Is it true that in some peach orchards in China they put paper bags over the young fruit as they are developing and only remove them at harvest? Why would they do this?

Answer: Yes, this is true.  I observed this practice at commercial orchards outside of Shanghai in August, 2009.  The paper bag protects the fruit from insects, disease, abrasion, etc.  Also, the paper bag significantly reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the skin of the fruit.  In the orchards I visited, where yellow fleshed cultivars were being grown, the presence of the paper bag resulted in a beautiful, blemish-free peach with perfectly uniform yellow skin color.  Obviously, the yellow/orange pigments (carotenoids and xanthophylls) were being produced but no red pigmentation resulted.  In places where I saw bags on the tree that had partially come off the fruit or where the bag had been torn or deteriorated, the skin that was exposed to the sun turned red (i.e., anthocyanin pigments were produced).  This is obviously a costly and labor-intensive practice.  However, the extremely high quality fruit that resulted ensured a good price for the grower.  The average peach grower at this location maintained 1 hectare or less (1-2 acres) in production.

paper bags covering peach fruit on trees in China
Paper bag removed from fruit near time of harvest.  Bag significantly reduces sunlight exposure to the skin of the fruit.
Peach trees in a commercial orchard outside of Shanghai, China in August 2009.  Note paper bags covering fruit on the tree.

Paper bag removed from fruit near time of harvest.  Bag significantly reduces sunlight exposure to the skin of the fruit.



Beautiful, blemish-free, yellow skin and yellow fleshed fruit after I removed the bag.
Bagged fruit (same orchard and cultivar) where the bag has deteriorated and fruit skin exposed to direct sunlight.  Note red pigmentation of the exposed skin.
Beautiful, blemish-free, yellow skin and yellow fleshed fruit after I removed the bag.
Bagged fruit (same orchard and cultivar) where the bag has deteriorated and fruit skin exposed to direct sunlight.  Note red pigmentation of the exposed skin.

Unbagged fruit from same orchard at local commercial market nearby.

Unbagged fruit from same orchard at local commercial market nearby.


 

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