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New center to revolutionize US grape industry

New center to revolutionize US grape industry

By Blake Jackson

Cornell AgriTech is poised to become a global leader in grape research with the construction of the National Grape Improvement Center. This state-of-the-art facility, a collaboration between Cornell and the USDA, will revolutionize grape production in the United States.

The $70 million investment signifies a major win for the American grape industry, valued at $162 billion annually. Climate change poses a significant threat to grape production, with challenges like extreme weather, pests, and diseases impacting yield and quality. The National Grape Improvement Center will tackle these issues head-on.

Senator Charles Schumer, a strong advocate for the project, highlights the Finger Lakes region's prominent role. "This facility will make Geneva the beating heart of research and innovation for the American wine and grape industry," he states. The center will not only benefit local producers known for their acclaimed wines and popular Concord grapes but will also empower growers nationwide.

Researchers will focus on developing disease-resistant and climate-adaptable grape varieties. This will ensure a sustainable future for grape production despite changing environmental conditions. Cornell's expertise in fruit breeding, pest management, and sustainable viticulture will be invaluable to this endeavor.

The center fosters collaboration between Cornell and USDA scientists. This will accelerate research progress and lead to more effective solutions. For instance, researchers like Jason Londo (focusing on climate adaptation) and Maddie Oravec (developing improved grape varieties) will benefit from ARS's advanced technology and resources.

The center's design promotes interdisciplinary collaboration. Large open spaces will facilitate the development of innovative solutions like robotic grape disease detection systems. This project, led by professors Katie Gold and Yu Jiang, exemplifies the center's commitment to utilizing cutting-edge technology.

"The National Grape Improvement Center will solidify our enduring research collaboration with the USDA," says Christine Smart, Director of Cornell AgriTech. This collaboration is crucial for ensuring a bright future for the American grape industry.

Sustainability is a core principle of the center. Researchers aim to improve cultivation practices, grape quality, and overall yield. This will not only benefit the environment but also enhance the economic viability of grape production for growers nationwide.

The introduction of new, climate-tolerant grape varieties will provide producers with more options beyond traditional European varieties. Additionally, streamlined processes will improve efficiency and productivity.

The National Grape Improvement Center is a significant development for the American grape industry. With construction starting this fall and completion expected in early 2027, this project promises to revolutionize grape production for a sustainable future.

Photo Credit: cornell-university

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