Oregon State Receives $ 7.65 Million Grant To

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image: Oregon State Woodhall Vineyard.
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Credit: Sean Nealon

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers from Oregon State University and a team of West Coast university collaborators received a $ 7.65 million grant to study the impact of smoke exposure on grapes, a project that will provide essential knowledge to wine growers and vineyard owners severely affected by widespread smoke from forest fires in recent years.

Oregon state researchers will work with scientists from Washington State University and the University of California at Davis on the four-year project, funded by the National Food Institute and Agriculture Department of the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The events related to smoking are only increasing, and the past year has made it clear that we need to be better prepared,” said Elizabeth tomasino, associate professor of oenology at Oregon State and principal investigator on the grant. “This research will go a long way in providing tools that will enable the grape and wine industries to quickly make decisions that have a significant impact on their economic livelihoods.”

The grape and wine industry contributes $ 220 billion to the American economy, and wine grapes are highest value fruit harvest in the country, according to WineAmerica, a group that represents the wine industry in Washington, DC

Forest fires are a significant threat to these industries, as persistent exposure to smoke compromises the quality and value of wine grapes and adversely affects wines. This threat is particularly pronounced on the west coast of the United States, where California, Oregon and Washington are three of the country’s four main wine-producing states.

An economic analysis of forest fires estimated in 2020 losses of up to $ 3.7 billion, a number that will be felt until 2023 as many wineries have decided not to produce wine from 2020 grapes due to the severity of the impacts of forest fires.

In the wake of the difficult 2020 vintage, the West Coast grape and wine industry wants to better understand the impact of density and smoke composition on grapes, vines, wine composition and perception. sensory of wine in a glass. The research team calls this a “smoke-to-glass” understanding.

With the grant, the team seeks to:

  • Develop new technologies and establish low-cost sensors and sensor networks for real-time risk assessment in the vineyard.
  • To assess the impact of smoke exposure on the health of grapes and vines.
  • Develop grape coatings to reduce or eliminate the absorption of smoke components in grapes.
  • Optimize a fast, small batch fermentation method to predict the taste of a smoke impacted wine when fermented on a commercial scale.
  • Determine the sensory quality thresholds of smoke compounds in wine.
  • Connect environmental, chemical and sensory data to create predictive modeling of smoke risk for grape and wine quality.
  • Create an integrated outreach component to communicate research results and their use, and enable industry to benefit from them.

The grant builds on other recent research efforts into the smell of smoke in the state of Oregon.

Last fall, researchers, including Tomasino and other members of the Oregon Wine Research Institute, which is hosted in the state of Oregon, quickly mobilized to treat over 600 grape samples and 800 wine samples from Oregon growers and used gas chromatographic mass spectrometers to analyze the types and levels of smoke compounds they contain.

In June, the Oregon Legislature approved $ 2.6 million to fund an Oregon state testing lab to assess the impact of smoke from wildfires on wine grapes, tree fruits and other crops .

Planned work with the new grant builds on previous research by the same team made possible through funding from the American Vineyard Foundation, the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research, and the National Institute of Food and Food. USDA Agriculture.

Other Oregon state researchers involved in the new project are: Alec Levin, James Sterns, Yanyun Zhao, and James Osborne, all of whom are with the College of Agricultural Sciences or the Oregon State University Extension Service.


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