Grape revolution

HYDROPONIC table grapes? Sure – just add water, and a metered measure of dilute-Hoagland’s nutrient solution.

Future: Hydroponic table grapes (below) and new varieties, such as Witches Fingers, will be hot topics at next week’s 7th International Table Grape Symposium in Mildura.

Future: Hydroponic table grapes (below) and new varieties, such as Witches Fingers, will be hot topics at next week’s 7th International Table Grape Symposium in Mildura.

It works for tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and other vegetable crops, which led Professor Rosari di Lorenzo’s team at the University of Palermo, in Sicily, to wonder if table grapes, a much larger, and more vigorous perennial crop, could be grown in a soil-less medium.

The results from their greenhouse-grown table grapes confirmed it works spectacularly well – the popular European table grape varieties Victoria and Black Magic produced yields equivalent to 29 tonnes per hectare. 

Prof di Lorenzo, a Professor of Viticulture, will describe his team’s results in a talk at next week’s 7th International Table Grape Symposium in Mildura.

Irymple table grape grower Frank Dimasi said yesterday a typical table grape vineyard grown in the open air, under a plastic cover, yields about 16 to 18 tonnes/ha.

Sunraysia’s table grapes ripen in searing summer temperatures up to 45C, and growers take great care to irrigate frequently, to keep the root zone moist, and to prevent the bunches losing turgor pressure.

In a project funded by Sicilian company F. lli Lo Guidice, Prof di Lorenzo’s team grew its vines in 15-litre buckets, in a soil-less medium of perlite (a lightweight, friable white material made from heat-expanded volcanic glass) mixed with coir peat, a strong water-retaining material made from pulverised coconut hulls.

Italian horticulture magazine HortiDaily reported the grapes ripened earlier when grown in the greenhouse. 

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