1. Grape is one of the most important fruit crops of the world and it contains many of the most valuable elements necessary for life. The crop has a wide adaptability, and grapes can be grown under temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climatic conditions and varied agro-ecological settings. The food, nutrition, medicinal and economic values of the crop could be of significant importance for the population of the Region. Therefore, the Consultation recommended that every effort should be made to realize the full agricultural potential of the crop.
2. Remarkable success has been achieved in grape production and productivity levels in certain countries of the Region (such as India and Australia), while in other countries the progress is very limited. The opportunities for further development of the grape industry appear to be very good. However, at the same time the problems to be addressed are many and serious. There is, therefore, a need for the various countries to consider taking appropriate action to address the existing problems to the extent possible.
3. The number of grape cultivars throughout the world is very large but in many countries in the tropical zone only a relatively small number of cultivars are present and have been evaluated for suitability to local climatic conditions. The introduction of many cultivars (table, wine and raisin) for field evaluation under local conditions was considered an important objective for the advancement of grape industries throughout the Region, in producing fresh and processed grape products of a quality which meets the requirements of specific markets. The opportunity exists for the field evaluation to occur through a collaborative effort involving interested countries, to address common problems whilst also addressing the individual needs of each countrys industry. Some countries in the Region have many grape cultivars and could become a germplasm resource for other countries. Also developing linkages with cultivar-rich countries outside the Region would provide an additional supply of cultivars for evaluation of their suitability to local growing conditions.
4. Several countries in the Region have grape breeding programmes notably Japan, the Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, China and Australia. Currently each breeding programme is operating in isolation to achieve objectives specific to the industry in that country. There exists the opportunity for communication and information sharing between grapevine plant breeders in the Region as well as exchange of genetic material to enhance both the individual breeding programmes and quality of cultivars grown by the industry. However, the need to recognize breeder protection rights over their genetic material must be recognized and may make access to new grape cultivars too expensive for some countries. In both breeding and the evaluation of existing cultivars the attributes sought are high bud fruitfulness under tropical conditions, disease resistance, and productivity, despite increased vine vigor (e.g. Marroo Seedless).
5. All grape producing countries in the Region have one or more soil derived problems, notably phylloxera, nematodes, salinity, drought and adverse soil chemistry, which impinge upon successful grape production. Some countries in the Region have experience in the ability of rootstocks to tolerate adverse soil conditions and the positive impact of rootstocks on fruit quality and vine fruit yield. These countries also have a large number of rootstocks whereas most countries in the Region have only a few. The introduction of many rootstocks into countries throughout the Region and their evaluation for suitability under local conditions to fulfil industry requirements was considered an important objective. Initially this could be achieved through collaboration between those countries with the diversity of grapevine rootstocks and those countries with production problems that potentially can be overcome through the use of appropriate rootstocks.
6. Grapevine plant material used in countries throughout the Region was either of unknown health status or known to be infected with specific micro-organisms (viruses, mycoplasmas, bacteria) which are detrimental to vine performance. A supply of grapevine plant material free of debilitating organisms is critical for the development of a successful grape industry. Techniques for determining the virus status (Elisa, PCR) and controlling debilitating organisms (hot water treatment) are available in several countries throughout the Region. It is feasible for these techniques to be transferred to other countries in the Region for further dissemination by local staff. In addition, grapevine material of a higher health status available in some countries could be introduced to those countries in the Region requiring improved plant material.
7. Several production issues were highlighted as constraints to grape production in the Region. These were understanding and managing vine nutrition in the tropics, efficient irrigation management, manipulation of bud burst, optimizing crop load, maximizing bud fruitfulness, managing flowering, fruit set and berry growth and effective practices for grape production under protected (temporary and permanent) systems.
7.1 The need to determine the nutrient requirements of vines under tropical conditions and petiole interpretation standards for the accurate monitoring of vine nutrients status was identified as important for effective and efficient vine nutrition management. This has implications for fruit quality, cost of production and environmental preservation.For each of the previously mentioned vineyard management problems limiting grape production, research is being conducted in one or more of the countries in the Region. The forum concluded that there were opportunities for collaboration between countries to maximize the outcomes from individual efforts and that this would enhance development of the grape industries in the Region.
