Innovative projects tackle challenges facing Washington’s wine industry
SEATTLE (May 6, 2022) – The Washington State Wine Commission (WSWC) awarded almost $1 million in research grants for the upcoming year through the statewide grape and wine research program, along with its own grant program. The broad research projects aim to improve wine quality by tackling high priority vineyard and winery issues.
The Washington State Wine Commission Board of Directors approved 24 projects totaling approximately $994,184 for the upcoming fiscal year (July 2022-June 2023). Research grant awards have grown by 30% since 2015, which includes increased funding from the WSWC and the Auction of Washington Wines, a contributor to the Washington State University (WSU) Viticulture and Enology program.
A theme of research for the coming year is sustainability. WSU is working to develop cutting-edge, sustainable management strategies and tools that wine grape growers can use in the newly launched Sustainable WA certification program.
In the coming year, 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 in 2021 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. Four entities fund the statewide program: the Washington State Wine Commission, 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 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 percent 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. 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.
Learn more about the Washington wine industry’s research program and view the list of the 2022-23 research projects on the Washington State Wine Commission website.
For additional information, contact Melissa Hansen, Research Program Director at [email protected].
About the Washington State Wine Commission
The Washington State Wine Commission (WSWC) represents every licensed winery and wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, WSWC provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness about the Washington wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines. Funded almost entirely by the industry through assessments based on grape and wine sales, WSWC is a state government agency, established by the legislature in 1987. To learn more, visit www.washingtonwine.org.