From fresh research into new grape varieties to key work into exports and biosecurity, Hort Innovation continues to invest the table grape R&D levy in a number of key projects. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. To see how the industry’s marketing levy will be put to use in the upcoming season, including investment in the multi-industry Now In Season program, check out the marketing snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

Following its first face-to-face meeting back in August, the table grape Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) convened via teleconference in September, and will meet again in late 2016. Meeting summaries are available on Hort Innovation’s Table Grape grower page.

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the SIAP has also recently been completed, with information on the chair to be made available on the grower page shortly.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

Any questions?

As well as the Table Grape grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Brad Wells is always available to answer questions on the table grape program. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Claire Tindale-Penning.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Effect of sulphur dioxide and cold on survival of insects during the storage of table grapes (TG15003)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? With Australian table grape exports increasing rapidly in recent years, this project sought to strengthen the relationship with the Chinese market specifically. It looked at six potential insect pests of concern, producing data to demonstrate that, should they make their way into consignments, they will not survive current cold and sulphur dioxide (SO2) treatments – giving growers, exporters and importers added peace of mind.

The insects included:

  • Long-tailed mealybug (Pseudococcus longispinus)
  • Ladybird beetle (Chilocorus sp.)
  • European earwig (Forficula auricularia)
  • Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)
  • Carpophilus beetle (Carpophilus hemipterus)
  • Two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae).

Their survival was tested in conditions similar to those experienced during export shipping to China and other Asian countries (transit temperatures for table grapes are generally around 1°C, with SO2-generating sheets used primarily to control fruit rot, and transit times of two to four weeks or more).

Key findings were that:

  • After approximately two weeks of cold storage, all mealybugs, ladybird beetles and Carpophilus beetles died, with or without SO2 sheets – though the presence of SO2 did substantially increase mortality within the first week of storage.
  • It took eight weeks for absolutely every two-spotted spider mite to die with or without SO2, though 95 per cent of the mites were eliminated after four weeks.
  • European earwigs were the hardiest insect tested – cold alone did not kill the majority of the bugs, with 70 per cent still alive after eight weeks in cold storage. But the addition of SO2 saw a substantial increase in mortality, with about 92 per cent of the bugs dead after four weeks.

The research also revealed that during shipment, SO2 levels will be substantially higher at the tops of table grape cartons, where the sheets are generally placed. The researchers note that this new finding could explain anecdotal reports of rots always seeming to occur in the bottom of cartons – not because of moisture pooling as thought, but because of the distribution of SO2. More research will be required to look into this, and possible solutions.

Full details of this research can be found in the project’s final report, which is available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports (final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies).

 

Evaluation of dried and table grape varieties (MT15026)

Status: New project

What’s it all about? Recently commenced, this project will deliver new grape varieties for both the table grape and dried grape industries. For table grapes, new distinctive varieties adapted to local conditions will enable Australia to differentiate its products in international markets, enhance export opportunities and increase domestic consumption.

What’s the latest update? For table grapes, the project has so far undertaken evaluation of seedless material established by the CSIRO in previous varietal work at Irymple, Victoria.

A new table grape planting, including 15 promising selections, has also been planted as grafted vines in Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

So far, evaluation of varieties has seen 54 table grape selections removed from multiplied plots for not meeting key criteria.

 

Australian table grape industry communications project (TG15008)

Status: New project, following on from Communicating with the Australian table grape industry (TG11000)

What’s it all about? This project will continue to maintain and improve communication to Australian table grape growers and other industry stakeholders. By keeping the industry up-to-date on R&D and marketing activities, news, events and other critical information, its ultimate goal is to help the industry tackle issues and to support decision-making and the uptake of new research and technologies.

What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels will continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:

  • Quarterly magazine The Vine, distributed to industry stakeholders and also available online at www.australiangrapes.com.au/the-vine-magazine
  • The Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) website, www.australiangrapes.com.au
  • ATGA social media channels including Facebook, Twitter (@ATGAHortnetwork) and YouTube
  • Regular e-newsletters
  • Industry forums and events.

table-grape-the-vine

A recent issue of The Vine


 

Export market access, maintenance, biosecurity and developing export markets for the Australian table grape industry (TG14000)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project aims to improve and maintain market access for Australian table grapes in overseas markets. A key focus is direct engagement with growers and exporters to develop export readiness and industry knowledge, and engagement with existing, new and potential markets and importers.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting:

  • There had been a number of initiatives on the grower side, including the publication of international statistics and general marketing intelligence in the table grape industry’s national magazine, The Vine, and continued work on resources including an online export manual.
  • The Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) had hosted a number of importer tours, with representatives from Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines learning about the Australian table grape industry, observing the quality of the fruit, and building business-to-business relationships with leading growers, packers and exporters.
  • Meetings with new and potential importers from the Middle East had been held, and trade shows attended in Dubai as well as South Korea and Japan. At the time of last reporting in Hortlink, trade development efforts with Japan had resulted in an increase of containers from 165 the previous year to over 500 this export season.
  • The project had also seen coordination of activities including an on-shore cold verification audit from Thailand, hosting of a Korean inspector, and attendance at a variety of international workshops, trade fairs and meetings.

