Integrated and Sustainable Wine Grape Production in Southern New England

2004 Annual Report for LNE04-198

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $10,400.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
William Coli
University of Massachusetts Extension

Integrated and Sustainable Wine Grape Production in Southern New England


(Note to the reader: Tables and data referenced in this report are available in hard copy from Northeast SARE. Send an e-mail request for these materials, specifically referencing project LNE04-198, to [email protected].)

The principal goal of the project is research and demonstration of a suite of crop and pest management tactics that will, when adopted, improve economic viability, maintain and enhance environmental quality, and protect worker and consumer health. The intent is to change the wine grape production system, not just to demonstrate one particular production practice or another.

The project will have a 4-year total duration and consist of the following general components: an initial three-state survey to precisely document the crop and pest management practices and inputs now in use by commercial wine grape growers in the three Southern New England (SNE) states; on-farm demonstration and applied research of several sustainable management tactics; training of field personnel by University-based faculty and professionals; frequent assessment of participating sites by trained field personnel; regular provision of useful crop and pest information to all SNE wine grape growers through a newsletter and other means; implementation of educational meetings and tours during the growing and dormant seasons; and a post-project evaluation survey of all SNE wine grape growers to determine specific practices changed and extent of change by comparisons between baseline practices/problems to those after project implementation. We believe that by demonstrating a number of system components, growers will have available the core of an integrated and sustainable production system for Southern New England wine grapes.

Performance targets will be accomplished through research and outreach on two farms each in MA, RI and CT over 3 growing seasons. The program shall include seasonal on-farm meetings at demonstration/research sites, dormant season workshops and conferences, newsletters, hard copy reports, fact sheets and information on Extension web sites.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. At least 50 southern New England wine grape growers/vineyard managers managing over 600 acres will participate in on-farm and other educational opportunities, research studies or tactic demonstrations and at least 25 will adopt 2 or more integrated and sustainable tactics on the majority of their acreage.

2. Six college-level individuals will receive training in grape production and scouting, and will participate in collecting, summarizing and evaluating data from the demonstration/research sites. At least one individual trained during the project will continue to offer fee-based vineyard monitoring and consulting services after the project ends.


Pre-Program baseline survey – We successfully completed a multi-state baseline survey of grape growers in Southern New England. An initial Extension mailing list of 93 putative growers of wine grapes was winnowed down to 71. The remainder either reported back that they did not grow wine grapes, or were unreachable due to address changes, etc. Results have been summarized in a PowerPoint presentation for presentation at the project review meeting (available online at and at the winter/spring meeting. Summary of results will be further expanded upon in a future article to be submitted to Fruit Notes.

Establish Applied Trials – Because funding was not available early enough prior to the production season, the grape team opted to limit first year activities to completing the survey, conducting grower meetings and conducting one applied trial on one cooperating vineyard. A larger number of trials are planned for 2005.

Conduct Weekly Field visits – Several field visits were made to the cooperating vineyard conducting the Extenday fabric trial. For the same reason described above (availability of funding), fewer field visits were conducted in this year than originally planned. Weekly visits are also planned for 2005.

Hold Project Review Meeting – Fifteen wine grape growers were invited to a project review meeting on Jan. 20, 2005. Four growers (J. Kirk, R. Russell, P. Nunes, S. Guiducci) attended. Three others cancelled at the last minute due to reasons beyond their control. In addition to UMass project team members (W. Coli, H. Sandler, S. Schoemann, J. Vanden Heuval, D. Cooley) the meeting was attended by a representative of the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR, B. Oehlke) and of the Southeastern Agricultural Partnership (S. Kelly, SEMAP). Also in attendance was Dr. W. Nail, the new small fruit specialist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

Vineyardists attend summer “twilight meetings” – 50 growers attended a 2-day spring educational meeting (see announcements and summary). Forty and 50 growers respectively attended the two summer meetings (See announcements) focused on sprayer calibration, Biology and management of black rot, Phenological and cultural factors affecting Botrytis bunch rot, Effects of humidity on powdery mildew development, Inoculum dynamics and infectivity of Phomopsis viticola, and Development and management of fungicide resistance in powdery mildew control.

Monitor Applied Trials – The sole applied trial was monitored periodically during the course of the summer. Results are summarized elsewhere in this report.

Vineyardists Attend Winter Meeting – Plans were formulated at the project review meeting for a winter meeting to be held in late winter/early spring. Topics and potential speakers were identified.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Applied trial on use of reflective mulch for wine grape quality improvement in southern New England Vineyards (May-Dec 2004).

One of the issues facing wine grape growers under coastal New England conditions is the difficulty of sufficiently ripening red skinned grapes such that they result in a high quality red wine. Thus, to test the hypothesis that the use of reflective mulch (RM) would increase wine grape quality, randomized complete block design experiments were established on May 11, 2004 at one vineyard in Newport, RI. The treatments were panels (groups of 5 grape vines) in which the ground was covered or not covered by white plastic reflective mulch. Three varieties were utilized (Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay) and the treatments were replicated four times in each variety. All varieties were shoot-thinned in the first week of August by the grower.

