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Shady Lane Cellars Secures $11K National Farming Grant

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Testing new sustainable soft pesticide treatments begins in April 

Vineyard and Facilities Manager Andy Fles is leading a study to further enhance the sustainability practices at Suttons Bay’s Shady Lane Cellars. He earned an $11,000 national SARE grant to do so.

SUTTON’S BAY, MICH. (April 9, 2024) – Suttons Bay-based estate winery and vineyard, Shady Lane Cellars, recently earned a competitive, national farming grant from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, or SARE. 

The grant provides more than $11,000 in research funding, enabling the team at Shady Lane Cellars to conduct trials with new sustainable soft pesticides on 10 acres of the property. Vineyard and Facilities Manager Andy Fles of Shady Lane Cellars submitted the grant application in December 2023. The funded project begins this month.

“A primary objective is to reduce the impacts of pesticides in the vineyard ecosystem, the surrounding environment and on the vineyard workers,” Fles wrote in his application. “Another objective is to investigate more effective products for bunch rots, thus allowing for greater yield and increased quality parameters. We are also seeking to grow grapes with less chemical residues at time of harvest.”

Fles was thrilled to discover that Shady Lane Cellars would be among 40 funded SARE projects, out of more than 140 applications.

“I immediately knew that this kind of grant could be helpful to us,” he said.

The trials will test new and more sustainable ways to manage powdery mildew and Botrytis bunch rot. These are common diseases caused by fungus and bacteria that impact grapes grown not only in this region but across the country.

“We want to manage the ecosystem, not control it,” said Fles. “A more natural environment in our vineyard is always the goal. This grant will allow us to determine if these products can help.”

He plans to trial new soft insecticides, including the fungicide ProBlad Verde and Cinnerate, a cinnamon oil-based pesticide. These are naturally-derived products that target pest insects while allowing beneficial insects to survive and fulfill their roles, Fles explained.

“ProBlad is extracted from of lupin seeds, he said. “It’s a very natural product. It will sterilize the surface of the plant and kill or disrupt the membrane of bacteria or fungi.”

Fles will test just over three acres in each variety – Riesling, Pinot Noir and Vignole – to determine the efficacy of these new products. These grapes were chosen for having a higher susceptibility to bunch rot. 

Fles is working closely with Dr. Tim Miles, a plant pathology researcher and Dr. Rufus Isaacs, an entomology researcher to test the efficacy of these trials in their labs at Michigan State University. Winegrape Educator Esmaeil Nasrollahiazar, with MSU Extension, is also collaborating on this project.

Isaacs was excited to hear that Shady Lane Cellars received the grant, which represents the continuation of a strong partnership with the university. 

“With the SARE funds coming to Michigan, it will help the grape industry see first-hand how new approaches can help meet grower and winemaker needs in our climate,” he said. “The project will help support the continued close collaboration between MSU Grape Team and Shady Lane. Vineyard Manager Andy Fles has been an accommodating host for many research projects, providing critical guidance to our team, as well as access to vineyards. Andy asks a lot of questions, helps us get the projects completed, and keeps our research grounded in the needs of growers and winemakers. We’re excited to see what comes from this project!”

Fles is just as eager to see what possibilities may lie ahead. 

The SARE program, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, has the potential to influence the future of farming in the region. For an estate winery to earn such a grant is particularly meaningful to the team at Shady Lane Cellars.

“This project will allow us to be more sustainable,” said Fles, “which is part of the goal of our SIP certification. Because these products are plant-based, we can regrow them.”

ABOUT SHADY LANE CELLARS

Located at 9580 E. Shady Lane in Suttons Bay, Mich., Shady Lane Cellars produces one of the largest percentages of estate-grown wine in its region. Offering hilltop views of the Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan, the winery and its staff create a comfortable approach to wine. The winery was founded in 1999. Since 2017 all Shady Lane Cellars wines are 100 percent estate grown. In 2020, Shady Lane Cellars’ vineyard earned Sustainability in Practice – or SIP Certified – status and renewed this certification just this year. Tours, tasting experiences, private events and a wine club membership are all available. Connect on Facebook or Instagram.

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