- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean agronomic engineer Luis Carrasco, in a display of fatherly dedication and encouragement, has achieved a scientific first — growing a tree that yields five different fruits.

“I wanted my daughters to see what they can achieve if they strive for the impossible,” Mr. Carrasco said of the plum tree in his back yard, which now also produces peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries.

The incredible tree even yields multiple varieties of the same fruit, such as white and yellow-flesh, bare and fuzzy peaches. Each fruit has the flavor, smell and color of its own fruit type. The growth was possible because all fruits come from the plum family.

Mr. Carrasco achieved this marvel without any genetic manipulation. He simply grafted branches from foreign trees, methodically, over three years, and these branches eventually started producing new fruit.

“It’s like a tissue or organ transplant,” Mr. Carrasco said. “It creates new life, growing into the tree it’s been attached to.”

Carlos Munoz, an authority on fruit genetics with Chile’s Agricultural Investigation Institute, says the technique is valid, but it isn’t likely to have broader commercial applications.

“It’s a curiosity more than anything,” Mr. Munoz said.

In November 2002, the tree started bearing multiple fruits, and an unimaginable 10 varieties of five different fruits appeared in a year. The achievement is recorded in the 2004 Guinness Book of Records.

The idea for such a tree dates to Mr. Carrasco’s university days 25 years ago. But Mr. Carrasco is not a scientist. He works in the Santiago production and commercial export branch of U.S.-based fruit importer Ballantine Produce.

He went to the company’s California office on business last month, and when the officials there heard about his fruit tree, they asked him to grow a similar tree at the company’s main sales headquarters in Reedley, in the San Joaquin Valley.

Ballantine is also interested in looking into whether the tree could be commercialized.

Mr. Carrasco says the most rewarding part of this process was the look on his daughters’ faces when they first saw the different fruits emerge on the tree.

“They were simply amazed,” he said. “Now all they have to do is look at our patio and there’s living proof that with imagination, effort and perseverance, nothing is impossible.”

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