New cultivars drive development

Breeding new cultivars remains one of the main drivers of development in the table-grape industry.

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This was emphasised at the recent International Table Grape Symposium held in the US. So said Johan Viljoen of fruit marketing company SAPEX, during a symposium feedback session, hosted by the South African Society for Enology and Viticulture (SASEV).

A variety of promising new white, red and black seedless cultivars were presented by companies like Giumarra, Sheehan and Sunworld and the US Department of Agriculture, as international researchers and plant breeders compete to develop cultivars that cater for changing consumer demands, said Viljoen.

“Farmers want better-performing cultivars that are more resistant to drought and diseases, produce higher yields and help reduce labour costs, while filling the gaps in their current production range,” he said. Consumers and retailers demand seedless grapes with improved shelf life and a better colour and taste.

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But new cultivars aren’t a quick-fix solution for struggling table-grape farmers, warned Viljoen. “If you aren’t achieving good production results with your current cultivars, first find out what’s really causing the problem before investing in new cultivars,” he said.

Viljoen reminded farmers that planting new cultivars is an expensive exercise and each farmer should do an individual assessment to determine whether or not the cost of planting new cultivars would be worth their while.