Grape Breeding Notes

How to grow grapes from seed
… from Cliff Ambers on the grapebreeders listserv, April 2012

Cleaning the seeds.

I haven't done any germination studies because I almost always
end up with more plants than I know what to do with! One thing I do
routinely, however, is throw out "floater" seed when I use the
"houling" method of seed cleaning perfected up north at Gale-Houle
Bicolor Analytics. In two seed batches off my aesti-bics last fall I
got large quantities of floaters so I saved them separately,
stratified them as usual, and planted them all. I don't expect any to
germinate, but it will be interesting if any do.

I simply mix the seeds with cheap potting soil mix, pack them in
small, labelled, zip-lock bags in November, and refrigerate them
inside a big gallon size bag. They all get moldy but germinate very
nicely. I suspect the mold is key to breaking down seed coat
compounds quickly. To keep them in order so I don't have to sort them
repeatedly, I string them onto 20# monofilament fishing line in order
of the crosses. When I plant I take them off one end of the line,
plant, and put any leftovers back on the other end of the line. This
saves a huge amount of time shuffling through them all if they are
just tossed into the big bag. This year I labeled each seed lot in
the trays with aluminum perma-tags (actually Jim-Gem tags from
Forestry Suppliers through You can emboss these with a
pen and they are the most permanent field tag I have found. If you
fold them over and staple them to the trellis wire using stainless
staples, they last forever. When I plant the seedlings, I'll transfer
the aluminum tags to the trellis wire at the beginning of each
seedling group, then go back with my measuring wheel to record
distances to the beginning of each group in case any tags are lost.

I Houle the seeds as I harvest the seed clusters, dry them on
labeled paper towels, and store them in their labeled little zip lock
bags dry until I'm ready to put cross numbers on them (so they can be
organized) and stratify them for the winter. I use the same little
baggies for stratification. You can store the seeds dry a long time
and still get them to germinate.

I generally plant much more seed than I have space for in the
vineyard. I thin any weaklings that come up and continue thinning as
the seedlings develop downy mildew. By the time I'm ready to plant
them out in June, I'll have each cross thinned to as many seedlings as
I want (hopefully more DM resistant than the ones I pulled out) in an
appropriately sized space in the pot, tray or flat for the number
left. I don't baby seedlings. If they don't make it they go.

In 2007-2010 I planted seed directly in the field under new
trellis, This worked very well. First I killed the sod in the
trellis rows in late winter. Then I ripped the rows with a single
shaft plow before installing the trellis and tilled the soil. Once
the trellis was in, I planted the seeds in April separated by poly
twine dropped to ground staples with labels on the trellis between
seed lots. By careful herbicide treatment as the seedlings grew, I
was able to get most vines on the trellis in their first year. Now I
am digging them up by the ziilions to get the good ones spaced out a
few feet. In the end I will have 400 new vines worth propagating in
the half acre I direct seeded.

Also from the grapebreeders listserv, Jean Houle says:
I have kept 2 lots of seeds in statification for 3 years, when these were germinated they almost all germinated, they were 25%Riparia 75% vinifera in both cases.


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