Esther Gómez, of ITUM

Spain:Table grape breeders for the whole world

The production of seedless table grapes in Murcia has recorded a tremendous growth in recent years. The crisis of the grape sector in the 70's is now history thanks to the efforts made in innovation by producers, resulting in a varietal diversity that has nothing to do with the old varieties. Murcia is currently the Spanish region producing and exporting the most table grapes in Spain.

Joaquín Gómez, president of Apoexpa, together with Esther Gómez.

For the campaign that is about to start, the company Investigación y Tecnología de Uva de Mesa, S.L. (Research and Technology of Table Grapes, S.L.) (ITUM) has 14 white, red and black seedless varieties with a crunchy texture that covers a seven month production schedule. "The large European distribution chains, as well as producers from around the world, are all showing great interest in these varieties," affirms Esther Gómez Yelo, of ITUM.

ITUM has five hectares of fields devoted to research

Founded in 2002, ITUM consists of 24 companies devoted to the production and marketing of table grapes, from small firms with fewer than 10 growers to large companies, which wished to invest in research. The institution collaborates with the Murcian Institute of Agricultural Research and Development, IMIDA; a body under Murcia's Council of Agriculture.

"The IMIDA gives us its research potential and we take care of the rest. Despite the recession, funding never stopped, mostly thanks to the fact that we don't depend on public institutions," points out Esther Gómez. 

Sheet that outlines the breeding process

95% of the varieties developed by ITUM are seedless. "We are trying to extend the production schedule both at the start and in the end of the campaign, for as long as we believe that it can be profitable in the market, i.e. from early June until December, when production starts in the southern hemisphere," states Esther Gómez. Previously, the table grape campaign in Murcia lasted only from October to December. Now, Murcian companies are able to overlap their stonefruit and table grape campaigns without disrupting their activities.

Carrying out the emasculation process to facilitate the pollination

"Initially, the purpose of this institution was only to develop varieties suited to our growing conditions, thus improving the local varieties and catering to the needs of companies investing in this project. However, we are now developing varieties for producing countries such as Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, South Africa and Australia. Without realising it, we have become competitors for traditional breeders in California, Israel, South Africa and Chile."

In the late 90's, following the conflict with the breeding rights of the Superior variety, a boost was given to the protection model for table grape varieties, given that, in the past, there was not a culture of protected varieties. "We see a growing interest from producers and distributors worldwide; however, for now we prefer not to sell our varieties to Mediterranean countries, as it makes no sense to give wings to our competitors after such a great financial effort."

Esther Gómez explains that seven years have been necessary to see the first results of the investment. "The profits obtained from the new varieties will be reinvested in research to make it possible for our partners to save costs," she explains.

This year, the ITUM will surprise the table grape sector with new seedless varieties tolerant to diseases such as powdery mildew and downy mildew. 

For more information:
Esther Gómez Yelo
T: +34 968770136

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