NOTE: Brock University yesterday announced a $2.86 million grant from the province for climate change research for grape and wine industry. This is the press release with the details.
As vineyards struggle to survive the damages inflicted by increasingly erratic weather, the Government of Ontario has given $2.86 million so a team of scientists can better understand how climate change is impacting Ontario’s grape and wine industry.
Brock University Professor Gary Pickering will lead a team of 19 researchers conducting extensive research in a number of climate-related disciplines that have become a threat to Ontario grape growers.
The announcement was made today at Brock by Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation. The funding comes from the Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence program, which helps cover the cost of conducting groundbreaking, internationally significant research.
The government has said that supporting Ontario research is part of its strategy to create the next generation of jobs and make innovation a driving force of economic growth for the province. Ontario’s grape and wine industry contributes close to $1 billion annually to the province’s economy.
“Dr. Pickering and his team at Brock are making discoveries that will prepare our grape and wine industry for the challenges of climate change,” Murray said at today’s announcement. “Our government is proud to support innovation in the Niagara region, and to support researchers who fuel our economy with new ideas.”
Pickering, a biological sciences professor who is also a researcher in Brock’s Cool Climate Viticulture and Oenology Institute (CCOVI), said the evidence is “irrefutable”.
“Adapting to climate change represents arguably the single most urgent challenge facing the world,” he said. “Today’s announcement will allow the grape and wine sector in our province to be in the best position possible over the coming years to successfully respond to current and future challenges through innovative research and networking.”
Brock president Jack Lightstone said this new research initiative fits squarely within the university’s relationship with the surrounding community and with the private sector.
“Brock is committed to being a partner that helps strengthen our broader community in many ways, including economically,” said Lightstone. “ We are grateful for this investment by the Ontario government that enables us to play a key role in a research initiative that supports our grape and wine industry.”
Pickering, the recipient of numerous research awards, is passionate about wine and wine education, and is working on a number of books. He is also North American editor of the Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment and a member of the Honorary Editorial Board for the International Journal of Wine Research.
Today’s announcement is part of a larger investment that will support 248 researchers across the province. Including today’s investment, Ontario has committed $556.6 million for 140 projects under the Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence program, and leveraged more than $1.1 billion in commitments from more than 650 industry and other partners.
This Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence program funding will be used to support six interrelated research programs based out of CCOVI in two areas:
Viticulture and Climate Research Programs
1. Climate Change
This program will use advanced modeling techniques to determine how the climates of Ontario’s wine regions will evolve over the next 30 years. With industry it will develop adaptive strategies to reduce risks and optimize growing conditions, as well as identify potential new viticulture areas for future expansion.
Led by: Tony Shaw, CCOVI Fellow, Professor of Geography, Brock University
Supported by: Adam Fenech, Senior Climatologist, Environment Canada; Brad May, Research Manager, Environment Canada; and Andrew Reynolds, CCOVI Researcher, Professor of Biological Sciences/Viticulture, Brock University
2. Grapevine Hardiness
The severe weather events that have taken place in recent years are anticipated to worsen substantially in the future. These weather events challenge the ability of many vinifera grape vines to not only produce quality fruit, but simply to survive. This program is aimed at optimizing grapevine winter hardiness by understanding the acclimation and de-acclimation process of grapevines, and the viticultural and environmental stresses affecting them.
Led by: Andrew Reynolds, CCOVI Researcher, Professor of Biological Sciences/Viticulture, Brock University
Supported by: Kevin Ker, CCOVI Professional Affiliate, Grape and Wine Industry consultant, KCMS Applied Research and Consulting; Jim Willwerth, Staff Viticulturist, CCOVI, Brock University; Mike Duncan, Chair, Visualization Sciences, Niagara College; Helen Fisher, Research Scientist, Viticulture, University of Guelph; and Wendy McFadden-Smith, CCOVI Professional Affiliate and Tender Fruit and Grape IPM Specialist, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
3. Grapevine Molecular Biology
This program will develop plants and markers to breed for winter hardiness, and will identify genes that can act as markers for a breeding program. This program will lay the groundwork for the creation of winter hardy elite vinifera wine varieties, which will provide a permanent and reliable solution against vine damage caused by low temperature winter injury.
Led by: Annette Nassuth, CCOVI Fellow, Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph
Supported by: Daryl Somers, CCOVI Fellow and Research Director, Applied Genomics, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre; Helen Fisher, Research Scientist, Viticulture, University of Guelph; and Jim Willwerth, Staff Viticulturist, CCOVI, Brock University
Oenology and Climate Research Programs
1. Methoxypyrazine Remediation
Methoxypyrazines are green and unpleasant tasting compounds found in wine. They are due to invasive pest species that are now prevalent in Ontario because of climate change, and also grapes that fail to attain full ripeness because of unsuitable weather during the growing season. The focus of this program will be the application of technologies already patented by this research team, as well as the development of new approaches to removing these compounds from juice and wine.
Led by: Gary Pickering, CCOVI Researcher, Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology/Wine Science, Brock University
Supported by: Debbie Inglis, CCOVI Director and Researcher, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Brock University; Terence van Rooyen, Winemaker/Professor, Niagara College; George Kotseridis, Staff Oenologist, CCOVI, Brock University; Paul Zelisko, Instructor, Organic Chemistry, Brock University
2. Sparkling Wine Production
This program will use a system biology approach to develop strategies based on wine yeast to increase the efficiency and profitability of sparkling and wine production in Ontario. This will help to solidify sparkling wine as a successful style for the province, as well as hedge against unfavourable climate for table wine production, and help to diversify Ontario’s wine offerings in the competitive international marketplace.
Led by: George van der Merwe, CCOVI Fellow, Associate Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology, University of Guelph
Supported by: George Kotseridis, Staff Oenologist, CCOVI, Brock University; and Gary Pickering, CCOVI Researcher, Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology/Wine Science, Brock University
3. Appassimento-style Wines
Ripening grapes off-vine after harvest represents a new and exciting innovation for the Ontario wine industry to overcome climatic barriers to obtaining fully ripe grapes. The semi-dried fruit can then be fermented into an appassimento-style wine, similar to Amarone, using varieties grown here in Ontario to produce value-added quality-driven unique products with distinctive flavour profiles. The goal of this program is to identify the best drying techniques and to optimize the production process overall.