Muscadine Clean Plant Network and the Future of The Muscadine Grape Industry
The Muscadine Clean Plant Network is a collaboration of Florida A&M and North Carolina State University to meet grape growing demands in the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coastal regions. The purpose of this industry-driven initiative is to provide planting material for muscadines and bunch Vitis sp. hybrids that are resistant to the impact of Pierce’s disease (PD), the key limitation for the majority of grape growers in the Southeastern U.S. Breeding and research have resulted in many new cultivars with improved fruit and wine quality.
The future of the muscadine grape and this region’s wine industry is dependent on two key factors: the sustainability of domestic export markets and the availability of healthy propagation material of preferred cultivars in sufficient quantities to satisfy demand.
The acres devoted to muscadine and the economic impact of the southern grape industry have seen substantial growth in the last two decades due to an increased market demand for wine and healthy foods. The recent rapid expansion of the industry pose the major challenge due to the lack of adequate quantities of disease-free certified planting material and nursery certification system.
Muscadines are grown as own-rooted cuttings and there is no need for grafting vines. Grafting with other Vitis sps is limited by genetic incompatibility. Commercial propagation of muscadines is done by rooting of the softwood cuttings. The phytosanitary status of the planting stock is of crucial importance.
The Network maintains G1 nuclear planting stock of 35 accessions from southern PD-tolerant grapevines (muscadines and bunch Vitis sp. hybrids): 10 at the NC State/MPRU under the greenhouse (old muscadine varieties from NC and cleaning material from the AR breeding programs); 25 at FAMU/CVSFR under the screen and field foundation vineyard (commercially important muscadines and Florida hybrid cultivars, proprietary selections and FAMU’s breeding program newly released cultivars).