1. PROJECT BACKGROUND
In addition to eucalyptus plantations in Southern Portugal (mainly Algarve region), Dasos lands are occupied by 190 ha of riparian areas and cork oak areas and other local species. Attending to the uses of the assets: 78% is dedicated to wood production; 13% are nature protection areas and conservation areas amount to 9%.
Dasos Algarve property is FSC certified and it has a program of biodiversity management. Main actions are to clean riparian zones from exotic species as well as to sustainably manage cork oak biotope.
In order to increase biodiversity in a sustainable way, Dasos is developing a project based on the Best Uses of 2 ha of vacant area that is enhancing FSC certification aspects. The basic idea is to develop a plantation of autochthonous improved plant improving the revenue of the area by realizing new fruit uses.
The focus will go to a robust local fruit bush/tree species resistant to dryness and forest fires. The fruit is widely used by local communities as an alcohol raw material and has commercial possibilities as fresh fruit that will be exploited with the project.
2. MEDRONHEIRO PLANT
Arbutus unedo, Strawberry Tree, Medronheiro in Portuguese, is an Ericaceae xerophyte plant resistant to dryness. Medronheiro is a perennial leaves bush endemic in Portugal and in the Mediterranean coast. It is a plant tolerant to shadow as it is usually associated with oaks and cork oaks and requires good soil drainage.
The leaves are dark green and glossy, 5–10 cm long and 2–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The hermaphrodite flowers are white (rarely pale pink), bell-shaped, 4–6 mm diameter, producing panicles of 10–30 together in autumn.
Medronheiro flowers from October to May at the same ripening time that previous years’ fruits. This particularity is appreciated in flower arrangements but by insects, mainly bees, that find flowers late in the season.
When mature the Medronho (fruit of Medronheiro) has red rough surface exterior and yellow interior, when raw it is yellow and green. A fruit can weigh 3-8 gr each.
Medronho is an acid fruit with high sugar content (~16%) and high anti-oxidant properties, and tastes similar to a fig. After harvesting it could be kept for two weeks under refrigeration.
Medronheiro tree grows to 5–10 m tall, rarely up to 15 m, with a trunk diameter of up to 80 cm. One tree can carry 10-15 kg of fruit.
Medronheiro honey is widely produced and consumed. Medronheiro leaves are also exported during winter time to Northern Europe flower preparations to be applied as a combination in flower bouquets.
The plantation will be dry farming but some watering during planting and eventually during first summer will be realized by the forest fire brigade. Tree formation will be in low vase by successive pruning to less than 2.2 m in total height. Planting in 6mx4m (416 trees/ha) has been successfully tested in new plantations in Portugal.
Harvesting is done from October to December in several passages. Plantations can be harvested from year 4 but full production is achieved from year 8. The plants for the project will be improved clones as the ones produced in vitro by Coimbra University (“Escola Superior Agraria”). It is important to use better genetic material because their better results could promote the use of the plant.
Medronheiro is not tolerant to late or early frosts if accompanied by wind. Medronheiro is a resistant tree but there are pests, as insects Otiorrynchus sulcatus, Totris pronubana, and diseases that have to be treated.
5. MARKET AND MARKETING
Dasos project will produce Medronho fruit for fresh consumption as the price is high and the project has a consistent volume to be sold. Special attention will be paid to packaging for better preserve the fruit and place it as upmarket priced one.
There are around 12,000 ha planted in Portugal mainly dedicated to own consumption alcohol production (fermentation in batches for 30-90 days, followed by artisanal distillation). 15 kg of fruit is required to produce 1.5-2 l of alcohol. Medronho alcohol is relatively expensive and it is sold locally between 7 and 20 €/l.
For further information, please contact Pedro Ochoa, tel.+352 621 239 696