May 16, 2023
Washington State Wine Commission awards research grants

The Washington State Wine Commission (WSWC) awarded almost $1 million in research grants for the upcoming year.

The research projects target a variety of challenges that directly impact Washington wine grape growers and winemakers.

WSWC-Washington-State-Wine-CommissionThe WSWC Board of Directors approved 19 projects totaling approximately $992,028, for the upcoming fiscal year (July 2023-June 2024).

Since 2015, research grants have grown by 30% due to increased funding from the WSWC and the Auction of Washington Wines, a significant contributor to viticulture and enology research conducted by Washington State University (WSU) scientists, according to a news release.

Almost half of the research grants for the coming year support management practices and tools to improve vineyard sustainability. The Washington wine industry recently launched Sustainable WA, a statewide certification program developed specifically for Washington.

Sustainable topics include optimizing vineyard nutrition, using drones to release “good” bugs in vineyards, confusing insect mating with sex pheromones, developing integrated weed management strategies, evaluating rootstocks for nematode management, and controlling grape powdery mildew with ultra-violet light in combination with canopy management.

Other viticulture topics to be studied include enhancing irrigation efficiency through soil water sensors, testing the carbon isotope signature of juice from wine grapes grown under seasonal stresses of water and nutrient deficits and virus infection, and developing novel strategies to manage grapevine leafroll disease.

Innovative winery research projects include developing a predictive model using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy and machine learning to make wine analysis faster and easier and evaluating a newly developed method to analyze free sulfur dioxide in wine. Also, WSU scientists will investigate the impacts of yeasts on fermentation and sensory properties and work to mitigate the impacts on wine from frozen leaf material and wildfire smoke exposure.

The WSWC’s research grant program will fund the collaborative work of research teams from WSU and the University of California, Davis, who are working to advance the understanding of condensed tannins, with the goal of developing a novel approach to analyze tannins in wine. The WSWC also awarded a grant to finetune the use of an insect attractant to keep beneficial bugs working longer in vineyards.

The statewide research grant program combines public, private and industry monies to support viticulture and enology research at WSU. Four entities fund the statewide program: the WSWC, Auction of Washington Wines, WSU’s Agriculture Research Center, and state wine liter taxes (1/4 cent per liter of all wine sold). Additionally, the WSWC administers its own competitive grant program to support short-term, demonstration trials and research to complement studies by WSU that is beyond state borders.

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