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Growers and winemakers can now watch short videos to learn about the findings of Michigan State University research projects funded by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Videos feature a variety of topics, including control of insect pests to diseases. (Courtesy of Michigan State University Integrated Pest Management)

Growers and winemakers have a new way to learn about insect pests and disease, fruit quality and other topics, thanks to a series of videos that highlight Michigan State University research findings.

The first set of six videos came out last year, and a second set of eight videos was slated to become available around the end of January.

All of the videos feature research funded by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council (MGWIC), which was established by the Michigan Legislature to promote vineyards, wineries and cideries.

The first set of videos, which range from 8 to 14 minutes, cover vineyard insect pests; methods for the use of own-rooted Vitis vinifera vines; integrated pest management; the impact and spread of grapevine leafroll virus; leaf removal as a means to improve crop control and fruit quality in vinifera grapes; and the modernization of MSU’s weather stations (in its Enviroweather program) that serve the Michigan grape and wine industries.

Previously, researchers reported their work and findings to the MGWIC as written reports, which the council then posted on its website.

The reports drew a little bit of traffic, but not enough, said Karel Bush, executive director of the MGWIC. “It is just really difficult to get people from the industry to go to a website, read through a report, and understand how they might be able to use that information in their own operations,” she said.

Last fall, Bush and MGWIC promotion specialist Jenelle Jagmin met with Joy Landis, who is communications manager for MSU Integrated Pest Management, and MSU academic specialist Mallory Fournier to share their efforts to reach out to growers, winemakers and others interested in the industry.

When the discussion turned to the research reports, Landis and Fournier suggested that a video format might be a good option. That meant webinar-type videos that would feature the researchers explaining their research and “providing some guidance on how their findings might be used out in the real world,” Bush said. “We loved the idea, so Joy went back and got blessings from above on using their resources to do this.”

Soon after, Fournier met with the researchers, providing tips about selecting engaging visuals and addressing a general audience, and then began recording.

They are able to caption the videos, making them accessible to people who use text readers. “That has additional advantage, too, because if you read the statistics nowadays, most people watch videos with the sound off, so the captions are useful there as well,” she said.

That first set of videos was posted on the MSU website at msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/grapes/research in February 2017.

“We also asked the researchers when their videos were most timely, and if it was something growers should be paying attention to in June, for instance, then we’d start publicizing them through social media or an article in MSUE News at the end of May.” The MGWIC also promoted the videos through its website and other communications.

So far, the combined efforts are working. “We’ve found that the traffic to those videos is higher — much higher,” Bush said. The first set of videos have been viewed an average of about 50 times a month since they were first posted. The next set is likely to be available in February and March, and the group plans to continue to do this every year.

“We see these videos as a good way to reach industry members and deliver information they need and want from our MSU researchers,” Landis said. “They have worked very well.” •

by Leslie Mertz