The primary focus of this project is to support the existing and expanding grape and wine industries in New York and other states east of the Rocky Mountains by increasing the abilities of grape producers and their advisers to manage infectious diseases that limit profitability and preclude sustainable production if not addressed adequately. Additionally, the project has several components that are applicable to the grape industry in the western U.S. and to those in overseas locations.
The Naturalist Outreach Program sends Cornell undergraduates and graduate students to local classrooms and community groups to give free presentations about natural history, ecology and conservation. By presenting lively, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) presentations, the program helps open the world of backyard biology to young people, enrich local second-grade to high-school science instruction, and simultaneously train Cornell students to communicate effectively about science.
Quality wine production depends on maintaining proper microbiological control during the transformation of grape juice into wine and its conservation. Our research provides microbiological techniques that allow winemakers to reduce microbial products, which can cause negative effects—such as headaches—to wine consumers, thus increasing the percentage of consumers able to take advantage of the health benefits related to moderate wine consumption.
It`s no surprise that severely diseased grapes make poor wine. However, we found that even trace levels of powdery mildew set in motion a sequence of events that results in severely downgraded and wine that could not be sold. The damage is not due to the powdery mildew itself, but to how it shifts the naturally occurring (and normally beneficial) microbial community on grape berries towards one that produces foul flavors and odors during winemaking.
Cold-hardy, disease-resistant wine grape varieties are helping fuel the rise of the grape and wine industry in New York and other regions of the U.S. Along with expansion of this agricultural industry comes a significant boost to the economy through tourism (retail, restaurants, winery visitors, hotels, tasting room sales of related products, etc.). There is continuing demand for new, high-quality wine grapes that can reduce pesticide applications, reduce the cost of production, and expand the range of sites on which grapes can be grown.