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Sept. 23, 2022

Muscadine post-harvest research focuses on shelf-life, consumer preference

By John Lovett
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts

  • Arkansas researchers test muscadine post-harvest stability and winemaking potential
  • Taste panel preferred muscadine wines made without long contact with grape skin
  • Muscadines have potential for commercial shelf-life to at least four weeks

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Muscadine research by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station has been a collaboration between horticulture and food science to demonstrate that these folksy native grapes appeal to a vast consumer market. 

Purple muscadines ripening on the vine.
MUSCADINES — Research on muscadines by the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station includes post-harvest studies on shelf-life and winemaking methods. (U of A System Division of Ag photo)

With their unique flavor and health benefits, muscadines offer specialty crop growers in Arkansas an option to broaden their production or break into a niche market.

“The nutraceuticals, or healthy aspects of eating muscadines, are one of the draws that people consider about muscadines,” said Renee Threlfall, research scientist of enology and viticulture with the experiment station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

However, most people in the United States are not familiar with muscadines, Threlfall said. She hopes they gain in popularity with new seedless varieties developed by Gardens Alive! breeder Jeff Bloodworth. The Division of Agriculture and Gardens Alive!, an Ohio-based company, are partnering to breed new seedless muscadines adapted to Arkansas and similar regions.

Threlfall was one of the speakers at the Muscadine Workshop and Field Day on Sept. 19 at the Fruit Research Station near Clarksville. Over 50 people turned out for the annual event. Division of Agriculture speakers also included Margaret Worthington, associate professor of fruit breeding and genetics; and Amanda McWhirt, associate professor and fruit and horticulture production specialist. Guest speakers included Bloodworth; Joseph Post, vice president of sales for Post Winery in Altus; and Greg Ison, co-owner of Ison’s Nursery and Vineyard in Brooks, Georgia.

Experiment station scientists have conducted research on muscadine post-harvest handling and processing for 15 years and continue to seek ways to help Arkansas producers.

Cody Rawls, one of Threlfall’s graduate students, researched the post-harvest aspects of shelf-life, color stability, consumer preferences and winemaking methods that work best with Arkansas-grown muscadines. He compared a new Division of Agriculture muscadine selection and a traditional processing muscadine fermented with different grape skin contact times. A consumer panel found that muscadine wines made from the Division of Agriculture selection without grape skin contact time was the most preferred wine.

Graduate student Jordan Chenier measured volatile compounds in six Arkansas-grown muscadine varieties to determine what gives muscadines that unique aroma and flavor. Two compounds identified in these muscadine grapes included geraniol, with floral and rosy notes, and hexanal with fruity and grassy notes, Threlfall said. Bloodworth noted that an o-aminoacetophenone is a chemical compound that gives the muscadine it’s “musky” aroma.

Muscadine varieties are often divided into two categories: “fresh-market” muscadine varieties for eating and “processing” muscadine varieties for jellies, juices and wines. The Division of Agriculture expects to release a new muscadine variety from both categories next year.

Threlfall said her research has shown that Arkansas fresh-market varieties have a post-harvest shelf life of two to four weeks if they are picked and handled properly. Additional research is needed, she said, to determine if that post-harvest window is long enough or if they need to work to breed muscadines to extend shelf life. Breeding a muscadine that has a good “dry stem scar” when torn away from the stem is important to shelf life, she noted.

“What we found is that for Arkansas cultivars after four weeks of storage in a clamshell container, over 90 percent of the fruit in the container was marketable,” Threlfall said. “That was what we were looking for.”

Renee Threlfall portrait
Renee Threlfall, research scientist of enology and viticulture with the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. (U of A System Division of Ag photo by Fred Miller)

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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Media Contact: John Lovett
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
(479) 763-5929