Researchers at the Agarkar Research Institute (ARI) in Pune have developed a new hybrid variety of grape suitable for making a wide range of food products, including juice, raisin, jam and red wine.

“ARI-516 is a multi-purpose grape variety with a musky flavour and is moderately resistant fungal diseases. It is also an early maturing variety that yields about 16 to 20 tonnes per acre (40 to 50 tonnes per hectare),” said Sujata Tetali, the scientist who developed the variety by interbreeding of two species from the same genus – Catawba variety of Vitis labrusca and Beauty seedless variety of Vitis vinifera . The current average productivity of grapes in India is around 25 tonnes per hectare.

Tetali is a scientist at Genetics and Plant Breeding Group at ARI, an autonomous institution funded by the Department of Science and Technology. It developed the new variety in collaboration with the Maharashtra Association for Cultivation of Science. The work was recently published in the proceedings of the International Symposium on Grape Production and Processing.

Testing under way

India, which produced a little over 3 million tonnes of grapes in 2018-19, is the world’s 12th largest producer of grapes. Maharashtra accounts for nearly 81 per cent of grapes produced in the country.

ARI-516 grape variety has been recently identified for release by the Varietal Identification Committee of Indian Council of Agricultural Research–All India Coordinated Research Project on Fruit (ICAR-AICRPF), for cultivation in Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. “It is at present being tested at seven centres of ICAR-AICRPF and is found to be growing well in these four States,” said Tetali.

Currently, about 78 per cent of grapes produced in the country are used for table consumption, 17-20 per cent for raisin production, 1.5 per cent for wine making and about 0.5 per cent for juice production. According to Tetali, the new variety, which has wider adaptability, is very suitable for juice making.

Currently, only a negligible share of grapes is used for juice production, even though juice making is a better option to reduce the post-harvest losses. Grapes suffer up to 16 per cent of post-harvest losses.

Superior quality

The fungal resistance of ARI-516 has been derived from Catawba, which is an American grape variety. The new variety has superior quality fruits and higher yield per unit area. An early ripening hybrid, it matures in 110-120 days after pruning. The variety has elongated bunches and bears pleasant musky flavoured berries and performs well in Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and West Bengal.

Its long cylindrical medium-sized fruit bunches makes this variety superior to other varieties. It has small to medium bluish blackberries with one rudimentary seed in each berry, is sweet in taste with musky flavour and has about 65-70 per cent juice content.

It is tolerant to downy and powdery mildew diseases as well as to anthracnose disease, a group of fungal diseases that affect a variety of plants in warm, humid areas.