Austrian viticulture students get lessons from WSU professor Keller

Washington State University viticulture professor Markus Keller recently returned from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Universität für Bodenkultur Wien, or BOKU) in Vienna, Austria, where he served as an invited visiting professor during December.

Keller teamed with Astrid Forneck, professor and head of the Division of Viticulture and Pomology, to educate students in the new international master’s program for viticulture, enology and wine economics at BOKU.

Austrian viticulture students get lessons from WSU professor Keller
Viennese viticulture students during a grapevine pruning field trip to the famous Langenlois district.

Keller lectured about grapevine physiology, participated in related lab work and an all-day field trip, and conducted oral exams. His lectures were open to the public.

Students received a tutorial on seminar presentations from Keller before he then supervised and assessed their presentations. During a student-expert mixer Keller helped organize, he and other scientists delivered oral and poster presentations and discussed current viticulture research topics with the students.

“This was a unique experience for me, especially since the course language was English. Having been raised in Switzerland, teaching mostly Austrian and German students in English was an interesting challenge,” Keller said.

Forneck and her post-doctoral and doctoral students planned future collaborative research projects with Keller, and he participated in a faculty meeting and visited several vineyards and wineries to round out the experience.

In Washington, Keller is the Chateau Ste. Michelle Distinguished Professor of Viticulture at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, where he teaches and does research. He is also author of “The Science of Grapevines: Anatomy and Physiology,” which won the International Organization of Vine and Wine’s award for best viticulture book of the year in 2011. The second edition of this textbook is slated for publication by the Elsevier Academic Press in February 2015.

Keller and his research team focus on interactions between grapevines and their environment, such as the relationship between grape development and water supply during fruit ripening, irrigation and crop load management, yield formation and cold hardiness.

– Erika Holmes