in autumn from March to May in the Southern Hemisphere and from October to December in the Northern Hemisphere. The early varieties ripen in March, while the late varieties do so from April onwards in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ecology and phytogeography
The species is widely distributed in the southern part of South America, from lat. 26°S in southern Paraná in Brazil, to lat. 35°S in Uruguay, including northeastern Argentina and southern-central Paraguay. In Brazil there are still wild populations in forests (gallery) and deforested areas on sites at altitudes over 500 m, for which reason it is known as goiaba serrana or "mountain guava". It frequently occurs in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, in the cima da serra, upper northeastern coast and southwestern serra regions and in Santana do Livramento. At these sites, the summer is hot and rainy and the winter reaches temperatures of 0 to 8°C, sometimes dropping to -4°C.

Genetic diversity
It is a cross-pollinated plant and self-sterility is frequent. However, there are self-fertile selections. When it has been propagated from seed, it displays great genetic variability, both in the wild and in gardens. Variability is shown in the form and habit of the plant and in the characteristics of the fruit. In Uruguay, 11 cultivars are known, prominent among these are: Botali, because of its size - the fruit measures 6.5 x 3.8 cm - its pronounced flavour and late ripening: and M-4, which is round, a beautiful reddish yellow colour and extraordinarily sweet. In Brazil Santa Elisa and Campineira have been bred; the first is of average size, 4.5 x 3.5 cm, smooth, sweet and flavoursome while the second is ridged and also oblong. In California, Coolidge, Superb, Choiseana, Triumph and Hehre are cultivated. In France, André and Besson are of excellent quality.

Cultivation practices
Feijoas are propagated from seed, layering, cutting and grafting. Propagation from seed produces very heterogeneous plants. Consequently, this method is used only in the production of rootstock and in small domestic gardens. The seeds are recalcitrant and are therefore sown as soon as they are collected, either in seed beds, using the conventional technique, or directly into 30 x 20 cm polyethylene bags. They are transplanted into the nursery at a distance of 1 x 0.40 m until they reach a height of 60 to 80 cm, or are grafted with selected varieties. Layering is a tedious method, used for the production of a small number of plants.

Propagation from semi-ligneous, leaf-bearing, terminal shoots is very much to be recommended. They must be 10 to 15 cm long, treated with rooting hormones and placed in glass or plastic frames saturated with moisture. They put out roots in 15 to 20 days. The rooted cuttings are transferred into 30 x 20 cm polyethylene bags in which they remain for one year until they reach a height of 60 to 80 cm, at which stage they are planted in gardens.

Grafting is by a side grain on rootstock existing in the nursery or in polyethylene bags. The technique is known as Veneer" grafting. When the young plants from a grafted cutting reach 60 to 80 cm in height, they are transplanted into the garden at a distance of 6 x 3 m or 6 x 2 m, which will give 550 to 850 saplings per hectare. With an average production of 1 000 fruits per adult tree and fruits weighing 30 to 60 g, these densities produce yields ranging from 16 to 50 tonnes per hectare.

Feijoa fruit is attractive to fruit flies, mainly Anastrepha sp., particularly in places with high temperatures in South America, and Ceratitis c capitata in the Mediterranean and in high areas in South America.

The fruit is fairly resistant to transportation. However, for the fresh fruit market it requires special care from harvesting, packaging and cold storage to transportation. In industry it does not require such care, and even fruit that has fallen to the ground can be collected if it is unblemished.

Prospects for improvement
The green colour of the fruit of most of the known varieties is considered a drawback from the marketing point of view because it is not very attractive. For this reason, yellow and red cultivars are sought. Partial or total self-sterility is another problem that affects production. There is a need for sell:fertile selections and studies on pollinating compatibility between varieties.

Feijoa cultivation can be expanded through the subtropical regions which do not have harsh winters, but this species needs to be better known, particularly its characteristics and cultivation conditions. The availability of germplasm may contribute to the expansion of this valuable fruit of neotropical flora.

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Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana). Neglected Crops 1492 from a Different Perspective. Edited by Hernandez Bermejo, J.E. and J. Leon, Botanical Garden of Cordoba, FAO Plant Production and Protection Series No. 26, Rome, 1994. pp. 235-240.

Published 26 June 2017 LR
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