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Viticulture specialist to serve eastern New York

James Meyers is the new viticulture and wine specialist covering the 17-county Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program area.

James Meyers is the new viticulture and wine specialist covering the 17-county Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program area.

Press release from Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program (ENYCHP):

The Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension has announced the hiring of James Meyers as the new viticulture and wine specialist for a 17-county region in the eastern part of New York State. Meyers will provide regional grape growers with a combination of on-the-ground grape production assistance and some high flying technology.

Meyers earned his Ph.D. in Viticulture at Cornell University and has applied a Masters degree in Computer Science from Brown University to his viticultural research. Using satellite imaging and drone technology, Meyers has mapped canopy and vineyard variability to help growers in the Finger Lakes region of New York and in California optimize the efficiency and profitability of their vineyard operations. He will continue the use of that technology in eastern New York.

“Images taken by a drone-mounted camera can be used to identify areas of inconsistency in a vineyard and create variability maps to guide ground level assessments of vine performance for potential remediation such as soil amendments, canopy management activities, or rootstock changes,” Meyers explained. “This technology can also be used to add harvesting and processing efficiency.”

Meyers is introducing himself to growers and learning about their operations in Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Ulster, Warren, and Washington counties.

His hiring is timely for the 300-mile eastern NY region that experienced a 34 percent increase in the number of grape-growing operations and a 50 percent increase in grape acres from 2007 to 2012, according to the October 2016 Grape Production in the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Region report issued by the Cornell Cooperative Extension ENYCHP.

Meyers will create and develop an Eastern New York geospatial database of vine performance that will help growers better understand their local climates, track vineyard performance, and adjust decision making for greater productivity and profitability.

“Adding a specialist with Jim’s agricultural and technological skills will maximize Extension learning opportunities in support of the Eastern New York grape industry,” said ENYCHP Small Fruit and Vegetable Team Leader Laura McDermott.

To contact Meyers or any of the other 12 specialists advising commercial fruit and vegetable growers in eastern NY, and to find educational resources, newsletters and pest alerts, visit the ENYCHP website.

Berry for Your Thoughts: Contest Seeks Name for Grape

The new breed of grape is remarkable for the large size of its berries. Photo by Bruce Reisch/CALS.

The new breed of grape is remarkable for the large size of its berries. Photo by Bruce Reisch/CALS.

Reposted from CALS news [2017-06-19]

Big on flavor, aroma and size, Cornell’s newest grape lacks one defining feature: a name. Grape breeder Bruce Reisch ’76 spent years developing the grape, and now he’s offering the public the chance to name it.

Currently dubbed NY98.0228.02, the grape is a seedless, flavorful berry with the attractive blue coloring of a Concord at nearly double the size. Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics in the Horticulture Section of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the new variety is well adapted to the Northeast, with good cold-tolerance for most of the Eastern states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

“This grape is the first truly seedless Concord-type and has naturally large, attractive berries,” said Reisch. The Concord has long been an American favorite, known best for its use in grape juice, jellies and jams.

“Our new grapes weigh 5 or 6 grams per berry, almost twice the weight of a traditional Concord,” said Reisch. “It’s pretty rare to find a grape that size, especially with such full flavor.”

Read the whole article.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Five Questions for Grape Expert Terry Bates

Reposted from CALS News 2017-06-07]:

Terry Bates

Terry Bates

Terry Bates  joined Cornell in January 1998 as a researcher studying plant nutrition and root biology in Concord grapevines at the Fredonia Vineyard Laboratory. In 2009, the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory (CLEREL) was constructed and Bates was appointed director of the facility focused on research and extension activities of juice grape, wine grape, hops, willow and vegetable production.             

What inspired you to work with grapes?

I was fortunate to have a few outstanding professors who sparked my interest in plant biology research.  Dr. Melvin Wentland was my plant biology and ecology professor at St. John Fisher who supported plant physiology concepts with real world applications. Dr. Jonathan Lynch at Penn State taught me how to approach challenging questions through research. It is a little embarrassing to admit at this point that I did not set out to work in the grape and wine industry. When I was finishing my graduate research, I was looking for a position where I could use my experiences in plant mineral nutrition to make a practical difference in production horticulture — and end my life as a starving graduate student. The advertised position at Cornell called for a researcher to investigate plant nutrition and root biology issues with Concord vineyards…it was a good match.

