Grape industry wins USDA funding for two projects
The National Grape & Wine Initiative has won approval of two grants that will fund more than $14 million worth of research. The grants are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the totals include matching funds and in-kind contributions from the grape industry.
One project, funded at $7.2 million over five years, will investigate how grape growers can get by with less water and use poorer quality water in their vineyards.
The National Grape & Wine Initiative had identified water shortages and salinity as top priorities for research, according to Jean-Mari Peltier, president of the industry group. The project is to help the industry develop strategies that use less water and water of lower quality while maintaining yields and fruit quality. An estimated 90 percent of the nation’s wine, juice, table, and raisin grapes are grown under arid western conditions, mostly in California, Washington, and Oregon.
The research will look at several approaches—finding better rootstocks, better monitoring and water management, deficit irrigation, and leaching salts from soil.
The other grant focuses on the East, where work continues to match cultivars to climatic conditions and improve grape and wine quality. That research is being led by Dr. Tony Wolf at Virginia Tech. The USDA grant is $3.8 million, and industry matching funds will about double that, Peltier said.
The western research effort is headed by two principal investigators, both with the Agricultural Research Service: Dr. Andrew McElrone, at the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Jim Ayars, in Parlier, California. Other team members include Dr. Joan Davenport, Washington State University; Mark Battany, University of California; Dr. Andrew Walker and Dr. Jean-Jacques Lambert at University of California, Davis; ARS researchers Gary Banuelos, Catherine Grieve, Donald Suarez, and Dr. Dong Wang; and Kurt Schwabe, of University of California, Riverside.
The water project funds include contributions from the California Table Grape Commission, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Sun-Maid Growers of California, National Grape Cooperative, and the National Grape & Wine Initiative.