USDA Develops Cold-Hardy Kiwifruit for Immediate Release to Public

February 5, 2024

Kiwifruit and their tangy green flesh are routinely purchased and devoured throughout the year by people across the nation. This is no surprise. Kiwis are high in Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and potassium. The subtropical fruit is also a favorite of many southern U.S. producers since the delicious fruit is traditionally grown in warmer climates. California produces the vast majority of kiwis that are sold in our local grocery stores, but due to recent research advancements from U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists, this may no longer be the case.

This was not a snap decision. The research actually began in 1995 when scientists from the Agricultural Research Service’s [Appalachian Fruit Research Service (AFRS) planted second-generation seedlings that originated in Rome, Italy. Only two vines survived the cold winter temperatures between 1995 and 2015, with a record low temperature during that period of –5.8 F. Of those two vines, ‘Tango’ (female) and ‘Hombre’ (male) were planted and evaluated in the AFRS’ orchards before a new crop proved that these particular cultivars could grow and thrive in traditional Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern winter climates.

In a recently [published study] researchers noted that both vines grew vigorously, and received little pruning before bearing fruit. There was also no need for supplemental irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, or a warm climate for growth.

“This cultivar isn’t currently found in the grocery store,” said Research Biologist Scientist [Chris Dardick]. “The flesh and texture are very similar to the kiwifruit that people already enjoy and so is the flavor. It’s easy to grow, extremely pest and disease resistant, and readily available for use by producers and nurseries in colder climate conditions.”

Tango’s fruit yields high quality in terms of size and soluble solids and are comparable to the commercial A. deliciosa cultivar Hayward. It can also remain in cold storage for extended periods of time.

The male pollinizer ‘Hombre’ is not patented and can be publicly made available upon request. The female kiwi ‘Tango’ is patented by the USDA-ARS and can be distributed to nurseries or producers once they obtain a licensing agreement. Both plants (‘Hombre’ and ‘Tango’) are essential to produce the kiwifruit. Limited quantities of budwood and/or plants from ‘Tango’ and ‘Hombre’ are also available upon request for evaluation. For more information, please contact AFRS@usda.gov.

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Just saw this and was going to post. Very exciting news.

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I may finally attempt to grow some kiwis here in 7a Virginia.

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Because of the designation of Hardy Kiwi as an up-and-coming invasive in Pennsylvania, my wife won’t let me grow it at our house so I am excited for more kiwi options to potentially be available here.

I do have a pair of Arctic Kiwi in ground already.

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Theres a bit of round robin going on with that classification. Several states are jumping on board, but few are moving beyond some kind of advisory status. I won’t tell your wife, but I don’t believe there’s anything inherently different about Actinidia deliciosa. They readily hybridize, after all, as does kolomikta. Ive not been to the site in Lenox, MA that is sort of ground zero for this whole invasive business (I should, its not that far from me) but my understanding is that the site was formerly a gilded age estate and that the large house, no longer there, was planted densely with Actinidia for the purpose of engulfing the house with vegetation, a fad at the time. The house burned down or some such, and the vines spread, probably primarily suckering and tip rooting. I believe there were some seedlings observed at the site removed from the original plantings.

Ive also read about a few sites on Long Island, also near historic plantings, where kiwis of some kind have been observed to be spreading in some way. It seems to me in all cases there was sort of a confluence of factors. It’s worth noting that those old plantings predate any interest in the fruit, and those types grown during that era may have unique attributes- ploidy, possibly hybrid parentage- that cause or contribute to this phenomenon. There are plenty of other places of similar vintage where kiwis were planted in which they have NOT spread. Probably the biggest wildcard, and sort of the elephant in the room from my vantage point, is the specific land use at those problem sites.

It’s something to keep an eye on, Id say, but Im not sure the level of hysteria mustered by some is quite warranted. No one wants the next oriental bittersweet, sure. FWIW, Ive had my hardy kiwis close to 20 years and my experience has mirrored what UMN has to say -

I just found my first seedling ever last summer, actually. I have it in a pot to grow out and evaluate. its a scrawny little thing

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You already could grow them, I have been succeeding for 20 years myself, I never have lost a chinensis plant due to temperatures. I think this new kiwi is more for zone 6 folks. It could be pretty exciting for them.

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After I tried hardy kiwi, I’m not sure I like the regular/larger kiwi grocery type varieties more. Hardy Kiwi is sweeter and can eat the skin. I’ve had a few interesting grocery ones (like some of the fancy varieties they sell sometimes @ Whole Foods, like the ones that are slightly red on the inside), but hardy kiwi is still better. Curious why someone in zone 5/6 would grow this vs hardy variety (other than maybe the invasive designation concern above).

I tossed out part of a kiwi last spring. In the fall, I found a clump of 7 or 8 seedlings growing in the edge of my yard.

I’m curious how these new varieties will compare to Saanichton and Jenny for hardiness, mostly because I have those already planted.

I like this quote: “Both vines grew vigorously, were untrained, and received little pruning. No fruit thinning was practiced and no supplemental irrigation was applied, nor was fertilizer or pesticides applied.” I believe that translates to: we sort of forgot about it for a while.

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I sent an email requesting access to scions of these kiwis. No response so far. I sent an email to Chris Dardick asking for a contact to obtain scions.

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I would expect it to be more healthful than fuzzy Hayward because you eat the skin where vitamins are most concentrated and ruffage more prominent.

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I received a response today from ARS including a form to fill out for licensing. If anyone wants a copy, message your email and I will forward the entire email with 4 attachments.

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Thanks for the information

Scott, I’m in 8a NC and prefer golden kiwi but never see any available at nurseries. How did you get yours? (I noticed it your profile)

I received said email yesterday as well with the option to formally evaluate the plant first (I assume) before licensing. I’m in z5b so I’d definitely prefer to evaluate first for hardiness.

seems like a stretch. I had a passing interest, but it seemed dubious. In not 100% clear if these are straight chinensis or deliciosa x chinensis. Id think without at least some arguta genes theyd be poorly adapted to our neck of the woods. I believe hardiness, low chill/early leaf out, and late ripening are all significant hurdles for growing chinensis here. Id be glad to learn otherwise though.

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Yeah I’m not expecting any miracles. I told him I’d trial a couple of plants here, but that’s it. Otherwise I’ll go the arguta route and refer to the local UNH studies.

I got mine as cuttings either from USDA or from other growers. Fruitwood also sells cuttings of one variety I think. I can send some cuttings if you can’t find them anywhere else… but you need to have a plant to graft to.

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are chinensis not eaay to root? argutas generally root like a hot damn

I’ve rooted cuttings after a year in the refrigerator. Not a high success rate, but a few will root. I have instructions for treating with rooting powder at 3500 ppm IBA.