CRAVE: Science behind the practice

by Tamara Scully
Growers and vintners rely on research, data and the results of plant pathologist, viticulturists, horticulturists, food scientists and other professionals who have devoted their work to grape and wine related agriculture.
These professionals involve themselves in many research projects and provide graduate students the opportunity to develop and per-form research of their own. This ultimately leads to scientific advances that assist growers in the cultivation and marketing of their crops.
Behind-the-scenes brainstorming, informal re-search, data gathering and sharing of theories or of preliminary research results is the beginning of the process of practical advancement. Production, management, economics, technological advances and cultivation best practices all stem from these initial forays into unexplored territory, or expansions upon currently available information.
“Cornell Recent Advances in Viticulture and Enology (CRAVE) is part of the annual Agriculture and Food Systems inservice at Cornell, which encompasses all the agricultural programs for Cornell Cooperative Extension,” Dr. Tim Martinson, Senior Extension Associate, New Your State Agriculture Experiment Station, Cornell University, said. “Our principal goal is to share with each other current works-in-progress and ideas. The CRAVE conference brings us all together at the end of the growing season to learn what our colleagues are doing.”
Topics of Interest
The CRAVE program allows graduate students and faculty to present brief, 15 minute segments detailing ongoing research. This year’s program saw a vast array of topics discussed. Projects included: establishment of cold hardy grapes; impacts of winter frost damage; black rot and red blotch disease concerns; vineyard floor management and the microbial community; mechanical thinning; sprayer adjustments and canopy density; shoot-tipping to modify cluster compactness; and spatial vineyard management.
Vineyard floor management and resulting wine characteristics are being studied by Ming-Yi Chou (Horticulture Section, Ithaca), Anna Katharine Man-sfield (Food Science, Geneva), Jenny Kao-Kniffin and Justine Vanden Heuvel (Horticulture Section). During 2014, they examined the impact of various vineyard floor management techniques in a healthy, mature Riesling vineyard in Ovid, NY, on the resulting wine’s sensory characteristics. Glyphosate treatments, cultivation and native vegetation were the three management practices studied. Panelists then evaluated wine made from the grapes man-aged in each system. According to their synopsis, this data will “enable a more comprehensive understanding of under-vine floor management inter-actions with fruit and fermentation microbiome.”
On the marketing side, Kevin Martin, of the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, addressed on-going challenges in bulk grape and wine production. Economic factors, such as low bulk pricing predicted for the next several years, along with an increase in severe winters, have caused growers to reassess site selection and business plans.
Martin is assisting growers to adapt their business plans, and transition into a more viable approach for the future.
Disease issues, including red blotch virus and black rot disease, were also topics of research. Red blotch was discussed economically, while black rot was approached genetically. Grape root-worm, which is a re-emerging pest in parts of New York State, is also under investigation.
Black rot disease is not as much of a concern for native North American grapevines, but has a decimating impact on many European species. Elizabeth Takacs, horticulturist with the New York Agriculture Experiment Station, is conducting research that may lead to the breeding of resistant cultivars, using genetic markers.
Informal Findings
“One of the great things about it (CRAVE) is that it’s an informal, low-pressure, low-risk presentation opportunity for graduate students and not primarily geared to a public audience,” Martinson said. Although the decision was made to also have CRAVE broadcast live via a webinar format, the program is “not primarily geared to-wards a public audience.”
The benefits of this non-competitive, sharing type of format is to keep the faculty and staff in-formed of the work which being done across the various related disciplines, and to share ideas which help research projects to evolve. CRAVE was started in 2007, when four new faculty members came on board in the departments of Viticulture and Enology. The program allowed them to acclimate to the research and areas of study in progress.
With 40 faculty pro-grams, along with four regional extension pro-grams, Cornell’s agriculture reach is diverse in both geography and subject matter. Allowing re-searchers who may not be in regular communication to join together and explore the wide realm of scientific activity going on in the Cornell agricultural community is the purpose behind the broader annual inservice of which CRAVE is a part, Martin-son said.
Opening the CRAVE program up publicly, via webinar, was done “because we realized there is a group of growers, wine-makers and colleagues from other states that is interested in the ongoing science beyond the ‘take home’ messages we usually present at grower and winemaker meetings,” Martinson explained.
But he cautions that the presentations are of-ten about “narrowly focused research projects,” not “finished stories.”
It is precisely this portion of the scientific and academic world that is of-ten invisible to growers. This preliminary work is necessary for the development of more intensive, detailed studies. And the gathering of the minds can often lead to collaboration, new ideas, and real benefits to the agricultural community.
“By opening it up to a wider audience this year, we hoped to provide industry participants with a taste of the breadth of topics our faculty and staff are actively working on,” Martinson said.

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