The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is proud to announce that Phyllis Burger and Andries Daniels from ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij received the deciduous fruit industry merit award for research and technology.
The pair were recognised at the virtual 45th South African deciduous fruit industry awards ceremony for their exceptional work. They work on Sundowner, the first-ever South African-bred raisin cultivar to be officially registered as a new cultivar and made available for commercial planting. In addition, the awards recognised their contribution to the South African raisin grape industry.
Over the past three decades, the deciduous fruit industry and the ARC partnered in a breeding and evaluation research initiative. The project aimed to develop new raisin grape cultivars in South Africa under local climate conditions. Sundowner was a result of this programme.
Developing a new cultivar through research
As with most breeding projects, the development of new cultivars is a time-consuming process. It starts with performing hand pollinations, rescuing the embryos from seedless grapes, and growing these embryos into viable plants in tissue culture. These seedlings are then planted out in tunnels at Nietvoorbij to acclimatise, after which they are planted in a seedling block, also at Nietvoorbij.
This cultivar was selected in 2002 and promoted to semi-commercialisation in 2006. The breeders applied for plant breeders’ rights in 2017, which was awarded in 2019. Interestingly, the crosses were made as far back as November 1994. The cultivar was launched earlier this year under the name Sundowner as it depicts the reddish blush on the ripe berries, which resembles the sunset.
Through various research and development programmes, the ARC has been instrumental in improving South Africa’s agricultural productivity and global competitiveness. At the same time, they are also striving to increase food supply, reduce hunger, and improve food and nutrition security. – Press release, ARC