How have the research targets of your field changed since the beginning of your career?

When I started in 1998, the western New York Concord industry and the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program team identified a production target of averaging 8 tons/acre of ripe (16 oBrix) fruit. Current production was stuck at around 4-5 tons/acre. Initially, we addressed vineyard production through research on increasing vineyard water and nutrient availability to improve vine size and fruiting potential. As vine size and productivity improved, research activities changed to focus on reducing production costs through pruning strategies, mechanized production systems, and mechanical crop estimation and adjustment. To stay on the front edge of production and efficiency, our next great challenge in viticulture is to integrate those two areas of research and spatially manage vineyards in response to variable environmental conditions to optimize production and minimize costs.

What projects are going on in your lab right now?

CLEREL has several cooperative projects on juice grapes, wine grapes, hops, willow, and vegetables in areas ranging from cover crops to nutrition, pest management, and variety evaluations. The largest effort, however, is in precision viticulture. The “Efficient Vineyard” Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded project aims to bring precision viticulture tools to juice, wine, and table grape vineyards in the U.S. In the project, spatial soil, canopy, and crop data is collected with mobile sensors. The data layers are validated, processed, and integrated to generate potential spatial management maps for producers. Precision agriculture hardware and software is used to apply and test variable rate mechanized management to commercial vineyards.

How will your research benefit the grape industry?

The primary function of my viticulture position at Cornell is to support the Concord juice grape industry. Concord and Niagara represent about 85 percent of the grape production in New York (65 percent of the farm gate value) and the price paid for Concord is approximately $220/ton.  Over the past forty years, the price of Concord has only fluctuated between $180-$280/ton. For this industry to survive and remain profitable, vineyards must increase the sustainable yield of quality fruit and reduce production costs. Our past research on vine nutrition and root biology has demonstrated the upper limits of Concord growth and production in the region. The research on vineyard mechanization and crop load balance has provided options to reduce production costs while maintaining yield and quality. The current Efficient Vineyard project maintains our focus on production efficiency by using spatial vineyard measurement and variable rate management to make the most of every vine.

What was the best piece of research advice you have received?

Dr. Nelson Shaulis, considered by many as the father of eastern viticulture, was a retired pomologist at Cornell when I was hired. I was very fortunate to be able to spend time with him in my first year at Cornell and he was quite worried about my transition from the world of Arabidopsis physiology research to applied viticulture. He said to me, “There is a lot of non-science based information out there to confuse growers. Don’t add to the confusion. Viticulture is horticulture and enology is food science, there is no magic.” Viticulture does seem to attract a fair amount of myth and mis-information on the romantic quest for the perfect bottle of wine – when grape production becomes more “art” than “science.”  Fortunately, fundamental plant biology and the scientific method rarely fail in answering questions important to real production for real growers and their real businesses.

This article originally appeared in Appellation Cornell.

Precision viticulture project

Cornell researchers are among the collaborators in the Efficient Vineyard project, delivering an innovative, science-driven, and approachable precision viticulture platform to measure and manage sources of vineyard variation.

More information:

Researchers Look for Genetic Clues to Help Grapes Survive Cold

By Matt Hayes, reposted from CALS news [2017-03-29]

Al Kovaleski, a doctoral student in the field of horticulture, visits the Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan, New York. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Photography

Al Kovaleski, a doctoral student in the field of horticulture, visits the Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan, New York. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Photography

Months before northern vineyards burst into their lush summer peak, the delicate grape buds holding the nascent fruit in its tiny core must first withstand the freezing onslaught of winter.

Understanding how grape buds respond to subzero temperatures is of paramount concern to vineyard managers in New York and other northerly grape-producing states. Some of the more popular varieties used in the wine and juice industries can survive temperatures far below the freezing point of water. By a process known as supercooling, cellular mechanisms within the bud maintain water in liquid state down to around minus 4 to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. Beyond a certain low-temperature threshold, ice forms inside the cells, cellular functions cease and the bud dies.

Horticulturists have long relied on traditional methods to study freezing in plants. Now a researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is using powerful technologies on campus to explore in new ways the cellular mechanics that allow grape buds to survive brutal cold. The research has implications for vineyard economics, especially as climate change opens more northerly land for cultivation and current growing regions experience more extreme weather.

