Development of Partnerships and Support for an Emerging Alternative Crop: Grapes in Northern New England
Presently, there is a lack of cohesive, research-base information and dissemination mechanisms from the Extension systems in Northern New England to farmers who have an interest in growing grapes in colder regions. Scientifically-based information is necessary for farmers to make informed and comprehensive decisions to allow their farms to be profitable, environmentally sound, and to be a benefit to their communities. Our approach to begin to solve the problems associated with the commercialization of a new crop is to identify and address the needs of Vermont growers who in turn, represent growers with similar climate in New England. We view this project as setting the foundation for the establishment of an integrated research and outreach program that addresses the need of science-based information in the cultivation and management of this alternative crop in colder regions, and that utilizes growers expertise and knowledge to strengthen the industry.
Objective 1. Document growers experience in growing grapes in colder climates. We will work with Vermont growers who have established vineyards to create a database from which a profile of this emerging industry can be made.
Objective 2. Identify and quantify differences in performance of grape cultivars at various locations due to the microclimatic, cultural and pest management differences. We will work with four farm cooperators who will identify and select several grape cultivars that show the most promising qualities (adaptability, productivity, quality, disease resistance, etc.). We will collect data to quantify the horticultural performance and the pest resistance/susceptibility of some of the selected cultivars.
Objective 3. Development of an outreach program for grape growers in Northern New England. We will design, develop and implement a high quality, comprehensive, and integrated outreach program that will address the needs for knowledge, information, technology transfer, and research for a new commodity. We will utilize various means of information transfer such as the World Wide Web, newsletter, bulletins and workshops.
The results from the survey conducted to document growers’ experiences in cold climate grape production indicate areas where extension and research resources should be allocated. These are disease and insect identification and management, nutrition and weed management, and cultivar performance.
The following cultivars were selected for quantification of their performance at the four vineyards: vineyard 1: Leon Millot, Frontenac, St. Croix; vineyard 2: Frontenac, La Crescent, St. Croix, Prairie Star; vineyard 3: Vidal, Riesling, Artic Riesling, Traminette; vineyard 4: Vignoles, Vidal, Leon Millot, Riesling. Horticulture data collected for most cultivars included harvest date, yield, mean cluster weight, mean berry weight, soluble solids, and pH. Preliminary horticulture data analysis of yield indicates that at vineyard 1, St. Croix yield was significantly higher than Leon Millot. It is important to not that the cultivar Leon Millot was severely diseased at vineyard 1. These vines were not managed for disease control, and the yield was probably diminished due to this. For vineyard 1 soluble solid did not differ significantly between these cultivars. In Vineyard 3, Arctic Riesling yield was significantly higher than that of Riesling. The pH for ‘Riesling’ was significantly higher than for Arctic Riesling. For vineyard 4, soluble solids were analyzed using the SNK test and all three cultivars differed significantly. Vignoles had the highest soluble solids, Leon Millot was second highest, and finally Riesling had the lowest soluble solids. The pH also differed between all cultivars; Leon Millot had the highest pH, followed by Vignoles, then Riesling. Yield of Leon Millot was significantly higher than the other cultivars, followed by Vignoles, then Riesling, significantly lower yields than the other cultivars. In Vineyard 2, data for only one cultivar, Frontenac, were collected due to lack of fruit (pest damage) or the grower harvested the fruit letting the researchers know.
On each of the cultivars listed above in the four vineyards, insect and disease incidences were observed and differences between cultivars were noted during the growing season and at harvest. An initial report of differences in disease susceptibility between ‘Frontenac’, ‘Leon Millot’, Riesling’, and ‘St. Croix’ from one of the vineyards was submitted to “Biological and Cultural Tests” for publication. All data will be discussed with growers during winter works
Through grower interaction and on-farm visits, a critical area of applied research/demonstration and education for the development of sustainable cold climate grape production was identified: biologically-based, environmentally-sound disease and insect management. As one grower put it, a top priority is to develop a “real world approach to IPM” for cold climate grape production. Based on input from growers as to their needs and priorities, three grant proposals (EPA, USDA SARE Research & Development, USDA Northeast IPM) were written and submitted to enhance the development of an integrated research and extension grape IPM program in support of the emerging cold climate grape industry in the region.
We have a web site for cold climate grape production information under development (http://pss.uvm.edu.grape). The first newsletter, Cold Climate Grape Production was published in September. The content of this newsletter includes pertinent and timely information such as fertilizer applications and pest management to help growers in their day-to-day vineyard operations. This newsletter was posted on the grape web site and it was made available to Vermont and other grape growers in the region, to state and government agency representatives, and to any other interested parties. Currently, we have twenty subscribers to this newsletter.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The project already has had an impact on growers’ knowledge of pest identification and management. Since cold climate grape growers in the region to date are either totally new to agriculture or are farmers with no experience in growing grapes, there is a critical need for education on IPM principles and techniques as they pertain to cold climate grape production, including basic information on identification and disease/life cycles of the potential major grape diseases and arthropod pests. Misidentification of problems by growers was occurring. For example, during the current growing season a mealybug infestation was thought to be downy mildew disease by one established grape grower and a bacterial disease was thought to be a fungal disease by another grower; both could have resulted in improper and unnecessary pesticide use if the misdiagnoses were not corrected by our input.
The horticultural knowledge that has been gained thus far is allowing growers to make decisions based on research results. For example, growers have gained knowledge on the importance of conducting soil and petiole analysis in determining the nutritional needs of their vines.
The Cold Climate Grape Production Newsletter has been described as “very informative.”
The SARE Partnership Grant is truly setting the foundation for establishing an integrated, collaborative research and outreach program in the region for cold climate grape production. Because of the work we have accomplished during the short period since the Grape Partnership grant began, we have obtained an EPA Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Grant to enhance our efforts in outreach education and two other funding proposals are pending. The SARE Partnership Grant is allowing ‘partnerships’ to develop and thrive amongst growers, university outreach and research personnel, and governmental agencies with the goal of developing sustainable cold climate grape production systems in the region.
70 Pierson St
Shelburne, vt 05482
Office Phone: 8027341386
Lincon Peak Vineyard and Nursery
262 River Rd
New Haven, VT 05472
Office Phone: 8023887368
409 West St
Rutland, Vt 05701
Office Phone: 8027737966
Snow Farm Vineyard
190 West Shore Rd
South Hero, VT 05486
Office Phone: 8023729463
Extension Horticulture Specialist – Fruits
University of Arkansas
310 Plant Sciences Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office Phone: 4795752790