Various measurements were made throughout the season. Statistical comparisons were made using analysis of variance (Proc GLM) in SAS V8.2. Treatment effects were evaluated at the 5% level of confidence (P<0.05). Standard error bars are utilized in Figures 1 and 2 for assessment of the variation about the mean, but should not be used to distinguish treatment effects. Regression equations and slope comparisons were generated using Proc REG. A Decagon AccuPAR ceptometer (model PAR-80), a light interception device that measures photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), was used to compare light reflectance in the mulched and unmulched plots. The amount of reflectance in the mulched plots was always higher than the unmulched plots, though the difference between the two treatments decreased over time (Table 1 and Figure 1). Visual observations confirmed that the mulch was occasionally or frequently covered with some degree of debris or dirt during the growing season. Point quadrat analysis (PQA) was conducted three times for all 3 varieties (Table 2). This procedure provides an estimate for various components of canopy structure. Plots in the Merlot variety covered with the reflective mulch had higher leaf layer numbers (LLN) than plots left unmulched at all three sampling dates (Figure 2). LLN in excess of 3 are counterproductive for wine grape fruit quality; values of 1-2 are considered acceptable. LLN values decreased as the season progressed because it is customary to pull leaves and/or to thin the shoots to promote more carbohydrate partitioning to the fruit (instead of to vegetative growth). Harvest data were also collected in 2004 (Pinot Noir, Sept. 24; Chardonnay, Oct. 26; and Merlot, Oct.28). No differences between treatments were noted for any harvested parameter (Table 3). A confounding factor for harvest evaluations was that the grower fruit-thinned cv Merlot (September 1-3) and cv Pinot Noir (August 27). Composition of the wine grape was also analyzed (Table 4); no differences between treatments were noted. A phenolic profile for cv. Merlot and Pinot Noir are being processed and data should be available soon. Since these compounds impart important characteristics for the final wine product, it is hoped that treatment differences will be seen for anthocyanin, flavonol, or total phenolic concentration. Given that the mulch manufacturer suggests that the fabric can be used for up to 4 years, current plans call continuing this trial in 2005. More data will be collected as in 2004. Linking growers to Penn. State grape information As a direct result of attendance at our Spring, 2004 meeting, numerous growers signed up to receive the Penn State Wine Grape information electronic newsletter published by Dr. Mark Chien. Additional grape funding generated One member of our team (Sonia Schloemann) was able to secure a small Extension Technology Initiative (ETI) grant to fund the development of the New England Wine Grape Grower website. When fully developed and launched, the site will be available at The project team will utilize this site to publicize meetings, post pest and crop alert newsletters, links to relevant out-of-region web sites/newsletters, and otherwise foster electronic communication to and among New England wine grape growers. In addition, under the leadership of Dan Cooley, our team applied for funds from the UMass Agricultural Experiment Station to further develop an ongoing program focused on viticulture and enology (Development of a Research and Education Program for Small-Scale, Sustainable Viticulture and Enology in Massachusetts ). The project’s goal is to expand opportunities available in Massachusetts’ agriculture by providing leadership and support for grape production. Within this framework, we will use faculty and staff expertise in integrated pest management, fruit production systems management, plant growth regulators, and fruit quality and post-harvest unit operations to develop research and Extension projects that receive extramural funding. From this, we will develop the leading viticulture and enology program in New England, integrating these efforts with undergraduate and graduate education. Our initial objectives include the following: · Improved cooperation in development of viticulture and enology in the state through a new Wine Council, composed primarily of growers, with Univ. personnel and other stakeholders; · Improved chances of vineyard success through use of GIS and associated data to identify areas well-suited to viticulture in Massachusetts; · Better local research support for vineyard economic and environmental sustainability through establishment of research plantings at the Univ. of Massachusetts Cold Spring Orchard Research and Education Center and co-operating grower vineyards; · Improved wine quality and establishment of a unique research niche through focused UMass Amherst research on methods to manipulate grape physiology and microclimates for the purpose of extending the production season and expanding the production area in Massachusetts; · Reduced farmer and public exposure to pesticides by educating growers in use of IPM methods, and doing research on improved methods of low-pesticide grape production; · Improved farm profitability on diversified farms by developing and demonstrating small-scale wine-making at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard; · Increased value of maintaining agricultural land by developing agri-tourism associated with viticulture and using it to educate the public about agricultural issues. · Support the design of post-harvest processing operations (stem-grape separation, crushing, filtration, acid removal, sugar addition, fermentation, maintenance and bottling) to optimize wine quality from locally grown grapes. The funds amount to $50,000 per year for 3 years, and will be used for a number of activities related to the SARE-funded project


Tim Barry

Jonathan Edwards Winery
Gary Crump

Priam Vineyards
Colchester, CT
William Nail

Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
Frank Caruso

University of Massachusetts
Richard Carmichael

Greenvale Vineyard
Richard Burris

Sharpe Hill Vineyards
Rob Russell

Westport Rivers Winery and Vineyard
Daniel Cooley

University of Massachusetts
Justine VandenHeuval

University of Massachusetts
Arthur Tuttle

University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Sonia Schloemann

[email protected]
M.S., Extension Small Fruit Educator
University of Massachusetts Extension
West Experiment Station
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Office Phone: 4135454347
Hilary Sandler

[email protected]
Ph.D, Extension Educator
University of Massachusetts Extension
Souteastern Regional Extension Center
Glen Charlie Rd.
E. Wareham, MA 02538-0569
Office Phone: 508295221221
Sue Guiducci

Massachusetts grape grower
Paul and John Nunes

Rhode Island grape growers
Mike McAndrew

Stonington Vineyards
Richard Kyomoto

University of Connecticut, Storrs
Kip Kumler

Turtle Creek Winery
Joetta Kirk

Rhode Island Grape grower