THE United States could hold some new varieties to assist dried grape production in Australia.
Dried Fruits Australia conducted a study tour to the USA last year to uncover potential new varieties.
Growers from Mildura and Swan Hill attended the seven-day Californian Raisin Industry Study Tour, which was funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia.
The group visited leading research centres, processors and marketers, government agencies and other industry organisations.
DFA chairman, Mark King, said the University of California's Kearney Research and Extension Centre showed the group a new grape variety that dries without any intervention at the end of the season.
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“Sunpreme is a self-drying variety, so it has the potential to reduce labour costs associated with cutting canes,” Mr King said.
“The vines in the research patch were only three years old, so there is still a bit to learn about this variety as it matures. But it is worth investigating under Australian environmental conditions and production systems.”
Mr King said the group also identified opportunities for automation of vineyard operations and collaborative research into vine physiology.
“The team at Vision Robotics has developed an autonomous robotic pruner for wine grape vineyards and proved it could also be set up to prune dried grape vines,” he said.
“This area is progressing all the time and may offer the next big step in reducing costs involved with dried grape production in Australia.”
Mr King said the growers also investigated how dried fruit was marketed in retail stores.
“While the packaging was similar to ours, the location of dried fruits in supermarkets revealed one big difference,” he said.
“We didn’t find it in the baking section. It was near the fresh fruit and vegetables alongside the packaged nuts, which sends a clear healthy snack-food message.
“This is something we would like to see more of in the Australian domestic market.”