Sun World International hires Table Grape breeder

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Sun World International hires Table Grape breeder

Sun World International LLC, a pioneering table grape and stone fruit genetics and licensing company, is expanding its breeding team capabilities with the hire of Paola Barba as its new Table Grape Breeder.

Barba brings her own experience and expertise to complement the strong genetics, research and breeding team responsible for delivering popular varieties marketed under the Autumn Crisp, Sable Seedless, Midnight Beauty, Scarlotta Seedless, Adora Seedless, Superior Seedless brands.

Before joining Sun World, Barba was the project director and breeder of the Table Grape Breeding Program at the Chilean Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) for almost eight years, where she was responsible for the release of three new table grape varieties.

She has been involved in grapevine research for the last 14 years, having first studied Biotechnological Engineering in Chile and later doing her master's and doctorate studies on Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University. At Cornell, Barba focused her research on the genetics of grapevine disease resistance using new genomic approaches, under the supervision of Sun World’s collaborator Professor Bruce Reisch.

Barba shares, “It was natural to develop a passion for grapevine research at Cornell: a well-established grapevine breeding program combined with state-of-the-art technologies that were being developed was fertile ground for a curious student. Originally, I went for a master's degree but finally stayed for a doctorate too.” 

“The role of the table grape breeder at Sun World is key to the company and the industry’s success by ensuring the consistent development of new varieties that delight consumers and ensure the sustainability of licensees,” says Jennifer Petersen, the EVP/Chief Science Officer at Sun World.

Sun World crosses its best varieties, grows their offspring and evaluates plants and their fruit across different conditions and over multiple years to ensure that the new variety will outperform those that currently exist in the marketplace. Because of the nature of fruit trees and vines, each cycle of propagation and evaluation can take up to three years. In total, from seed to shelves, a new variety can take up to ten years to be developed and 15-20 years before it arrives on supermarket shelves.

The development of a new fruit variety combines both technical and commercial expertise and a Sun World breeder needs to have command of both. With the rapid advancement of technologies, the company can speed the process of variety development and help ensure that new products have the right set of grower and consumer traits for commercial success.

“Breeders play a pivotal role in creating varieties that satisfy demand, using genetics and probability rules,” Barba says. “The addition of key capabilities in our breeding team will allow us to bend the probabilities in our favor, by incorporating new technologies that accelerate the process, and implementing product design methods that increase the odds that our new varieties will be winners in the marketplace.”

Petersen shares her excitement for Barba joining the team, “When you have a program as strong as ours with a breeder like Terry Bacon who is well respected in the field retiring after a long and successful career, it’s a challenge to fill those shoes. We were pleased to find Paola and hand her the baton to lead the table grape program. Paola is smart and capable, has years of experience researching and breeding wine and table grapes and she’s passionate and a team player. It’s hard to find all those attributes in a single person and I feel fortunate to have her join the program.”

“We are delighted to welcome Paola to the Sun World team,” says Sun World CEO David Marguleas. “Her vast experience and expertise in breeding table grapes will help us on our mission to delight both consumers and growers with excellent new varieties.” 

The Sun World team looks to current global trends and the challenges and opportunities for agriculture including climate change, globalization, and a continuing focus on human and environmental health, as input for breeding targets.

Petersen says, “The pressure on agriculture to be sustainable, while also feeding an ever-growing global population is intense and having outstanding genetics along with excellent management practices are key to success. Barba’s background and interest in breeding for disease resistance will provide a key competitive advantage to future varieties as she builds an even stronger program focused on resistance to key pathogens such as powdery mildew. We’ll continue to build upon the program’s focus to develop grower-friendly varieties and to breed for traits such as disease resistance, low inputs, and high yield and quality.”

Barba adds: “It’s exciting to join such a renowned company to create table grapes for the future.”

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