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GL0808-tim-hearden-expos_BT_Edits.JPG Tim Hearden
Thousands attend the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento.

Seminars, expos help grape growers adapt

Events cover new methods of pest and disease control, of planting and harvesting, what crop yield to expect, and how to get a fair price.

Staying current with innovation and developments in the agriculture industry is, in and of itself, almost a full-time job to keep up with innovative technologies and new ways of doing business.

Seminars and expos abound in the grape growing sector, delving into new methods of pest and disease control, of planting and harvesting, what crop yield to expect, and how to get a fair price when the harvest goes to market.

In the first half of this year, for instance, Central Valley growers attended the San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium to discuss vectors of red blotch and farming grapes on land not necessarily suited for that purpose, while thousands attended the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento where adapting to change was the theme.

With the biennial Grape Day in San Joaquin Valley slated for August 14 at University of California’s Kearney Agricultural Research Center (eight speakers from nematodes to rootstocks), three other recent annual events just wrapped up — the 45th annual meeting of the California Association of Winegrape Growers in Sonoma, the 2019 Vineyard and Wines Symposium in Lodi, and a fledgling international grape summit in London.

While we tend to focus on what is happening in our own backyard throughout the California growing community, what happens in the rest of the world impacts and shapes what we do here as well as how and when we do it.

Case in point is the recently concluded Global Grape Summit 2019 in London, organized to bring together the world’s leading table grape specialists to discuss production, trending, areas of growth, and emerging markets.

Big changes

Pre-show marketing told the story: “The table grape industry has undergone some of the most significant changes of any fruit commodity over recent years and the worldwide panorama continues to evolve at a breathtaking pace.”

According to the summit’s website, exports of table grapes over the past five years have risen 17 percent increasing international trade value of table grapes to more than $8 billion.

Kickoff speaker was Chilean CEO Manuel Jose Alcaino of Decofrut who discussed the global table grape panorama and noted that established industry players like Mexico, a key supplier to the U.S. market between Chilean and California seasons, is becoming more prominent by expanding their own growing season with new sectors that arrive earlier.

Over 300 key industry players from six continents were present at the summit analyzing ways to boost grape consumption and move the industry forward.

One of the main speakers was Don Goodwin, President of Golden Sun Marketing in Minnesota, who told Grape Line: “We all have a responsibility to help increase consumption of our product and how we can bring new varieties to market, pricing a better quality item for both the benefit of the grower and the consumer.

“We had a record crop of grapes last year and I think this year has the potential to be even better despite anecdotal reports of several thousand fewer acres in the ground in California,” he said. “If there’s a good transition from the Mexican import season to the California buying season, we should be in better shape by July this year than we were last year, in my opinion.”

Newer varieties

Other domestic speakers included Sam’s Club category buyer Phil Macy who told his audience: “How do we increase sales of table grapes?  By buying newer varieties that taste better.”

Reportedly there are 50 varieties in the marketplace, so word from the podium was that the consumer looks for good flavor, texture, size, and condition, and “We need to make sure the varieties brought to the market consistently have these attributes.”

Commenting on one issue that growers complain about — license fees for new varieties — John Pandol of the Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Brothers, growers/shippers/distributors, bemoaned diminished public technologies that once helped in this area.

“Those days are over,” he said.  “Now, if we want new production technology concepts or new genetics, it’s going to be a private issue, not a public one, and it’s going to be expensive.”

For more news on pests, disease management and other issues affecting vineyards, subscribe to the bi-monthly newsletter The Grape Line.

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