May 6, 2022
Washington Wine funds research projects tacking industry challenges

The Washington State Wine Commission (WSWC) awarded almost $1 million in research grants designed to improve wine quality by tackling high priority vineyard and winery issues.

The organization’s board of directors approved 24 projects totaling $994,184 for the upcoming fiscal year (July 2022-June 2023). Research grant awards, from through the statewide grape and wine research program as well as the WSWC’s own grant program, have grown by 30% since 2015, according to a news release. The grants include increased funding from the WSWC and the Auction of Washington Wines, a contributor to the Washington State University (WSU)
Viticulture and Enology program.

Sustainability is a theme of research for the coming year. WSU is working to develop cutting-edge, sustainable management strategies and tools that winegrape growers can use in the newly launched Sustainable WA certification program.

Scientists will evaluate innovative techniques to control pests and diseases, such as combining attractants with drone aerial release of beneficial predators, using pheromones to disrupt the mating of grape mealybug, trialing UV light in vineyards to control powdery mildew, and growing cover crops to trap or trick nematodes that feed on grapevine roots.

A long-term research vineyard will be planted to study the effects of traditional and novel viticultural practices on soil health. Winery projects will include developing a predictive model of Raman spectroscopy and machine learning to make wine analysis faster and easier, mitigating potential impacts on grapes from smoke exposure, and using native yeasts to reduce wine alcohol concentrations.

Through the WSWC’s own research grant program, research teams from WSU and University of California, Davis, are collaborating to better understand condensed tannins and develop a novel approach to analysis of tannins in wine. The WSWC also awarded one-year demonstration grants to study acid timing on sensory perception of wine and fund evaluation of different irrigation sensors in a WSU Smart Vineyard.

Wine research in Washington is funded through several competitive grant programs. A statewide program administered by WSU combines public, private and industry monies to support viticulture and enology research at WSU.

In addition to WSWC and the auction, WSU’s Agriculture Research Center and state wine liter taxes also fund the research. Additionally, the WSWC administers a competitive grant program to support short-term demonstration research at Washington community colleges and studies beyond state borders.

Return on investment from previous research has helped growers and wineries improve wine quality, reduce pesticide inputs by up to 80% (which saves the industry $35 million annually), conserve up to 50% irrigation water from deficit irrigation strategies, and make informed frost and cold protection decisions using a cold hardiness model, according to the release.

“Current research projects have significant potential for economic benefits, including sustainable nematode management tools for replant situations to protect an estimated $44 million in annual replanting costs, helping growers assess risk for phylloxera to prolong replanting with rootstocks, which costs $25,000 per acre, and more,” the WSWC said in the release.

More information can be found about the Washington wine industry’s research at the Washington State Wine Commission website.




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