Technology Transfer for the Burgeoning Midwest Grape Industry

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $68,828.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Paul Read
University of Nebraska

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, participatory research, study circle, workshop, youth education, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added, agritourism
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, grass waterways, indicators, riparian buffers, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, chemical control, compost extracts, cultural control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living, physical control, prevention, row covers (for pests), sanitation, trap crops, mulching - vegetative, weather monitoring, weed ecology, weeder geese/poultry
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, sustainability measures


    Most Midwest states rank high in total agricultural farm-gate value, but this production is predominately based on traditional commodity crops and livestock. As a result, Extension professionals have been well-grounded in those subjects, but have not gained knowledge or experience in specialty crops such as grapes and other fruit crops. However, the burgeoning grape and wine industry in the Midwest has created pressure on Extension professionals to provide science-based information to a demanding new audience. This project was therefore designed to bring the viticulture knowledge base of Extension professionals up-to-date, i.e., to “Educate the Educators” so that they may more effectively meet the needs of this new audience. Traditionally educated Extension professionals have been taught through this project to be better able to meet the needs of the rapidly developing Midwest grape and wine industry. Participants in this project have become more knowledgeable about viticulture, enology and the grape industry, including relevant economic impacts and logistics of vineyard and winery start-up. Their comments indicate that they are becoming more effective as they strive to assist individual entrepreneurs pursuing establishment of vineyards and wineries. They also have accumulated valuable resource materials that will enhance their ability to serve this rapidly growing clientele. This means that these extension professionals have made strides toward becoming a locally available resource for people wishing to learn more about the advantages and challenges facing them as they consider growing grapes and/or starting a winery. Details of legal and logistic challenges have been brought to their attention, but more education on these subjects is necessary. Furthermore, it will be important to engage more of the traditionally educated educators in future educational opportunities related to viticulture and enology. For those who participated in this project’s workshops, it is clear that they are now in a position to provide better service to people pursuing opportunities in the emerging Midwest grape and wine industry.

    Project objectives:

    1. To conduct regional in-service workshops to educate Extension professionals (Extension Educators, Extension Assistants) about the fundamental viticulture information required to respond to questions presented by the developing grape and wine industries in their assigned areas. Hands-on vineyard opportunities will assure that participants will gain familiarity with the characteristics of the grapevine.
    2. Because poor site selection is one of the most common causes of vineyard failure, to involve Extension professionals in evaluating various site characteristics in order to establish commercial vineyards.
    3. To provide Extension professionals with resources critical to their ongoing viticulture education (books, bulletins, websites, other electronic media).
    4. To encourage Extension professionals to communicate effectively with the public about the economic impact of vineyards and wineries on the local economies, especially those in rural communities.
    5. To involve Extension professionals in development of communication tools appropriate for ready use in their future viticulture educational programs.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.