Frequent storms and flooding worldwide calls for more resistant table grape varieties

22.09.2023 188 views

There is no doubt that large scale climatic events that swing widely from drought to sudden flooding is wreaking havoc for fresh produce growers from around the world. This is especially true for table grapes that have traditionally been sensitive to even the slightest rain, with storms and floods often leading to big disasters for producers.

The team at Grapa, breeding and licensing company of the ARRA varieties have together with their partners Giumarra Vineyards’, experienced this first hand as Tropical Storm Hilary hit California, at the peak of the season for table grape growers. It was the first tropical storm to affect the US West Coast in more than eight decades, bringing a year’s worth of rain in just a couple of days.

“With each passing day, it became increasingly evident that the grapes in the San Joaquin Valley had endured significant damage due to the untimely torrential rains. Consequently, this exposed many growers to large losses. Grapa Varieties, as a family business, who focuses on farmers, sympathize deeply with their situation,” says Nomi Karniel Padan, Grapa’s Commercial Director

According to Uzi Yaron, Grapa R&D Director, the susceptibility of table grapes to dramatic weather change is especially clear with mid-late varieties, whose cycle goes into the second half of the season “In regions that were totally dry at these stages of the year, we now start seeing rain which wasn’t ever an issue in the past, this was the case last season in South Africa and Namibia. Rain patterns are definitely changing, bringing unprecedented downpours out of the regular wet periods, even in places like India. If in California they experienced a hurricane in August, then it is pivotal for breeders to provide varieties that provide safety to the farmers.”

“Hilary acted as a loud and clear message of how vital weather-proof varieties are, like so many in the ARRA range have proven to be. The ARRA breeding program’s site, in the heart of California’s grape-country, experienced about 80-100 mm rain of rain but the ARRA varieties grapes were unaffected. A few days afterwards varieties such as ARRA Cherry Crush™, ARRA Sweeties™, ARRA Mystic Dream™ and ARRA Fire Crunch™ showed no cracks whatsoever. If a variety can’t hold rain, then even if one berry cracks the rest is gone. These ARRA varieties hold the rain exceptionally well thereby considerably lowering the risk in the current unpredictable changing weather conditions,” explains Yaron.

Genetics talk
In this footage taken two weeks after the storm, Joe Giumarra, Giumarra Vineyards’, Vice President of Farming, presents the mid-late varieties that withstood the storm.

Alongside the varieties’ traits, the program acquired much necessary experience and knowledge over the years in challenging tropical conditions in Brazil and India, making it possible for them to succeed and thrive in new regions that also struggle with unseasonal rains. Karniel Padan shares a moving experience: “During my visit to India, an ARRA varieties grower told me how grateful they are for giving them varieties that secure their livelihood, because they know that even if there is heavy rain, out of season, they will not lose their crops”

Eliminating risks of destructive weather
However, they also offer a more sustainable alternative as Karniel Padan adds: “The ARRA short cycle varieties allow growers to minimize the length of the season and the exposure to the elements, which further enhances sustainability by requiring less water, fewer pesticides and fungicides, lower emissions, and reduced labor. This leads to a decrease in the overall environmental impact of grape cultivation. Our stand display of our range of table grapes at the recent Asia Fruit Logistica exhibition in Hong Kong was also an unplanned opportunity to show the resilience of the ARRA varieties from California, following the strong rains that hit the state in August,” she concludes.

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