Enjoy California Table Grapes Year-Round

Harvest Will Continue into December

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

The California grape season is beginning, and the harvest will continue into the winter. California Ag Today recently spoke with Kathleen Nave, president of the Fresno based California Table Grape Commission, about table grapes.

The California Table Grape Commission was established by an act of the state legislature in 1967 and approved by a grower referendum in 1969. The purpose of the commission is to maintain and expand markets for fresh California grapes and to create new, larger interstate and foreign markets.

Kathleen Nave, California Table Grape Commission president
Kathleen Nave, California Table Grape Commission president

“We are just getting started with a California season. We will be picking grapes all the way into December,” Nave said.

Grapes are a spring, summer, fall and early winter fruit. Sixty percent of the table grapes that are harvested in the state of California are harvested after September first.

“I would just ask people to remember that they can enjoy California grapes in the spring and the summer, in the fall and into the early winter,” Nave said.

There are new varieties of California table grapes. These grapes have been grown by and designed to provide more product for the customer.

“New varieties of grapes were created that would allow growers to continue growing and harvesting in the late October, November, and December time period,” Nave explained.

These varieties were created with the climate in mind. This way, they can thrive and be packed and shipped in November and early December.

“It takes a long time to develop new varieties of table grapes, get them out in the field, learn how to grow them and to get them to the marketplace,” Nave said.

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State of the Winegrape Industry

State of the Winegrape Industry

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Growers attending the Grape, Nut and Tree Fruit Expo in Fresno last November had the opportunity to learn about the state of the winegrape industry from Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers. While DiBuduo acknowledged growers were facing challenges, he encouraged them to continue to work with the industry.

DiBuduo said the immediate challenges facing the winegrape industry—largely in the production and price of winegrapes—depend on the variety, “but I’m asking all winegrape growers to look at their crops, production levels and quality levels.” DiBuduo is asking growers to work with the wineries to get higher production numbers and contracts with higher prices for long-term sustainability.”

“I think 2016 will be a challenge, but I look forward to 2017,” he elaborated; “however, it’s not going to get better without the removal of some vineyards. We’ve got to get the price to where growers are sustainable and viable going forward,” said DiBuduo. “We supply a big base of grapes to in the industry. We want to keep that base despite dwindling sales.”

DiBuduo explained that growers could work on overcoming their challenges by remaining active in the discussion. “Go to meetings like this,” he explained. “Go to viticulture meetings. Work with specialists to get better production and better quality.”

DiBuduo also stressed the importance of designing labels and wines that appeal to millennials. Labels that stand out as creative and unique appeal to the millennial generation, which also does not hold the same brand loyalty as prior generations, he said.

Having labels and brands that are attractive to the millennials is important, DiBuduo said, because this generation cannot “be standardized into one-cookie-cutter-fits-all, so you’ve got to be energized. I think the winegrape industry has really done that. We’ve come out with a number of different blends of wines and different labels that catch the eyes of the millennials and get them excited.”

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Positive Outlook for Table Grapes

Barry Bedwell: Positive Outlook for Table Grapes

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

At the November 17 Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit Expo in Fresno, Barry Bedwell, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, reported a positive outlook for table grapes this year. “Production continues to expand,” said Bedwell, “and consumer acceptance of table grapes continues to expand, particularly for exported California table grapes. That’s a real positive. We’re also seeing the development of newer varieties—more proprietary brands that are very consumer friendly.”

Barry Bedwell, president, California Fresh Fruit Association
Barry Bedwell, president, California Fresh Fruit Association

Bedwell said topping this year’s California Fresh Fruit Association annual Board of Directors Top 10 Issues survey are water concerns, followed by food safety and labor. “These are relatively consistent,” Bedwell said, “but we have seen some changes. Since last year, water, of course, has gone to the top of the list. Our members expressed concerns beyond the drought that encompass what future water system will allow proper conjunctive use of water—both surface water and groundwater.”

“We’ve also seen increased concern over food safety. And even though grapes are permanent crops with, I think, a low risk profile, we always have to be very concerned about food safety.

