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May 20, 2008
Contact: Kevin Iungerman, 518-885-8995

NNY Research Hits Upon Novel Weed Control Measure for New Grape Growers

One of the outcomes to date from the cold-hardy wine grape research is a novel practice for weed control when establishing new vineyards. A full report of the trial at the Cornell University E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm in Willsboro is online on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org

More information on these Northern New York grape trials will be highlighted at the “Cold Climate Viticulture: Wines and Vines in the North Country” conferences are set for June 4 at Noblewood Park in Willsboro, NY, and June 5 at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County in Watertown, NY.

Funding from the the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program helped establish the 300-vine vineyard trial of 25 cold-hardy wine grape cultivars at the Baker farm in 2005. Since then, the farmer-led regional agricultural research, education and outreach and small grants program, the New York Farm Viability Institute, and volunteer growers have assisted research work at the Baker farm.

The trials are evaluating yield, quality and growth performance measures; and winter acclimation and survival rate.

“Serendipitously, in 2007, we hit upon a novel way for dramatically reducing conventional weed control measures in young vineyards,” says Willsboro project leader Kevin Iungerman, an Extension Associate with the Cornell Northeast NY Commercial Fruit Program.

“Our previous weed control regimen combining raised beds, the use of plastic mulch at planting, alley mowing and weed-whipping missed weeds along the edges. In 2007, we tried a different combination of practices to arrest vegetation between the mulch and the mowed alley,” Iungerman explains.

“We used a single RoundUp application when the vegetation edge was approximately seven to 15 inches high. Subsequent alley-mowing discharges helped topple the killed grass onto the plastic mulch, shading it from ultraviolet light and photo-degradation. The end result is that the pre-planting plastic from 2005 was still functioning as an effective weed control through 2007, and likely will into 2008,” he says.

Iungerman says using this technique considerably extends the life of the mulch material used by vineyard managers. He also says having the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association member volunteers regularly on site in the Willsboro vineyard went a long way toward convincing them of the utility of this newly-discovered weed control practice.

“With this Northern New York grape trial we are filling in much of the information void about growing hardy hybrid grapes in Northern New York with research-tested information based on side-by-side comparisons produced under local conditions. And,” Iungerman adds, “regional grape enthusiasts are learning by seeing and doing in the research vineyard as well as their own private vineyards.”

2008 research funded by the NNYADP is evaluating rigorous cropping performance in anticipation of creating five finished Northern New York wines from the Willsboro grape trial under the auspices of the Cornell Wine Lab.

Weed control, including how to use integrated pest management, will be a topic at the June 4-5 “Cold Climate Viticulture: Wines and Vines in the North Country” conferences to be held respectively in Willsboro and Watertown. The $50 conference registration includes lunch, the vineyard tour and a CD-ROM with presentations and information. Register by May 30; space is limited. For the Willsboro program, contact 518-885-8995; for the Watertown program, contact 315-788-8450. A complete report of the Willsboro trial is on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org.  # # #