Flavour and crunch set variety apart


A new white seedless table grape will be available in retail outlets over the next few weeks, but with limited supplies consumers will have to be quick.

This was the advice from Department of Agriculture and Food WA table grape specialist Colin Gordon.

"The variety known as M44-14 is marketed under the trademark Mallee Seedless and was released to industry nationally in late 2010," Mr Gordon said.

"With the overwhelming consumer preference for seedless grapes, it should become an important part of the variety sequence over the season once sufficient vines come into production."

The department has been evaluating M44-14 through trials in Carnarvon, the Swan Valley and the South West for several years where it has performed well.

It is a mid-to-late season grape that ripens after Dawn Seedless, thus extending the white seedless season.

"Mallee Seedless is full of flavour when picked at optimum maturity and consumers will enjoy the crunchy texture of the berries," Mr Gordon said.

"This is a feature that separates it from other white seedless varieties that have been evaluated."

M44-14 was bred by CSIRO in the mallee area of north-western Victoria around Mildura, after which it was named.

Mr Gordon estimated that about 12,500 vines, roughly 10 hectares, had been planted to Mallee Seedless to date in all WA growing areas.

About 10,000 vines had been regrafted onto older less popular varieties, while the rest were new vines.

The total number should reach 20,000 vines following new plantings in spring 2012, leading to much more fruit in the next few years.

Mr Gordon said recent difficult climatic conditions had created a challenging season for growers and the supply of table grapes was slightly down on previous seasons, since the season opened with Carnarvon fruit in early November.

Floods in Carnarvon during late December 2010 as well as January and February 2011 reduced the grapes harvested in 2011 and could be a much as 300 to 350 tonnes lower than previous seasons.

The Swan Valley region was affected most with continual rain from August to mid-November, which included localised hailstorms.

These unseasonal weather events encouraged the development of mildew-type diseases, causing crop losses estimated at 5 per cent, or around 240 tonnes, compared with previous seasons.

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