Canada’s Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is currently evaluating numerous seedless grape varieties brought in from the U.S., in the hope of boosting local growers’ marketing window.
Ontario-based Vineland planted the six varieties at its test block in 2014, having established a relationship with a U.S. breeder the year before. It is now aiming for a commercial launch of at least two of them in 2018.
“We saw there was interest from the industry in seeking out new table grape varieties, and they reached out to Vineland to see if there were any options around the world where new varieties could be brought in, tested and maybe taken to the commercial stage,” technology scout and grower outreach representative Michael Kauzlaric told www.freshfruitportal.com.
In 2014 a relationship with also made with a European variety owner, and five additional cultivars are due to be planted under trials in 2017.
Three of the six U.S.-origin varieties are green and the other three are described as ‘blue’. All of them are harvested later than the variety that currently dominates the industry.
“We wanted to try to discover seedless varieties, because right now in Ontario there is this kind of semi-seedless grape called the Sovereign Coronation, and we believe the majority of consumers will want seedless,” he said.
“The season with Sovereign Coronation might be only six to eight weeks, and that’s it. So we come into the market and we’re out within the blink of an eye. We hope that with good storage practices we might be able to extend the season until Christmas.
“So we’re really trying to offer the Canadian consumer more local product. We’ll never displace imported grapes, but we’re just trying to build up the local category for the consumer and bring more diversification.”
Along with extending the marketing window, Kauzlaric said late varieties were important so as to avoid the spring frosts common the region.
“The biggest hurdle for us here is that it gets pretty cold,” he said.
He added the varieties’ taste and productivity were key criteria in the evaluations, in order to generate interest amongst both growers and retailers.
“In 2016 we had the first full crop of varieties planted in 2014, so retailers and growers came to the test block and they were able to taste and provide some feedback on the grapes and their market potential,” he said.
“So we’re gauging the whole supply chain, getting involved in the whole process rather than having all of a sudden new varieties available.”
Over the coming winter there will be discussions to see if there is interest from those who were able to taste the grapes, and Kauzlaric said in the best case scenario one variety may be even launched next year.
“But probably 2018 will be the focus for a commercial launch for at least two out of the six varieties,” he said.
“Right now there’s been one blue and one green that have shown promise – they’ve survived two cold winters we’ve had, and they eat well and provide enough yield. Growers may want to obverse one more year before committing acreage to it.”
He added he did not expect the new varieties to eventually displace the Sovereign Coronation, unless yield and prices justified such a development.
While the varieties are currently being tested under Ontario growing conditions, Kauzlaric said the plan was to eventually go across Canada, testing in difference provinces and boosting the grape industry.