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August / September 2022

Berry-colour Problem in Crimson Seedless

SA Fruit Journal: August / September 2022

Are viruses to blame for the colouring problem in the Crimson Seedless table grape cultivar? By Jorisna Bonthuys

New research provides strong evidence that the colouring problem of the Crimson Seedless table grape cultivar is due to an infectious agent – or a combination of agents – affecting the vines, with grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3) potentially being the main culprit. This particular virus is also the cause of grapevine leafroll disease.

Gerhard Pietersen, a former professor in Stellenbosch University’s Department of Genetics and now at Patho Solutions, was involved in the research project that yielded these findings. The project, funded by the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI), has been ongoing since 2019.

Crimson Seedless is one of the country’s most widely planted table grape cultivars and enjoys high consumer demand, here and across the globe. The cultivar has one big problem, however: the older the vines get, the slower the berries ripen and colour, often resulting in ripe berries without the deep red hue that their name promises.

Although Crimson Seedless – one of the top-six cultivars exported from SA – is the most studied cultivar globally, much remains to be understood, including the cause of the lack of colour formation in berries, Pietersen says.

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