FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A seedless table grape called Jupiter is the latest in a successful line of fruit varieties to be patented by the University of Arkansas.

John Clark, fruit breeder for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, said patenting varieties has help the UA Division of Agriculture maintain one of the largest and most successful public fruit-breeding programs in the country. The university has released 35 fruit varieties since the program was established by fruit breeder Jim Moore in 1964.

The University of Arkansas' first fruit patent, for Reliance grapes, was received in 1984.

Clark said Jupiter was released in December 1998 and received its patent late last year. It is the 19th fruit variety to be patented by UA.

Clark has applied for a patent for White River, a peach variety released last year that will be number 20.

Jupiter is a reddish, purple grape with a large berry, non-slip skin and semi-crisp texture. It's very productive and sweet, Clark said. It's an early- to mid-season grape that matures in late July in test plots at the UA Fruit Substation near Clarksville, Ark.

"The major trait that makes it stand out is its flavor," he said. "It's the first muscat-flavored grape released from UA and has an appealing flavor that comes from old world grapes. It's one of my favorites; a very nice one to eat.

"We hoped this variety would give Arkansas growers a step up in quality, and it's becoming increasingly popular in fresh markets."

UA was one of the first universities to seek a patent for a public fruit variety.

"Jim Moore released Reliance because he knew it would be a successful grape variety for growing areas north of Arkansas," Clark said. "Although it would benefit other states, he figured a patent would help keep some of that benefit here by injecting royalty returns back into the program."

Since then, royalties from patented varieties have become an important source of support for the Arkansas fruit breeding program.

"Public fruit-breeding programs in many other states have diminished or been discontinued," Clark said. "Even though the fruit industry has less commercial importance in Arkansas than in other states, our program has thrived. The royalties from patents help insure we can continue fruit breeding in Arkansas primarily for Arkansans."

Besides grapes, UA breeds peaches, nectarines and blueberries, but the stars of the program are blackberries. "Arkansas has one of the largest, if not the largest, blackberry programs in the world," Clark said. "Arkansas blackberries are grown on every continent but Antarctica. Everyone in the blackberry industry in the United States knows about the Arkansas program."

UA has released 10 blackberries in both thorny and thornless varieties. Clark anticipates a new thornless variety will be released later this year. He is also developing primacane blackberries that produce fruit on first-season canes.

Fred Miller is science editor for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. e-mail: fmiller@uark.edu.