A patent has already been applied for, and the USDA is in final negotiations with the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission over licensing.
Much of Ramming’s efforts recently have turned to incorporating resistance to powdery mildew and Pierce’s disease into new varieties.
Typically this entails finding natural resistance in another grape species, such as one from China that is powdery mildew resistant and is housed at a USDA’s germplasm facility in Geneva, N.Y.
Then the challenge is to crossbreed those plants, which frequently have undesirable agronomic characteristics, with table grapes to develop disease-resistant yet tasty new varieties.
Ramming also is working with Andy Walker, a grape geneticist at University of California, Davis, who has found naturally occurring sources of Pierce’s disease resistance.
The table grape commission supports much of the USDA breeding program through a per-box assessment. In the past, the USDA made new varieties available worldwide for propagation and production.
But under an agreement made about 10 years ago, the table grape commission can apply to be the exclusive licensee for a new variety. This allows the commission to govern distribution of plant material.