 

Other R&D projects of note…

» Cold disinfestation verification trials for table grape access to Japan (TG11013), which is due for completion in 2017.

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

Marketing activity for the upcoming table grape season is currently in planning, with an intended predominant focus on export markets and some domestic activity as well.

Export consumer marketing and Now In Season

The multi-industry Now In Season program forms an important part of the table grape export marketing strategy. It is an integrated promotional program that raises awareness of the advantages of quality, safe and healthy Australian horticulture products overseas, and will have a strong presence in key markets including Thailand, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

As well as activities under the Now In Season program, there will be additional table grape marketing in other key export markets such as Japan. Hort Innovation in consulting with industry and will receive advice from the table grape Strategic Investment Advisory Panel during November to finalise the industry’s export marketing activity.

Domestic marketing activity

Likewise, domestic marketing activity for the 2016/17 season is currently being planned to support both national and more localised activity.

Table grape quality project

Marketing project Fruit Quality Standards program (TG15502) has now entered its third and final year. The objectives of this project are to:

  • Provide monitoring of quality of early-season grapes with on-farm testing
  • Monitor quality at the supermarket level
  • Follow up consumer research to measure the level of consumer satisfaction with the quality of grapes purchased
  • Grow demand for Australian table grapes by ensuring consumers have a great eating experience, with repeat purchasing throughout the season.

Weekly sampling will continue over 13 weeks and results will be available at the end of the season in May 2017.

GROWER PROFILE

DOMENIC SERGI, SJDC PRODUCE, VIC

Table grape grower Domenic Sergi is bringing fresh eyes and ideas to the business, having swapped his engineering career for full-time life on the land earlier this year.

“I was working as a construction engineer and in late 2014 moved from Melbourne to Mildura to work on the Sunraysia Modernisation Project – a major irrigation upgrade in the region,” Domenic said. “Being back in Mildura meant I was able to spend some of my time working in the nearby family table grape business, which my grandfather had started, and it got me thinking about potential career paths. The decision to leave engineering came fairly gradually, but I came to see that the table grape industry is as technically challenging and has as much opportunity as engineering.”

Decision made, Domenic hit the ground running. “I’ve been busy with a number of projects for the family business, and have been enjoying the extra sun, physical activity and autonomy that farming allows. I haven’t looked back, and the variability in work certainly keeps things interesting. You’re not just a farmer – you’re also a builder, mechanic, compliance officer, supervisor, agronomist. Every day can bring completely unexpected challenges in these roles, and rising to those challenges is exciting.”

Back in September, Domenic felt his career switch was further validated when he attended the Asia Fruit Logistica trade show in Hong Kong, China. The three-day event saw a large cohort of Australian growers, exporters and other horticulture representatives showcasing the nation’s produce to buyers and importers from all over Asia, via the Hort-Innovation-funded Australia Fresh pavilion.

“The buzz around top-quality Australian produce was just astounding,” Domenic said. “To see the demand and the interest around what we grow here, to get a first-hand understanding of the opportunities for Australian farming, and to talk to other growers and exporters, it really vindicated my decision to switch careers.”

As driven home by the trade show, Domenic said a key strength of Australia’s table grape industry is the strong demand for top-quality premium products. “And the country’s growers are well placed to meet this demand – as long as we continue to push forward,” he said.

“One of our challenges is going to be maintaining our position at the top of the market and our strong reputation of being clean, quality and wholesome, because our international competitors are going to get more sophisticated with their own practices over time,” Domenic said. “But as long as we continue innovating and moving ahead with the latest practices, we will maintain our own point of difference.”

When it comes to innovation, Domenic is keen to see continued work into evolving quality assurance processes, reducing chemical reliances and, most importantly, market access. “Anything and everything that works towards maintaining and opening markets is a good thing, including work into protocols of entry. I think it’s our accessibility projects that are going to have the biggest short-term benefits for the industry,” he said.

As for his own business, Domenic said SJDC Produce – which operates several table grape properties in Red Cliffs – is always looking to innovate. “We are constantly looking towards new products, new growing methods, new technologies. There are plenty of opportunities – and I think that’s the key word. There are opportunities for table grape growers to evolve their businesses, there are opportunities for the industry to come together and strengthen, and there is opportunity in agriculture as a whole – not only for people to move into growing like I have, but also for the non-farmers out there. There are opportunities in agriculture for professionals from a wide range of fields in the commercial, technological and scientific streams, and it would be great to see more new blood coming in.”

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