Then we have to look at the labor situation—not only the cost of labor—but also the availability. So, even though it has been stalled, the need for immigration reform is critically important. We will probably be in a defensive position in the next couple of years, compounded by increasing labor costs due to some well-intended, but I think misguided, efforts to increase wages around the state unnecessarily.”

_____________________

In 2015, the California Fresh Fruit Association survey identified the following issues as top priorities: 

  1. Water Supply/Drought Related Issues (#3 in 2014)
  2. Food Safety (#9 in 2014)
  3. Immigration reform (#1 in 2014)
  4. Health Care Mandates/Affordable Care Act (#4 in 2014)
  5. Labor Laws and Regulations (#2 in 2014)
  6. Labor Costs/Minimum Wage Increase Impacts (#5 in 2014)
  7. Groundwater Management Requirements (N/L in 2014)
  8. Water Quality Regulations (Nitrogen, Salts, etc.) (#7 in 2014)
  9. Invasive Pest Issues (#6 in 2014)
  10. Workers Compensation Issues (#8 in 2014)

(Source: California Fresh Fruit Association)

____________________

Links

Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit Expo

California Fresh Fruit Association

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Grape Consumption May Offer Benefits for Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis

New research presented this week at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, California, suggests that regular grape consumption may help alleviate pain associated with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee, and improve joint flexibility and overall mobility.

Researchers attribute these potential benefits to the polyphenols found in grapes.

The sixteen week clinical study, undertaken by Texas Woman’s University, was designed to investigate the benefits of grape consumption on inflammation and osteoarthritis outcomes.

72 men and women with knee osteoarthritis (OA) were assigned to either consume grapes in the form of a whole grape freeze-dried powder, or a placebo powder.

The study results, presented by lead investigator Shanil Juma, Ph.D., showed that both men and women consuming a grape-enriched diet had a significant decrease in self- reported pain related to activity and an overall decrease in total knee symptoms.

This beneficial effect was more pronounced in females. Additionally, age-related differences were observed: there was a 70% increase in very hard activity for those under 64 years of age consuming the grape powder, while those receiving the placebo reported a significant decrease in very hard activity.

Participants over 65 years, whether consuming grapes or the placebo, reported a decline in moderate to hard activities.

Evidence of increased cartilage metabolism was observed in men consuming the grape- enriched diet; they had higher levels of an important cartilage growth factor (IGF-1) than those on placebo. This protective effect was not observed in the females. The researchers noted that no difference in range of motion was observed for either the grape group or the placebo group.

The serum marker for inflammation (IL1-β) measured was increased in both placebo and grape groups, although much less of an increase was observed in the grape group.

“These findings provide promising data that links grape consumption to two very important outcomes for those living with knee osteoarthritis: reduced pain and improvements in joint flexibility,” said Dr. Juma. “More research is needed to betterunderstand the results of the serum biomarkers, as well as the age and gender differences observed.”

Dr. Juma also shared results from a recent cell study that looked at the effects of whole grape polyphenols on cartilage cell integrity and markers of cartilage health.

Cartilage cells were first treated with various doses of whole grape polyphenols, and then stimulated with an inflammatory agent. Cell proliferation significantly increased – in a dose dependent manner – in the grape polyphenol treated cells in the presence of an inflammatory agent.

Additionally a marker for cartilage degradation was significantly lower with the three highest doses of the whole grape polyphenols when compared to control cells and cells treated with the inflammatory agent, suggesting a possible protective effect of grapes on cartilage cells.

Osteoarthritis is a condition where the natural cushioning between joints – the cartilage – wears away. Millions of Americans are affected by osteoarthritis: according to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 27 million people have osteoarthritis and knees are an area most commonly affected. Osteoarthritis is more likely to occur in people over 45 years of age, and women are more likely to have osteoarthritis than men.

The Experimental Biology conference is a multidisciplinary, scientific meeting focused on research and life sciences, covering general fields of study such as anatomy, biochemistry, nutrition, pathology and pharmacology. The conference is comprised of nearly 14,000 scientists and exhibitors.

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