At the '3rd Global Congress on plant biology and biotechnology', which will take place in Singapore from 11 to 13 March, representatives of the Murcian Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Development (Imida) will present a paper on the table grape varieties obtained with its genetic improvement program, the development of the crop and its biotechnological tools.
Imida's Table Grape Improvement Team and the Murcia-based company Itum (Research and Technology in Table Grapes), based in Blaca and accounting for more than 90 percent of the table grape production in the Region, have developed a Genetic improvement program aimed at obtaining new seedless varieties. These varieties are adapted to the regional agroclimatic conditions, have a good quality and are economically profitable for the producers. Table grape consumption has doubled worldwide in recent years; in fact, in the United States, they already rank third in the list of most consumed fresh fruits, only behind bananas and apples.
As a result of this collaboration, there are already 17 registered varieties, which stand out for their crunchy texture, their high productivity and the lower demands when it comes to cultivation techniques. The producers associated to the aforementioned company have planted more than 900 hectares in the seven years that they've had access to registered varieties; a figure that represents more than 15 percent of the regional acreage.
In order to broaden the program's initial objectives, a new goal was set: to incorporate the resistance to diseases, specifically mildew and powdery mildew, which pose the biggest threat in Spain and other areas of the planet. Itumfifteen was the first variety registered two years ago. It is resistant to powdery mildew, it has crunchy berries, a nice muscatel flavor and a natural red color; characteristics that, together with its early harvest date, have resulted in it being a highly demanded variety.
Itumseventeen, which is the latest variety to have been presented, is white and resistant to powdery mildew, it has a muscatel flavor, as well as berries with a crunchy texture and an early-harvesting period. The main advantage of cultivating these varieties is the lower crop losses and savings in phytosanitary treatments, which also results in grapes with fewer residues and a lower environmental impact.
The development of the new varieties was initially intended to support local producers, but, in view of the interest shown by producers from other parts of the world, plant material has been shipped for cultivation in Chile, Peru, Brazil, South Africa and Australia. These are countries in the Southern Hemisphere that produce in the off-season, so they can help keep Murcian grapes available in the world markets throughout the year. In 2019, the first commercial plantations are being established in Chile and Australia, followed by Peru, South Africa and Brazil in the coming years.
The presence of Murcian grapes at major international fairs, such as Fruit Atraction (Madrid), Fruit Logistica (Berlin) and Asia Fruit Logistica (Hong Kong), with the support of the Murcian Council of Water, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and the Institute of Public Works, together with the sector's participation in forums or congresses, is giving a boost to the improvement program's internationalization.
In the current campaign, more than 200 hectares will be planted with varieties from the Region of Murcia, which is a record figure. With more than half of that acreage, Itumfifteen is achieving exponential growth.