Selecting Grape Varieties to Plant

More bad table grape varieties are available for purchase than good ones. Don't rush this decision. Though numerous high quality seeded table grape varieties are available for temperate-climate vineyards, the commercial grower should be mindful that the American consumer now has a 90% preference for seedless table grapes. That's the future, even though a few growers in the eastern United States still fresh-market significant quantities of 'Concord' and 'Niagara'. Hardiness is an important characteristic in table grape varieties for temperate-climate vineyards. Vines will often be injured at temperatures from -5 to -15°F, so commercial growers must carefully choose varieties matched to the low-temperature history of their site. Hobby growers situated on non-traditional vineyard sites will need to choose hardy varieties that will tolerate temperatures of -10 to -15°F or lower. Be careful in making choices. Many named seedless varieties have been unreliable producers over the years. Consult objective printed material (Bordelon, 1995; Cahoon et al., 1991; Reisch et al., 1993; Wolf and Poling, 1995; Zabadal et al., 1997) rather than nursery catalogs for good information about table grape varieties. The experience of others growing table grapes in your area or discussions with local university Extension personnel can also be helpful. Don't assume that vines offered by nationwide retailing chains will be suitable for your backyard vineyard!

Order vines several months or even a year in advance of planting to be assured of availability. Vine quality varies considerably and can be assessed by inspecting the root system. The larger, more fibrously branched the root system, the better it will exploit the soil and support early growth. Vines should have primary roots at least 9 to 15 inches in length. Poor quality vines slow vineyard establishment and can cause a vineyard to fail. Avoid purchasing vines that have been root pruned for convenience of shipping. Grapevines can be infected with viruses and other diseases that can permanently stunt or even kill vines. Unfortunately, there currently are no sources of cool-climate table grape varieties that are certified free of these diseases. Therefore, the only strategy available to growers to reduce their risk of purchasing diseased vines is to select only large, healthy-looking vines with large root systems. In future years, certified planting stock of some cool-climate table grape varieties will be available. A listing of nurseries that sell table grape varieties for temperate climates is available (Zabadal et al., 1997).

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