SELF-TAUGHT techniques and skills in planting grapes have made it possible for premium grapes found in countries with four seasons to be planted in Kedah.
At a grape farm in Padang Lembu, Gurun, many varieties of grapes are now yielding the sweet and crunchy fruit.
Its owner Tan Soon Huat, 58, who runs the one-acre farm planted with some 300 grape plants, said he learned the techniques of grape cultivation by doing his own research, collecting data and reading research papers on grape-planting.
“I had no academic background or expertise on grape cultivation.
“I wanted to plant something with high difficulty level, challenging and with higher commercial value.
“Hence, I chose to plant grapes as it is a four-season fruit, ” he said.
Tan said he started planting grapes three years ago using the ‘artificial four seasons technique’.
“I forced the plants to ‘sleep’, assuming they are in ‘hibernation’ stage during winter and ‘wake them up’, assuming they are in spring and summer. This is backed up by vitamin and a good formulation of organic fertiliser.
“A weather of not more than 45 degree Celsius is suitable for grape seedlings to grow into sapling and adult stage.
“As grape plants dislike rain, I built a shelter to cover the grape farm.
“I control the amount of water for the plants and also carry out thinning, pruning and trimming processes on them to create more room for the plants to grow, ” he said.
Tan said he planted in his farm some 20 varieties of grapes from countries such as China, the United States of America, Japan and Israel.
“I saw the commercial potential in Japanese premium grapes, which are the Shine Muscat and Kyoho grapes. These two types are very famous in the market and expensive.
“As for the other types of grapes, their fruits are fewer, smaller and sour.
“The Sweet Sapphire grape from California that I planted two years ago is still unable to adapt to the condition of the new surrounding, ” he said.
Tan said his grape plants had already gone through three cycles of planting seasons and bearing fruits.
“In Malaysia, one circle of planting season comprises two harvests, which is six months each circle. In Western countries, one circle is 12 months with one harvest.
“Grape plants face the attack of fungi, which reduces the yield and quality of the grapes, ” he added.
The sweetness and crunchiness of grapes are based on the degree Brix, which is used to measure dissolved sugar in a liquid solution.
“The quality and commercial value of grapes depend on their sweetness or high Brix. They may not necessary be a big bunch or cluster of grapes, but their sweetness will still be good.
“The ideal sweetness for grapes is 22 degree Brix and above. My Japanese Shine Muscat grape reads 22 degree Brix.
“Grapes with over 20 degree Brix are considered premium grapes. Grapes can be marketed if they achieve a sweetness of 15 degree Brix.
“The quality of grapes also depends on their outlook, whether oblong or round shape. I found that oblong-shaped grapes attract customers more than the round-shaped grapes, ” he said.
At present, he does not sell his grapes in markets or malls.
“All the harvested grapes are for R&D purposes only.
“I am not selling them yet even for a single sen.
“The grapes are distributed to family members and friends for testing purposes.
“I will turn the rest of the grapes into beverages, ” he added.