CCOVI research vineyards to tackle climate change challenges

With the help of two new research vineyards, Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) is looking to aid Canada’s grape growers and wineries.

Grape grower Bill Schenck’s who is allowing the use of two acres of land for CCOVI’s vineyard research. The project is funded through an NSERC CRD program in partnership with Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc.

CCOVI partnered with two commercial grape growers to plant the St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyards that will be used for a clone and rootstock evaluation program of the main VQA grapevine varieties in Ontario.

Jim Willwerth, CCOVI Senior Scientist, said the program takes a proactive approach that will help the industry grow and adapt to challenges expected with climate change.

“We are looking at cold hardiness, fruit composition, wine quality and general vine performance, so that the industry knows the best combinations to use for our core grape varieties,” said Willwerth.

Planting and management of the research vineyards was funded through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Collaborate Research and Development grant program in partnership with Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc.

The certified grapevines were planted in June in collaboration with Huebel Grapes Estates and the support of grape growers Bill Schenck and Erwin Wiens, who are each allowing the use of two acres of their land. More vines will be planted in 2019.

“This is an example of an Industry and University research program that is ultimately looking to help the sustainability of the Ontario and Canadian grape and wine industry,” said Willwerth. “I think this is proof of how CCOVI’s industry partnerships really shine and how we work together to achieve a common goal.”

One vineyard was planted on a heavier clay soil and the other on a sandy soil to represent different vineyard conditions found in Ontario. There are different varieties of vines in each with multiple clone and rootstock combinations.

“The research we do at CCOVI is driven by the industry, and the industry, at this time, is interested in evaluating clean plant material and looking at what combinations do the best under our conditions,” Willwerth said.

Bill Schenck, one of the commercial vineyard owners, has been working with CCOVI on research projects for the past 15 years.

“The reason I like working with them on research projects is it gives me first-hand knowledge on what will work on my property,” said Schenck. “I am pretty excited for opportunities to see what I can do better.

“We have seen over the years with different rootstocks that vines grow differently and so, if I look to replant or plant new vineyards, it is always better to have the knowledge available.”

Schenck said he is happy to help support the industry by donating his land and time for the clone and rootstock evaluation program.

“I think the growers in this area are very lucky that CCOVI has taken up the challenge of trying to do what is best for the industry and I think they are covering off almost all aspects of it at this point.”

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