I often receive questions about growing seedless grapes.  With this article, I will try to clear up some of the mysteries of growing seedless grapes.

Where do seedless grapes come from?

No one really knows for sure where seedless grapes first came from, or when it was first grown, but it is believed to be from a mutation that happened several thousands of years ago, in what is known today as Afghanistan.  The grape vine that mutated, produced grapes without any seeds.

Now the question is, how did they reproduce this grape vine?  The most obvious answer would be that cuttings or shoots from this grape vine, where planted in several different locations in this area.  These new grape vines also produced seedless grapes and from there the whole seedless grape industry has its origin.

How to grow seedless grapes?

The only way you can grow seedless grapes is if you can get some buds, canes or cuttings from another grower or nursery, who has seedless grapes.  Because seedless grapes have no seeds, they cannot be reproduced with seeds (obvious, isn’t it? J).

The variety, Thompson Seedless or better known as Sultana or Green Sultana, has been around for years and is probably the most well known variety in the world.  The problem with most seedless grapes, like Thompson Seedless, is that they naturally produce very small berries.

The export market or fresh fruit market the past few years, became such a competitive environment, that growers needed to up their game in producing better looking, sweeter grapes with larger berries.

Allot of research, and off course money, was spend on finding ways to grow better quality grapes without loosing the natural characteristics and taste of the grapes.  Cultivation practices, the introduction of natural growing hormones like Gibberellic Acid  (GIB) and CPPU and reducing crop load to optimize berry size, all contributed to producing the best quality Thompson Seedless and many other seedless varieties, that has ever introduced to the market.

For any grape grower or grape lover to “really” understand and know what effort and how much money goes into producing seedless grapes, with a berry size of +- 21mm or 13/16 inches, isn’t that easy.  Growing seedless grapes of this quality takes time, allot of risk and some really good viticultural knowledge.

These are Thompson Seedless grapes on my farm

How seedless are seedless grapes?

In the early years, and even with some varieties today, it was found that many of the so called seedless varieties, actually have vestigial seed traces.  Normally these seeds have a soft seed coat and most of the times you wouldn’t even notice it, while eating the berries – this will differ from variety to variety.

Can I grow seedless grapes?

In the past, most of the seedless varieties wasn’t cold hardy enough to withstand harsh winters conditions, but with excellent breeding programs and allot of scientific experimentation, new seedless varieties where specially bred for these condition.  Varieties like Canadice, Einset Seedless, Reliance, and Vanessa are just some of these varieties.

As far as viticultural practises, most small vineyard owners and new grape growers find it very hard to produce really good quality seedless grapes.  This off course will change as you learn more about growing grapes and how your grape vines adapt in your climate.

While learning to grow top quality seedless grapes, you could make mistakes that will cost you your crop.  As said earlier; it takes time, it pose some risk and takes knowledge, believe me.

Let me give you an example.  We use GA (Gibberellic Acid remember?) to help on the natural thinning out of Thompson Seedless on my farm.  The rule of thumb where we live, is to spray 3 thinning out sprays of a 10, 10, and a 20 ppm (particles per million) GIB.  This year however, the weather was so bad (the fluid remember?), during flowering that we knew for certain that the Thompson Seedless will abort much harder.  I changed the recipe to 10, 20, 10 ppm and had great results.  This off course comes with years of experience and some good faith!

With extremely dry and hot conditions during flowering, the grape vine tends to abort berries much quicker.  You therefore kneed to know how your grape vine would react to certain weather conditions.

Growing seedless grapes can be a rewarding experience, as this is the most sought-after grapes in the world, but it’s not the easiest grapes to grow.

Good luck and if you haven’t tried growing seedless grapes, you will never know if you will succeed, would you?

Take care

Danie

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