7.2 Water resources in many countries are limited and water quality is often declining (salinity), hence the need to increase water use efficiency. Firstly, it is necessary to quantify the amount of water required under each local growing condition for optimum yield and fruit quality. Subsequently, an efficient irrigation programme will have to be developed and the grape grower trained in the use of irrigation scheduling. Some countries are experienced in irrigation scheduling and sharing of their knowledge could expedite achieving greater water use efficiency and sustained grape production.
7.3 The factors affecting bud break under tropical conditions are not well understood yet poor bud break has a huge impact on vine productivity and hence profitability of the grape grower. This is a major problem affecting all countries in the Region with grape production in hot environments. A collaborative effort to understand the physiology involved and subsequently the development of management practices to optimize bud break would have a considerable impact upon industry viability.
7.4 Under tropical conditions efforts to increase vine yield often lead to other problems of fruit quality (water berry, low sugar concentration). To increase yield but still achieve desired fruit quality and harvest time it is necessary to determine maximum crop load in relation to leaf area index (LAI). Many of the table grape industries throughout the Region have a narrow market window, outside of which competition from other fruits or adverse weather conditions affects price and fruit quality.
7.5 Knowledge of the factors contributing to floral initiation in the tropics is poor and in many countries there is a lack of vineyard management practices that enhance floral initiation. To increase vine yield it is important for grape growers to be able to successfully manipulate floral initiation.
7.6 Several problems were identified with flowering, berry set and berry growth, all of which impinged upon fruit quality and yield. It was considered important to develop labour saving practices (chemical treatments and other techniques) for cluster elongation, flower thinning and berry sizing. Some countries have progressed in developing chemical treatments (GA, BA, and CPPU) and a large amount of work has also been undertaken in the temperate zones. However, it was noted much higher rates of GA are usually required under hot and humid conditions common in the Region, compared to levels used in temperate climates.
7.7 Several countries have developed protected culture of table grape, both permanent and temporary coverings, to improve fruit quality, reduce pesticide applications and prevent rain damage to fruit. Yet the production techniques need further refinement to overcome several problems associated with protected culture. This in turn will improve the viability of grape production and enable the grower to meet the additional cost of the protective cover.
8. The high use of chemical pesticides, current spray practices and the spray equipment used has led to chemical residues on the fruit and a reluctance of consumers to purchase grapes, as well as poor control of pests and diseases and increased pressure on the environment. Many advancements in grape production will result from improved grower knowledge of the weather conditions conducive for disease and pest outbreaks, the critical times to apply sprays for effective control, and selection of the appropriate chemical for each disease/pest. Training of grape growers in the safe handling of chemical pesticides is required to reduce the risk of contamination, both to the environment and vineyard workers. Improving the knowledge of grape growers in the critical factors in preparing spray solutions (water quality, solution pH) will increase the efficacy of pesticides applied in controlling the target disease or pest. The reluctance of grape growers in several countries to adhere to the chemical registration and safe use of chemicals was considered to be a major contributing factor to high residues on fruit in the market. The forum recognized a change in grower attitude was necessary and that this could be facilitated both through grower training and greater implementation by governments of residue testing of fruit. Several countries in the Region have strengths in training of growers in pesticide application. The forum concluded that improvements in pesticide use were vital for the success of the grape industries in the Region.
9. Several examples in the Region of successful biological control of pests were noted. The forum agreed it was important to identify locally occurring parasites and predators for the biological control of pests. Further, the greater adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) by growers was seen as important for minimizing chemical use and residues on fruit, which in turn will reduce the cost of production and increase consumption. To achieve this will require a change in attitude of growers. Disease forecasting models currently being used in several countries should be furthered refined for accuracy under local conditions and made available to countries in the Region. However, for maximum grower adoption such models must be simple to use and affordable. The forum recognized that developing and encouraging organic grape production would be important for future viability of regional grape industries.
10. The quality of table grapes in several countries is adversely affected by the lack of cool storage infrastructure, lack of a continuous cool chain from vineyard to consumer and inadequate sulphur dioxide technology. If these issues are not addressed, the long-term viability of regional grape industries will be at risk. Imported table grapes of superior quality have already eroded the market share of the local industry in some countries in the Region. The forum recognized the need to establish cool storage infrastructure close to vineyards as well as cooling facilities throughout the supply chain to provide optimum post-harvest temperature for grapes. It was noted that in some countries most problems with sulphur dioxide (SO2) damage was caused by breaks in the cool chain. Training of growers and packers in the correct use of SO2 releasing pads and cool handling of grapes could minimize the loss in fruit quality. It was noted that developments in SO2 technology and packaging have been made in other countries, and concluded that to evaluate and modify these technologies for local conditions would be the most cost effective strategy for countries in the Region.
