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Pierce's Disease (PD) is a serious threat to the cultivation of grapes in the United States, especially in the warmer southern regions. Recently the UC Davis grape breeding program has developed new European (Vitis vinifera) grape selections with resistance to PD that are expected to produce high quality yield in regions with PD pressure where the Vitis vinifera production was previously not a viable option. On-going research in my lab focuses on investigations to determine the development and production potential of three PD resistant 87.5% V. vinifera selections from the UC Davis program that were planted at the Chilton Research and Extension Center in Clanton in 2010. Our results are very promising and indicate the newly developed PD resistant European grape hybrids have the potential to greatly impact the fruit industry in Alabama and the Southeast by providing new specialty fruit crop to the market and broaden the window of economic opportunities especially for small- and medium-size family farms. Actually, based on the promising results of our research, two commercial vineyards in Alabama were granted the license to grow these experimental vines. Building on our previous experience cultivating European grapes in Alabama, we established a new research plot in December 2016 to evaluate a PD resistant 94% European grapevine (Fig. 1, A).
Figure 1. PD resistant 94% Vitis vinifera selection trained to a Watson system (A) and cluster development (B) at the CREC, on June 6, 2018.
Vines are planted at 6', 7', and 8' in-row distance and trained to a highly efficient Watson trellis system. Observations are on-going to determine vine phenology, cropping potential and fruit quality.
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