Ohio State Involved in $3.8 Million Grant to Boost Wine Industry
WOOSTER, Ohio - The Ohio State University and six other institutions have been awarded a $3.8 million grant to improve the quality of eastern U.S. grapes and wines, with the ultimate goal of boosting economic development from this rapidly growing industry.
Supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Research Initiative (USDA-SCRI), the multi-state project also seeks to reduce the environmental impact of wine-grape production and enhance consumer attitudes toward wines produced in eastern states - which share climatic and other conditions that pose significant challenges to a sustainable and more robust wine industry.
Ohio State's share in the grant is $630,000.
"In order to increase wine sales in the eastern United States, including Ohio, wine grapes and wines must be of consistently high quality and they must be produced on a cost-competitive basis," said Imed Dami, one of the grant's co-principal investigators and state viticulture specialist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension.
The two main factors challenging the wine industry in Ohio and eastern states are excessive rainfall during the growing season and winter cold damage. The grant, Dami explained, will address these issues and propose research and outreach solutions for growers and vintners.
One key effort in the project involves the evaluation of new grape varieties better suited to the growing conditions of the region, as well as the development and application of novel GIS (geographic information system) tools for evaluating sites and matching them with the right grape varieties.
"Since the No. 1 challenge of grape production in Ohio is cold injury, I will be involved with evaluating cold hardiness of various varieties tested in Ohio," said Dami, an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. "Our long-term goal is to develop a model to predict cold hardiness of a given variety at a given site and given weather conditions. This project will link to USDA-NE1020 (a national variety evaluation project), which is established in three locations in Ohio: OARDC in Wooster, OARDC's Ashtabula Agricultural Research Station in Kingsville, and the Ohio State University South Centers at Piketon."
As part of the grant, Dami and Ohio State colleagues will also play a key outreach role by providing research-based recommendations to the industry via on-farm workshops, short courses, web and distance-learning resources, and print publications.
Environmental benefits expected from the project include a reduced reliance on herbicide inputs, increased soil organic matter and reduced soil erosion through prudent use of vineyard cover crops.
Thanks in part to Ohio State's research and Extension efforts, Ohio is now one of the top wine producers in the country, boasting 1,500 acres of grapes, annual production of more than 1.1 million gallons and 150 wineries - more than double the number 10 years ago.
The state's grape and wine industry has a total economic impact of more than a half-billion dollars a year. In addition to strengthening rural communities through employment resulting from grape farming and wine production and sales, Ohio vineyards and wineries contribute to regional tourism and the service sector and also help preserve green space.
Partners in the grant include Cornell University, North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech.
For more information about Ohio State's grape and wine research and outreach programs, log on to http://oardc.osu.edu/grapeweb/.
OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Imed Dami, Horticulture and Crop Science