11. The health benefits of moderate wine consumption were noted. However, this benefit is not widely known within the populations of many countries and could be promoted to enhance wine consumption. Well developed wine industries are present in some countries but are absent or relatively small in others. For successful wine industries to develop in these countries the winemaking skills of winemakers must be improved. The opportunity exists for countries aiming to develop a wine industry to utilize the experience and training programmes in winemaking available in other countries with well developed wine industries. In some countries, a change in government policy is needed in order to promote the health benefits of wine over other alcoholic beverages for the development of the wine grape industry.
12. Juice production was not common in the Region and is the smallest of the viticulture industries. The quality of grape juice is often variable and inferior which results in reduced consumption and consumer acceptance of the product. Modern equipment and training to improve juice-making skills of operators was considered vital for the production of nutritious, good quality grape juice. There is also the opportunity for other value-added grape products to be developed.
13. Export trade in grape products (wine, table grapes, raisins) by countries in the Region was relatively small, with many countries requiring imports to satisfy local demand. However, exports are an important means of increasing the wealth of a country and consequently should be encouraged and assisted wherever possible. A major impediment to growth in exports of table grapes was the lack of market intelligence and local contacts, as well as understanding of local business and cultural practices. The forum considered that those countries whose objective is to increase grape exports should develop the necessary market intelligence.
14. It was noted that locally produced wine, table grapes and raisins sold in the domestic market now face strong competition from high quality imported products. Hence, for the long-term viability and survival of grape industries in the Region it is necessary for grape growers and winemakers, to produce a product that is both cost and quality competitive. This will require the development of cost effective production practices and technologies adapted to regional conditions. Over-supply of table grapes, particularly in short supply seasons, seriously reduces price and grower income. Development of production practices to spread the supply season was considered important for sustaining the income of grape growers and industry viability.
15. The forum recognized that there was considerable potential for the development and long-term viability of the viticulture industries in most countries throughout the Region. To achieve this goal it is important to identify in each country the districts with the climate and soils suitable for successful grape growing. It was noted that these optimum growing conditions will vary for grape type (wine, table, raisin). Once identified it is necessary to encourage grape growers to establish vineyards in the preferred districts, where production costs are least and high fruit quality can be achieved. The identification of locally suited multipurpose varieties which can be used for table, wine and raisin production is desirable, as this would improve the economic stability of grape growers and hence industry viability.
16. The development and expansion of wine grape industries in most countries of the Region is highly promising because of the anticipated large increase in local wine consumption. Currently wine imports are required to satisfy this increasing demand. In several countries consumers prefer imported wines as locally produced wine is more expensive and of inferior quality. The forum strongly advised that in countries with developing wine industries, cost effective production practices should be developed and training undertaken to improve the skills of winemakers. This will enable industries to achieve the potential for growth and increase the value of the local economy. Collaboration between countries in the Region was encouraged instead of individual efforts.
17. The limited experience and viticulture knowledge of scientists and advisors working in the grape industries was recognized as a constraint to growth of the industry in several countries. Training of scientists and production viticulturists is vital if growth and development of the grape industries is to be achieved. Several countries in the Region have well developed grape industries and viticulture education programmes. Staff and grower exchanges for training in viticulture was considered an effective way of improving the knowledge of grape specialists and ultimately promote development of the industry.
18. It was proposed that the information presented at the Consultation be collated and published in the form of proceedings, which can subsequently be distributed to the grape growing countries of the Region.
19. It was noted that despite the efforts of most countries to upgrade aspects of grape production, there are still many constraints hindering further development. Most of the problems appear to be common to all countries. The Consultation therefore recommended that assistance should be sought for the formulation, funding and implementation of a Regional Project to address the existing problems.
20. The possibility of setting up a Network for Research and Development of the Grape Industry in Asia was discussed during the meeting. It was felt that such a Network may facilitate pooling and sharing of resources for the development of viticulture. The Consultation endorsed this approach for Regional Cooperation and recommended the establishment of such a Network. It is expected that if a Regional Project on Viticulture is implemented it will eventually lead to the establishment of a Regional Network.