|Authors: ||G. Vēsmins, S. Ruisa, G. Lācis|
|Keywords: ||Vitis spp., disease resistance, winter hardiness, quality|
The climate in Latvia is marginal for grape growing.
Nevertheless grapes have a comparatively long cultivation history as well as diverse current developments.
The 15th century can be considered as a starting point of grape growing in Latvia, while in the 17th century larger plantations were established in the western part of the country.
Wine was made and some even exported.
Later there were several more or less successful attempts of grape cultivar introduction, breeding and growing.
Therefore diverse and locally adapted grape germplasm is available.
The total area occupied by grapes in Latvia is not large (about 20 ha), but plantations are increasing and becoming noteworthy production places and tourism attractions.
Several groups of grape growers should be noted: gardening enthusiasts, collectors and owners of commercial plantations (1 to 5 and more ha). The Latvian breeders have achieved good results in developing outdoor grapes for such marginal growing conditions, by using genotypes of Vitis vinifera, V. labrusca and/or V. amurensis. The main selection criteria are very early ripening, winter-hardiness, resistance to mildew (Plasmopara viticola and Erysiphe necator), good taste and appropriate sugar content in berries.
Comprehensive screening of available grape germplasm and its evaluation was performed to characterize grapes grown in Latvia, identifying more than 200 genotypes in 18 collections.
Available large diversity of cultivars and hybrids, which represents plant material of several Vitis species as well as interspecific crosses, may be used as valuable parent material for breeding in northern countries.
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