Al Kovaleski, a doctoral student in the field of horticulture, is using the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) to create 3-D images of grape buds. The images produced at CHESS are providing a unique perspective as Kovaleski unravels the genetic underpinnings of supercooling in grape buds.

Supercooling is a dynamic process: Different parts within the bud freeze at different temperatures, and those levels and locations change based on the season. When seasonal temperatures plummet, the grape bud responds by expressing cold resistance genes as the cells marshal resources to survive.

“Regions within the bud have different behaviors related to cold resistance. We know there must be a genetic control of what’s going on as the bud responds to freezing temperatures,” Kovaleski said. “By identifying which genes are expressed at various times in the seasons, we can isolate those that are most active when temperatures are coldest and pinpoint the genes responsible for supercooling.”

Plants that overwinter above ground have buds to protect the flower primordia and vegetative growing tips. The current understanding is that as ice forms in extracellular spaces, water leaves the cell until a point where no more can be lost for the cell to survive. At that point the supercooling process begins.

Now, Cornell researchers are teaming with physicists to visualize supercooling. Using the high-energy parallel X-ray beams produced at CHESS, Kovaleski is imaging grape buds by taking advantage of how X-rays scatter when passing through varying tissue densities within the bud. The scattering gives rise to phase contrast images, from which Kovaleski constructs digital images that allow him to visualize how water shifts. When combined with genetic sequencing data, Kovaleski can create a robust portrait of how buds react at the coldest temperatures.

The pursuit is not trivial. Winter freezes have been known to decimate grape crops, such as a cold blast in 2014 that wiped out around half of many winemaking varieties in New York, forcing growers to purchase grapes from outside the state. Subzero cold snaps routinely ravage vineyards across the Northeast, such as the “Christmas massacre” of 1980. In the Finger Lakes region, deep lakes that typically remain unfrozen during winter help maintain temperatures slightly warmer on the slopes around the lakes, opening these areas for grape growing. But even these protected regions are prone to devastating freezes.

Deepening the scientific understanding of supercooling provides grape breeders with insights to select the best breeding lines. By working with his adviser and Cornell grape breeder Bruce Reisch, Kovaleski is identifying genes responsible for cold hardiness. The data gives Reisch and other breeders the information to select individuals with the ability to survive colder temperatures while retaining the flavor and growing qualities demanded by consumers and vineyard owners.

Grape buds are the structures that contain the flower primordia and vegetative growing tips. Subzero temperatures can kill these plant parts and destroy the crop before it starts. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Photography.

Grape buds are the structures that contain the flower primordia and vegetative growing tips. Subzero temperatures can kill these plant parts and destroy the crop before it starts. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Photography.

“For a trait as complex as low-temperature survival, there is not likely to be a single gene that will impart cold tolerance to seedlings in the breeding program. But the more we understand the complexities of the genetic system, the better breeders will be able to improve cold tolerance,” said Reisch, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and research leader of the Cornell-Geneva Grapevine Breeding and Genetics Program. “Al’s work is bringing much needed clarity to this field of research, with potential applicability to a wide range of perennial crops.”

According to Kovaleski, peaches and other fruit trees that supercool to survive winter could benefit from this fundamental science. If the same genes at work in buds also are active in green tissues, the genetic data might reduce the risk of spring frosts as well.

“By understanding the genes governing cold resistance in grapes, it’s possible that we can reduce the risk of winter kill and protect fruit crops crucial to the Northeast economy,” Kovaleski said.

