New Vineyard Set to Advance Washington State U Viticulture Research

Added farm efficiencies may spring from grape plot.

Published on: Oct 13, 2009
Washington State University viticulture researchers have received contributions from the wine and grape industry to fund a new eight-acre research vineyard to be planted this spring near the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, Wash.

"Currently, our research vineyards are small and scattered  across the research center," says Markus Keller, WSU viticulture professor. "They're older vineyards, so don't reflect current practices.  The new vineyard will allow us to better serve the industry in a number of important research areas."

Once established, the vineyard will accommodate field trials with Washington's "big four" varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling. Planted research projects will commence after the vines reach at least four years of age and include advanced deficit irrigation strategies, canopy and crop load management, as well as projects testing mechanized or automated precision-viticulture practices.

The $55,000 needed for the first-year vineyard establishment came from a variety of sources all across the industry, Keller says, with the Washington State Department of Agriculture agreeing to match the industry contributions."  The Washington Wine Industry Foundation and the Wine Advisory Committee agreed to contribute a majority of the needed funds with the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers filling in the remaining gap.

"The new research vineyard will greatly enhance WSU's ability to address the industry's research needs," says Vicky Scharlau, WWIF executive director, "not to mention allowing researchers to be more efficient and produce the output we need to compete globally. Research is our future and the industry was all too happy to assist WSU by funding this vineyard.