Why are immature oranges a sustainable source for citrus extracts?

Last updated: May 3rd, 2024

June 28th, 2023

Nature is fascinating and citrus trees are no exception. These fruit-bearing trees, known for their refreshing oranges, have a remarkable way of sustaining themselves through a process of natural selection, which is better known as the fruit drop. In this article, we will explore what immature oranges are, shedding light on their origin, the growth process of orange trees, and the sustainable practices employed by nature itself.

Immature Oranges

Orange trees grow more oranges than they can sustain

During the summer, an orange tree bursts into a profusion of flowers, each one holding the promise of an orange. However, the tree faces a conundrum. It cannot possibly sustain all the blossoms it produces, as doing so would drain its resources and hinder its overall health. Consequently, the tree must decide on the number of oranges it can support adequately.

This decision is made by looking at which oranges the tree wants to fully grow and dropping the immature oranges that it decides are no longer able to grow.

Why does an orange tree drop immature oranges?

As the oranges begin to develop, the tree undergoes a natural selection process. It assesses its capacity to sustain the growing fruits and makes calculated choices to ensure its long-term well-being.
At this early stage, the tree drops the tiniest, most immature oranges, which are often just a few millimetres in size. This process is called fruit drop [1].

Fruit drop occurs when a fruit tree produces more fruits than it can adequately support to maturity. The tree goes through a natural thinning process in which it sheds a certain number of immature or underdeveloped fruits. This thinning is essential for the tree to allocate its resources efficiently and ensure that the remaining fruits have enough nutrients and energy to reach maturity.

Several factors can contribute to fruit drop. Some of the common reasons include:

1. Limited resources: The tree may not have enough resources, such as water, nutrients, or sunlight, to support the growth of all the fruits it has set.

2. Competition: When there are too many fruits on a tree, they may compete with each other for resources, leading to the shedding of some fruits.

3. Pollination and fertilization issues: If pollination or fertilization processes are incomplete or unsuccessful, the tree may drop the unfertilized or poorly developed fruits.

4. Environmental factors: Adverse weather conditions, such as frost, extreme heat, drought, or strong winds, can also cause fruit drop.

5. Disease or pest infestation: Certain diseases or pest attacks can result in the dropping of fruits as a defence mechanism by the tree [2]

Fruit drop is a natural mechanism that helps the tree optimize its resources and produce healthier fruits. It is a common occurrence in many fruit-bearing trees, and growers often expect some level of fruit drop during the growing season.

Immature oranges: a sustainable source of citrus extract

Though the tree drops the immature oranges to sustain other oranges, this does not mean that the immature oranges are not full of nutrients. On the contrary, these immature oranges have very high levels of the hero-compound hesperidin that Solabia Nutrition’s citrus extracts are standardized for.

To utilize their potential, these immature oranges must undergo a specific drying process. The moisture is carefully removed, transforming them into dried fruits. Once the oranges are fully dried, the extraction process begins, unlocking the hesperidin. This compound is a type of flavonoid that has many beneficial health effects.

The process of getting immature oranges is not only sustainable because the fruit drop is a natural process, but also because of the way pests are controlled via biological control [3].

How biological control preserves the quality of the immature oranges

A sustainable practice employed by orange tree farmers is biological control, which involves the deliberate use of natural enemies to combat pests. Instead of relying on harmful pesticides, farmers harness the power of nature’s allies to protect their citrus trees, including the immature oranges.

Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, are introduced into the orchards to prey on pests like aphids and caterpillars that can harm the immature oranges. This method, known as biological control, helps maintain a balance in the ecosystem by reducing pest populations naturally and safeguarding the growth of immature oranges.

By embracing this approach, farmers can minimize the use of pesticides, thereby protecting the environment and preserving the health of the citrus trees and their valuable immature oranges.
This sustainable practice not only ensures the quality of the oranges but also fosters a harmonious relationship between agriculture and nature, promoting a healthier and more environmentally friendly farming system.

The most interesting part of immature oranges: Hesperidin

Hesperidin, a bioactive compound found abundantly in citrus fruits like oranges, possesses numerous health benefits. It’s a powerful flavonoid that has been extensively studied by Solabia Nutrition for its effect on gut health and in its micronized form: its effect on sports performance.

By utilizing the immature oranges’ dried form, the extraction process harnesses hesperidin’s potency, providing an eco-friendly and sustainable approach to its production.

During Solabia Nutrition’s visit to the orange fields in Spain that are the source of the immature oranges for our extracts, we had the privilege of learning about the orange trees’ natural fruit drop from our orange farmer.

The dried immature oranges, sourced from these carefully selected fields, serve as the foundation for our citrus extracts. By partnering with nature and respecting its processes, we strive to provide ingredients that are not only of the highest quality but also sustainably produced.