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Section 6: Cultivars

Detailed information on cultivars appears in Table 4 in the back of the bulletin. Cultivar mistakes in fruit growing are common. With most fruits, planting the incorrect cultivar will result in reduced profits. If an incorrect muscadine cultivar is planted for the fresh market, the result could be disaster.

Currently the best fresh market cultivars are all female flowered types.  However, a minimum of 1/8 to 1/4 of the vineyard must be planted to self-fertile types to pollinate the female flowered types.  For pick-your-own situations, ‘Cowart’,  ‘ Nesbitt’ , ‘ Tara’ , and ‘ Triumph’ are good choices as pollinizers.  For commercial shipping operations ‘Granny Val’ (South Ga. only), ‘Tara’, and ‘Triumph’ are good choices as saleable pollinators. However, ‘ Cowart’ is one of the best pollinizers for  ‘ Fry’, so some commercial shippers continue to grow it despite fruit quality problems. (See the section on pollination for additional information). The use of several different pollinizers in a vineyard is recommended in case one pollinizer fails or dies.

Photo 6.1: ‘Cowart’ has excellent flavor, but poor shipping quality due to leaks. Nesbitt is similar to Cowart but is prone to overcrop and have low fruit quality.

Photo 6.2 : ‘Granny Val’ has good yields and fruit size, but serious problems with leaf diseases and cane death on some sites. It has performed best in southwest Georgia.

Photo 6.3 : ‘Tara’ appears to be one of the best choices as a commercial shipping pollinizer, however, the flavor is inferior to Fry.

Photo 6.4 : ‘Triumph’ has performed well in North Florida, but fruit size has been marginally small for the commercial shipping market in Georgia.  It should be a good choice for pick-your-own however.

The fresh fruit shipping muscadine market in Georgia demands an attractive, large fruited, bronze muscadine for the majority of sales. This is also the preferred type for the pick-your-own customer, but greater flexibility exists in this market. ‘Fry’ is the standard for the fresh market muscadine industry and continues to be widely planted despite its problems with variable yields, leaf diseases, and fruit rots.  It’s excellent flavor and ability to be harvested when it reaches the greenish-bronze stage are noteworthy. ‘Fry’ ripens over a period of four or five weeks. ‘ Summit’ has been well received by pick-your-own customers and appears to be gaining acceptance in the shipping market. Growers interested in producing muscadines for pick-your-own and fresh market shipping should consider planting a significant portion of their acreage to ‘Fry’ and ‘Summit’.

Yields of most large-fruited, bronze, female-flowered, muscadines are modest. Typically yields for cultivars like ‘Fry’ and ‘Summit’ are only three to four tons per acre. This is due in part to poor pollen transfer and a disorder called “cap stick” or dry calyptra where the petals do not fall off and pollination does not occur. Fruit rots and damage caused by the grape root borer can also reduce yields.

Photo 6.5: ‘Fry’ is the industry standard, but subject to low yields, fruit rots, and cold injury in some years.

Photo 6.6 : ‘Summit’ is gaining in popularity since it yield better than ‘Fry’and has better leaf disease resistance.

Other bronze fruited cultivars that you may want to experiment with on a trial basis include ‘Darlene’, ‘Early Fry’, ‘Pam’, and ‘Sweet Jenny’.

Photo 6.7 : ‘Darlene’ has excellent quality but has not been a consistent producer on many farms.

Photo 6.8 : ‘Early Fry’ ripens a week or more ahead of ‘Fry’ and should receive excellent prices on the market, however, information is limited at this time.

It is rumored that black-fruited muscadines are preferred in Louisiana and some sections of Florida, so the area you plan to market into should be surveyed before planting the vineyard. In Georgia, at the time of this writing it is recommended that no more than 50% of a fresh market vineyard be planted to black or red fruited muscadine cultivars and these should have large fruit size. One of the most promising black fruited cultivars at this time is ‘Supreme’ due to its very large size and good flavor. Red fruited muscadines have never been widely planted, but the new cultivar ‘Scarlett’ has excellent appearance, but questionable productivity.

Photo 6.9: ‘Black Fry’ has excellent quality but is subject to cracking in wet weather.

Photo 6.10: ‘Supreme’ has exceptional fruit size and has been well received in commercial markets.

Photo 6.11 : ‘Scarlett’, with its developer, Dr. Ron Lane.

Commercial demand for jelly and jam grapes is very low and fully supplied by existing growers to our knowledge. The muscadine wine grape prices have been very low for many years but have strengthened in recent years.

Section 7: Selection and Care of Transplants