What was the market situation?
The table grapes covered by this Food Chain Partnership initiative are mainly grown in Corinthia, in the Peloponnese region of south-central Greece. The main cultivation period begins in early March and harvesting lasts from mid-July until the end of October. The most popular varieties are Thompson Seedless and Crimson. Although domestic consumption is a significant factor in Greece, exports are economically important, and not just for this Food Chain partner’s business. Table grapes for export have to be of a specified size, color and sugar content. Moreover, any residues of active ingredients must be within the limits set by the respective export market. This initiative got off the ground when Pegasus Agrifood Coop, a growers’ cooperative that started with seven farmers and currently comprises 51 contract farmers, was looking for a partner in improving the quality and marketability of its table grapes, which are sold as 7Grapes. Pegasus’ business is driven by a vision of farming, eating and living sustainably. Its mission is to inspire and enable sustainable farming, which benefits the growers, enriches the environment, and engages local communities.
To meet EU market requirements, this initiative has aimed to:
- Improve the quality and marketability of the table grapes
- Optimize the crop protection spray calendar and reduce the chemical load and levels of crop protection residues
- Monitor and improve the sustainability of table grape production
- Expand the shelf life of the table grapes
- Achieve certification to a variety of standards
- Ensure traceability at the farm level
From left to right: <br>Markos Legas, Pegasus Agrifood Coop<br>Chrysi Kotonia, Bayer Sustainable Agriculture Manager<br>Dimitrios Spanos, Fresca group representative
What were the challenges?
The key challenges have been reducing residue levels while maintaining the high quality of the produce in the face of threats from pests and diseases, such as powdery mildew, mealy bugs, downy mildew, mites, botrytis, and grape berry moths. But how could Pegasus table grapes be effectively protected against such threats without exceeding the MRLs in export markets? That was the challenge Pegasus and Bayer Greece tackled together.