Launch of seedless varietyfor table grape industry

Phyllis Burger and Professor Bongani Ndima at the ARC Table Grape breeding nursery in Stellenbosch.

The Agricultural Research Council (ARC), in partnership with the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI) and Culdevco launched the seedless breeding red table grape variety called Joybells at the South African National Pavilion during the Fruit Logistica Trade Fair in Berlin, Germany, last week.

Joybells was cultivated in 2001 by table grape breeder and senior researcher at ARC, Phyllis Burger.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Ms Burger says with a passion in table cultivation, she has been involved in the development of numerous varieties over the years. She says since 1952 the breeding programme for grape varieties has changed so much in that the industry has increased by size.

“Based on the increase in the industry and consumer demands, as a research council together with the industry, we started to locally invest more into the seedless breeding programme in the past 10 years. To get varieties in the table grape sector most South African growers relied heavily on imported varieties that had to be adapted to our climate. Therefore, there was a need to cultivate a breeding programme locally,” says Ms Burger.

The chief executive officer of SATI, Willem Bestbier says with the launch and introduction of Joybells in the table grape industry, South Africa’s profile as a serious table grape grower and supplier world-wide will be raised.

Mr Bestbier says it has always been the case in South Africa that those who are in the agricultural sector will always partner with ARC in their research effort to breed and evaluate variety of cultivars as part of the holistic research that government with the industry invest on.

“The table grape industry globally is spoilt for choice. There are many breeding programmes that are available in international markets, but nothing beats a home-bred success that has all the local breeding objectives focusing on our own reality like soil, climate, the market that we serve, farmers’ skills, and other inputs constraints or challenges that we face as the industry,” says Mr Bestbier.

He adds that experience over many years has showed that a home-bred and locally evaluated breeding programme often performs better than an imported one and that the risks are lower.

The general manager of Culdevco, Dr Leon von Mollendorff says as the marketing and licensing company for South African deciduous fruit industry varieties, they are proud to partner with ARC and SATI to launch the freshest addition to its varieties.

“Of the five recent varieties that have been released by Culdevco and the ARC, Joybells is the most successful to be commercially released in the global market. To top this fruitful result, market feedback from prominent global retailers has been immensely positive, adding to the promise of the commercial success in Europe and beyond,” says Dr Von Mollendorff.