the sheehan history

After leaving college Tim worked as an Ag Inspector in the Valley, where he gained great experience on a whole range of fruit crops. This experience demonstrated to him that there was huge scope to improve current table grape varieties and so he joined Superior Farming Company (which later became Sun World) as a breeder, working alongside the legendary John H. Weinberger (breeder of Flame Seedless, Friar Plums and a whole range of other grape and stone fruit varieties). He worked with Prof Weinberger for several years but his ambition was to set up as a private breeder focusing solely on table grapes.
Tim then set about canvassing investors to help fund his new table grape program which would concentrate on two key attributes – improved eating quality for consumers and productivity and ease of production for growers through lower labor inputs.

One of these investors was the AMC Group from Spain, who realized that the future success of grape production would depend on the creation of new varieties, and this at a time when state and university funded plant breeding were in serious decline and plant breeding was moving into the private sector. It was clear to AMC that, if they wanted to have access to the very best new varieties, then they had to invest in breeding.

Tim’s first step was to travel the world to look for potential parent material for his new program and he so he began to develop a genepool of diverse varieties. He started making crosses in the late nineties and over just a few years had created a few thousand seedlings. AMC became closely involved with Tim in the evaluation and assessment of these new seedlings and soon it was apparent that there were several potential new high-performance varieties in Tim’s collection.

Sadly, Tim passed away in 2009 but his legacy was in place and Sheehan Genetics, now wholly owned by AMC, continued the evaluation process. AMC formed a specialist company, Special New Fruit Licensing (SNFL) to concentrate fully on the Sheehan program and to date some 25 patented varieties have been developed from Tim’s original breeding program.

Sheehan in Australia

In 2002, Tim and SNFL made the decision to start a hybridization program in Australia, where they had access to an embryo rescue laboratory that allowed crossbreeding of seedless and seedless’. This technique greatly increased the proportion of seedless hybrids in the program, which greatly facilitated the achievement of the objectives.

So far, the program “Sheehan Australia” has generated about 70 advanced selections, which are being evaluated in the test fields that SNFL has in different countries. The first small-scale commercial plantations of the Australian collection were planted in Spain in 2016 and are now being developed in multiple countries.

grape genesis

The key priority for the new Grape Genesis hybridization program is to improve all the work already done to date in order to create new and better varieties, in addition to these varieties providing additional health benefits, with a higher content of antioxidants and being richer in vitamins. For farmers who plant these new varieties, the main advantage will be the natural resistance to diseases, reducing or eliminating the need to apply certain pesticides and fungicides.

Like Tim Sheehan did in 1996, The Grape Genesis Team began by expanding the genetic base with the introduction of new materials, sometimes from wild grape species, whose genes are more resistant to disease. The challenging work performed over the last few years was to transfer these properties to the new varieties that Grape Genesis will be launching to the market in the near future.

in the lab

The program is the result of more 20 years of basic scientific research, which offers results of high commercial viability thanks to the commitment of a team of doctors in biology, agronomists, producers and food technologists who maximize a genetic catalog of more than 400 native varieties, generating patented varieties that satisfy the demands of a changing market in continuous evolution.

In the process of hybridization, the concept of trial and error involves the crossing of genotypes studied and known over the years. The crosses are carefully studied and developed to obtain new appealing combinations of color, taste, texture, pest and disease resistance and even new harvest season windows, thus offering new possibilities to redefine and strengthen the table grape segment.

The objective of the Grape Genesis team is to develop new table grape varieties. This is carried out through natural directed hybridization. After this process, plants must be cultivated in the field and be evaluated with the goal of selecting those that harbor the desired traits. In our laboratory setting we have tools that allow the selection of plants that contain specific genes (for example, genes related to disease resistance), in such a way that the germinated plants can be selected or discarded through DNA analysis.

Other activities that are carried out in our laboratory are:
• Preparation of in vitro material to send to other countries
• Sanitary control of our material

in the field

Our research and innovation work does not stop in the lab. After a selection is chosen to be evaluated, it has years ahead of testing in our research plots, first in hybrid blocks, then transferred to semi-commercial or commercial tests. Our field research is as thorough as the research performed in our lab and we devote as much effort to identify which of our selections stand out the most and can move forward on the strict selection process.

Our breeding team evaluates each plant carefully in the hybrid blocks. Some of the desired traits might show up, some might not. Important decisions are made yearly whether to discard a hybrid, keep it or use it for further crosses.

Once a hybrid looks promising enough to potentially become an outstanding variety worth of the SNFL brand it is broadly tested in several of our semi-commercial or commercial blocks in Spain, South Africa, Chile, Mexico and US.

Our dedicated technical teams perform a wide variety of management trials to determine whether the “future variety” is grower friendly, has consistent crop load over the years, and maintains all the desired qualities year after year without showing any undesired behavior.

SNFL takes pride on the thorough testing done to our promising selections so that when growers decide to test and plant our varieties they have the warranty of a top product and a top team they can rely on.