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OSU to evaluate grapevine cultivars

Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services -todd-johnson-grape-love.jpg
Oklahoma State University is starting the Grape Library of Viticulture Extension to study the performance of grape varieties. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)
Oklahoma State University's new grape program to be foundation for future grapevine cultivar recommendations for Oklahoma viticulture and enology industry.

Selecting which type of grape to use is one of the most important decisions for new vineyard establishments and grower success, said Andrej Svyantek, an Oklahoma State University assistant Extension specialist in viticulture and enology.

“Grapevine cultivar selection at planting is one of the single most important decisions a producer can make,” Svyantek said. “Selecting an appropriate cultivar that can thrive in Oklahoma requires accounting for disease pressure, climate obstacles, ripening time and final wine objectives.”

That’s why OSU is starting the Grape Library of Viticulture Extension — or Grape LOVE — to evaluate and disseminate performance of grapevine cultivars. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry awarded more than $32,000 to the OSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture for the project.

The project is the start of an expandable grapevine library to house materials from multiple U.S. breeding programs to study their potential with Oklahoma’s unique viticulture challenges. The Grape LOVE vineyard will serve as a resource for OSU students and growers through Extension efforts, including the grape management short course, field days and a new cultivar page on the OSU Viticulture and Enology website. The grape management course will expose producers to new and emerging grapevine cultivar options.

“The OSU Grape Library of Viticulture Extension will be the foundation for future grapevine cultivar recommendations for the Oklahoma viticulture and enology industry,” Svyantek said. “This project is important because cultivars drive success for many grapevine growers and wineries.”

Through the Grape LOVE vineyard, researchers will study cultivar susceptibility and resistance to Oklahoma’s viticultural obstacles, such as severe climate events, grapevine diseases and insect pests.

“The diversity of Oklahoma growing regions and the increase in grapevine cultivar options demand a thorough assessment of cultivar choices to ensure proper recommendation can be made based on scientific observations,” Svyantek said. “For these reasons, grapevine cultivars will be purchased from breeding programs across the U.S.”

Svyantek said spring frost often is a problem in Oklahoma for grape producers, adding that studying Oklahoma’s obstacles — such as late spring freezes — from a phenological standpoint is necessary to identify grapevine cultivars with acceptable midwinter, cold hardiness and delayed spring development for frost avoidance.

“We have to figure out which ones can live in this environment, so people aren’t planting something that is non-adapted,” Svyantek said. “It is a really big, uphill battle to plant something that doesn’t belong in certain environmental conditions, so we are just trying to see which doors are worth opening rather than everyone hitting a brick wall.”

In other grape research, Svyantek will focus on developing and extending knowledge about hybrid grapevine maceration, color extraction and sensory effects while also creating demonstration wines from novel, existing grapevines.

The knowledge generated will allow members of the Oklahoma grape and wine industry to taste new cultivars before choosing to plant them and assess research scale fermentation treatments for how they alter the characteristics of Oklahoma’s adapted cultivars.

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