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U.S. Winegrape Growing Needs More Science

November 2006
 
by Cliff Ohmart
 
What is the role of science in winegrape growing in the United States? I often ask myself this question for many reasons; to name a few:
  • Grower reps from some wineries advise (more like tell) growers when they have too many leafhoppers or mites in their vineyards, even though there is not a shred of data to go on.
  • Some wine writers wax eloquent about biodynamic farming when it is clear they really don't understand what it is.
  • Applied research is taking a back seat to basic research at the University of California.
  • Financial support for university cooperative extension programs around the U.S. is eroding.
  • Donations to the American Vineyard Foundation research fund are declining.
  • Some pest control advisors (PCAs) complain that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's educational requirements for obtaining a PCA license are too strict. Meanwhile, the plant protection and pest management major at UC Davis is about to go under due to lack of students. A similar program is struggling at Fresno State for the same reason.
  • The market share of Australian wine in the U.S. continues to grow, fueled by a US$20 million annual research and extension budget, while the U.S. wine industry can barely manage $3 million (excluding funding for Pierce's disease/glassy-winged sharpshooter).
Frankly, I am not sure how many in the U.S. wine industry appreciate the significance of science in winegrape growing.
 

 
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