New Vineyard Will Advance WSU Viticulture Research

PROSSER, Wash. – Washington State University viticulture researchers have received contributions from the wine and grape industry to fund a new eight acre research vineyard to be planted this spring near the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

Markus Keller, professor of viticulture, pointed out that, “Currently, our research vineyards are small and scattered across the research center. They’re older vineyards, so don’t reflect current practices. The new vineyard will allow us to better serve the industry in a number of important research areas.”

Once established, the vineyard will accommodate field trials with Washington’s “big-four” varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Planned research projects will commence after the vines reach at least four years of age and include advanced deficit irrigation strategies, canopy and crop load management, as well as projects testing mechanized or automated precision-viticulture practices.

The $55,000 needed for first-year vineyard establishment came from a variety of sources all across the industry, Keller said, “with the Washington State Department of Agriculture agreeing to match the industry contributions”. The Washington Wine Industry Foundation and the Wine Advisory Committee both agreed to contribute a majority of the needed funds with the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers filling in the remaining gap.

“The new research vineyard will greatly enhance WSU’s ability to address the industry’s research needs,” said Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Wine Industry Foundation, “not to mention allowing researchers to be more efficient and produce the output we need to compete globally. Research is our future and the industry was all too happy to assist WSU by funding this vineyard.”