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Extension Agent: Victoria Red - new grape released

Nov. 9, 2010 at 5:09 a.m.

Newly-named and released through the University of Arkansas, Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Tarkington Vineyard of Victoria, the Victoria Red grape will be available to the public in 2012.

By Joe Janak

The University of Arkansas, Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Tarkington Vineyard of Victoria are proud to announce the pending release of a Pierce's disease-tolerant grape variety. For more than three decades, Friench and Martha Tarkington have grown and tested grapes at their home in Victoria.

I, too, have been personally involved in monitoring and evaluating the grapes and a number have been tried and failed; some have been successful.

One that has had good success is a grape that has just been named and released as Victoria Red.

The Tarkingtons were really interested in table grapes or fresh eating grapes, and this one really fits that description. Developed by the University of Arkansas and known initially as Arkansas 1475, Friench and Martha began evaluating it locally in the early 1980s.

Numerous grapes they tried looked good, but this one was simply amazing in my words. It was such a large, beautiful cluster of reddish grapes that no other grape grown locally could match.

Also, many grapes they tried have died due to the prevalent Pierce's disease, but this one seems tolerant.

One of the most significant characteristics of Victoria Red is its sustained health, vigor and productivity. It is a seeded grape, with bright, red skin color and large, attractive clusters of grapes. The nearly red skin is tender, resists cracking, with the grape flesh being clear to white having a primarily neutral flavor. Both cluster size and berry size are outstanding with clusters averaging more than one pound each and berries averaging 8 grams or about the size of a quarter.

Yield averaged about 20 pounds per vine.

Victoria Red has a loose cluster architecture, which appears to help it be resistant to the bunch rot organisms common on more tightly clustered varieties. Its major limitation is its lack of cold hardiness. Trials north of the Gulf Coast have resulted in losses of vine life because of extremely cold conditions.

It is recommended for trial planting across the deep- and mid-southern United States in Zone 7B or warmer, which is about central Texas and southward.

It has frozen out in areas north of that, including in Arkansas, where it was developed.

Victoria Red is recommended primarily as a fresh-fruit cultivar for on-farm and local-market sales, fresh eating. It has, however, ripened in excess of 24 degrees Brix, making it a potentially valuable neutral blending wine grape for the wine industry.

Due to its limited, but free distribution in the 1980s, Victoria Red will not be patented, no royalties will be collected, and it is being released to the public domain.

This means that it was recently released to a few Texas nurseries to propagate it and make it available as soon as possible.

Complete information on Victoria Red sources will be announced in December, but plant availability is not expected until 2012.

I am extremely proud of our Victoria grape growers, Friench and Martha Tarkington. After years of demonstrations evaluating more than 40 grape varieties, one is actually being released and named after our trial area - Victoria. Over those years, the Tarkingtons recorded spring budding date, flowering date, harvest date, plant vigor, berry sugar content (Brix), cluster weight, berry weight and overall yield on all varieties.

Observations I pulled from our 1986 Victoria County Result Demonstration Handbook on the now known Victoria Red are: Red grape, impressive size, crisp, tasty, good flavor table grape that keeps on the vine. It was also rated the best of any of the table grapes they grew.

In most of our trial work, we evaluate varieties of crops already named to see if they can grow well in our area. In this case, a numbered trial variety was found that is superior to many, does well only in our area, and as a result, is now designated so with the name Victoria Red.

Look for its availability in 2012.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.

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