On 17 November TopFruit and a visiting Grapa team invited table grape producers to ARRA™ orchards in Aussenkehr, southern Namibia, and more than a hundred growers came, many from across the border.
The early red ARRA 29 (pictured right), currently harvested, is eliciting particular attention and according to Stephan Nel, of the TopFruit table grape technical team, for eating quality, appearance and shelf life, the variety is unequalled in its time slot. “Its bright red colour makes it very suitable for the East and it is completely seedless. Another advantage is that you can let it hang and it remains crisp.”
Many grape growers in both Namibia and South Africa are looking at ARRA 29 as a substitute for Flame which has the disadvantage, particularly in areas that actually receive rain, of burst berries. It also has better colour and larger berries than Flame, but because the variety is so new, growers still have to perfect cultivation practices taking climatic variation into account.
A reduction in labour requirements is, in fact, one of the standout features of the ARRA varieties. An example of this is ARRA 13, another early red, which colours without Etephon, which opens the door to markets with very strict MRL requirements. The ARRA 13 harvest is also underway in Namibia. It is a variety not widely planted outside of Namibia and the Northern Cape due to its sensitivity to rain, but it flourishes under the desert conditions of the Aussenkehr Valley.
Visitors at the Grapa/TopFruit field day in an ARRA 13 vineyard (photos supplied by TopFruit)
With a better understanding of how to manage the outstanding fertility of ARRA 15, a mid-season white, growers seem to be getting the yield per vine just right this season and, Stephan says, quality has significantly improved.
ARRA 30 is another newcomer to Namibia, with some farms commencing harvest of the early white grape this week. Its naturally loose bunch negates the need for much labour and TopFruit has high expectations of the variety’s first season.
The field day also showcased a mid-season black ARRA grape, the ARRA 14, which does well in the region, although the demand for black varieties isn’t as strong as for white and red varieties of which there are many new plantings.
The ARRA programme has a significant market share of the Namibian grape industry, making up a quarter of the approximately total 2,500ha in the Aussenkehr Valley.
The TopFruit ARRA test blocks at Simondium, Western Cape, will be open for visits from 1 January 2019 onwards.
Shachar Karniel, co-founder of the ARRA breeding programme, from Grapa Varieties Limited, in an ARRA 15 vineyard in Aussenkehr, Namibia
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