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New Summer Seedless Black Grape Developed

By Marcia Wood
September 17, 1998

A tasty new black seedless grape from Agricultural Research Service plant breeders should appear in supermarkets within the next few years. The grape ripens in mid to late August, making it ideal for late-summer snacks or salads.

The sweet, firm fruit will give shoppers an alternative to Ribier black grapes, which ripen about the same time but contain seeds. Now known only as B74-99, the new grape is the latest from ARS' grape breeding team at the Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, Fresno, Calif. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief research arm.

ARS fruit breeder David Ramming and technician Ronald Tarailo developed the first B74-99 vines and put them through rigorous field tests over the past 5 years in research and commercial vineyards in California.

Ramming plans to talk about the work at this afternoon's 75th anniversary celebration of the ARS grape breeding program at the Fresno laboratory. The researchers are expected to name the new variety soon. They will make cuttings available to breeders and commercial nurseries in 1999. California Table Grape Commission helped fund the research.

Other grapes from the Fresno lab's breeding program include Flame Seedless, America's top red seedless grape; Crimson Seedless, a crunchy red grape for fall; and DOVine, a dry- on-the-vine raisin grape for machine harvesting.

Some of these grapes, including B74-99, were produced through conventional breeding, using pollen from one parent grapevine to fertilize the flowers of another. Others were produced by embryo rescue, a sophisticated technique in which the Fresno team is regarded as the world leader.

In grape embryo rescue, scientists excise tiny developing seeds of a promising grape from the fruit, then nurture the seeds in petri dishes. Embryo rescue has sped development of new seedless grapes because it enables scientists to rescue embryos that, in nature, would probably not survive.

Scientific contact: David Ramming, ARS Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, 2021 S. Peach Ave., Fresno, CA 93727, phone (209) 453-3061, fax (209) 453-3088,

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