Pomegranates on display at the Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier showed clearly that it’s not just a Wonderful world, although that variety leads the growing California industry by far.

Arils, the colorful seed coats in the fruit, come in a variety of hues that were on display in a meeting room packed with a standing-room-only crowd of about 125.

The heavy turnout on a foggy November morning was an obvious indicator of the expanding interest in the fruit that covers more than 30,000 acres statewide and has a $115 million farm gate value in just Kern County, home to Paramount Farming, which has dramatically boosted interest in the crop.

At the front of the room was a small display that was far less appealing, a pomegranate whose seeds were blackened, a casualty of “black heart disease.”

Those who attended the event presented by the University of California saw and heard the good, bad and ugly of the pomegranate industry — the diversity in colorful fruit, the insects that can cause a lot of damage and fungi that can make juice or fresh fruit unpalatable.

A need for sanitary orchard practices, though not orchestrated by the speakers, emerged as one area of consensus. In short, leaving weeds, prunings and rotting fruit can open the way to unwanted infestations.

The worst insect pest in pomegranates is the omnivorous leaf roller, said Walt Bentley, a UC entomologist. “Weedy areas can be a key source,” he said, recounting his observation of a weedy orchard floor where mustard abounded and infestation was at 60 percent.

“If you’re not monitoring for it, you’re going to get stung,” Bentley said, recommending that pheromone traps be used in mid-February to attract the pest.

The cautionary words about weeds were echoed in a later talk by Claude J. Phene, a soil scientist and former director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Water Management Research Laboratory in Fresno.

He pointed out that use of sub-surface drip resulted in less weed growth than use of surface irrigation, meaning it’s less likely the orchard “would store pests.” Moreover, he said, the weeds use more water and nitrogen.

Bentley warned of another pest, the katydid that can overwinter in old leaves. “It’s good to blow the leaves to the center and destroy them,’ he said, adding the pest can be controlled with the use of Success.

The katydid leaves “ice cream like scoops” into fruit, and Bentley said he has seen damage jump from 1 percent to 20 percent in just 10 days.

Bentley also cautioned against using sprays that could take out natural predators for other pomegranate pests, among them the whitefly.

“The ash whitefly will eat you alive if you take the parasite away,” he said.

Ants can protect some pests against predators, and Bentley recommends keeping them off the crop with Amdro Hydramethylnon.