Along with Reisch, Kovaleski is advised by Robert Thorne, professor in the Department of Physics; and Jason Londo, a research geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service’s Grape Genetics Research Unit.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Register now for Cornell Fruit Field Day, July 20, Geneva, N.Y.

fruit compositePre-registration deadline is July 15 @ noon. Walk-in registrations will not be available, you must pre-register. Register now.

fruit compositeRepost from June 24. From Art Agnello, Dept. of Entomology, NYSAES:

Mark your calendars for the Cornell Fruit Field Day, to be held in Geneva on Wednesday, July 20.  The 2016 version of this triennial event will feature ongoing research in berries, hops, grapes, and tree fruit, and is being organized by Cornell University, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, CALS Fruit Program Work Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension.  All interested persons are invited to learn about the fruit research under way at Cornell University.  Attendees will be able to select from tours of different fruit commodities.  Details of the program presentations are still being finalized, but the event will feature a number of topics, including:


  • Spotted wing drosophila research update in berry crops
  • Hummingbird use, monitoring network
  • Use of exclusion netting for managing spotted wing drosophila in fall raspberries
  • Monitoring spotted wing drosophila for management decisions in summer raspberry and blueberry
  • Behavioral control of spotted wing drosophila using repellents and attract & kill stations
  • Effect of habitat diversity on ecosystem services for strawberries
  • High tunnel production of black and red raspberries
  • Day-neutral strawberries/low tunnel production

 Tree Fruits

  • Apple breeding and genetic studies
  • Research updates on fire blight, apple scab, mildew
  • Bitter pit in Honeycrisp
  • 3D camera canopy imaging
  • Ambrosia beetle management trials
  • Malus selections for potential use in cider production
  • Precision spraying in orchards
  • Role of insects in spreading fire blight in apples
  • Bacterial canker of sweet cherries
  • Rootstocks & training systems for sweet cherry
  • NC-140 rootstock trials on Honeycrisp and Snap Dragon
  • Pear rootstocks & training systems

 Grapes & Hops

  • Sour rot of grapes
  • VitisGen grape breeding project
  • Precision spraying in grapes
  • Managing the spread of leafroll virus in Vinifera grape using insecticides and vine removal
  • Early leaf removal on Riesling
  • Overview of NYSAES hops planting
  • Powdery and downy mildew management in hops
  • Hops weed mgt; mite biocontrol
  • Update on malting barley research


  • FSMA Produce Safety Rule

Field Day details

The event will take place at the NYSAES Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm South, 1097 County Road No. 4, 1 mile west of Pre-emption Rd. in Geneva, NY.

Arrive at 8:00 AM to get settled in. Tours begin promptly at 8:30 AM and are scheduled in the morning from 8:30 to 11:30 and in the afternoon from 1:30 to 5:00. Lunch will be served at the exhibit tent area between 11:30-12:30.

Visit sponsors anytime from 11:30-1:30

Learn about products and services from:

  • Agro Liquid
  • Arysta Life Science
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • Dupont
  • Farm Credit East, ACA
  • Finger Lakes Trellis Supply
  • LaGasse Works, Inc.
  • Lakeview Vineyard Equipment
  • NY Apple Sales
  • OESCO, Inc
  • Red Jacket Orchards
  • Superior Wind Machine Service
  • Valent USA Corp.
  • Wafler Farms
  • Tastings from War Horse Brewing

To participate as a sponsor, see the registration website or contact Shelly Cowles (315-787-2274;

Register now!

Admission fee is $50/person ($40 for additional attendees from the same farm or business), which covers tours, lunch and educational materials. Pre-registration is required. Walk-in registration may be available for a $10 surcharge on the day of the event.  Register on the Cornell Fruit Field Day Event registration page,

Tour USDA apple and grape collections in Geneva Sept. 23 and 26

apples, USDA-ARS photo

USDA-ARS photo

From Thomas Chao and Gan-Yuan Zhong, USDA-ARS  Plant Genetic Resources Unit, Geneva, N.Y.

The Plant Genetic Resources Unit of USDA-ARS at Geneva, NY is excited to announce two public germplasm tours of the USDA-ARS clonal Apple and Grape collections on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, and Saturday, September 26, 2015.

Tours will be conducted at the McCarthy Farm, located on 2865 County Road 6 (Pre-emption road) in the town of Geneva (across from the St. Mary Cemetery). Both tours will start at 9:00 am. Please park your car on the gravel parking area near the equipment barn once you enter the McCarthy Farm.

The Wednesday tour (September 23rd, 2015) will feature the world renowned apple (Malus spp.) collection. The total tour is expected to take up to 2.5 hours and will be conducted as a walking tour through the orchard grounds. This year will be the last chance to see the wild Malus sieversii seedling block from Kazakhstan, also known as the “Botany of Desire Wild Apple” block. While these trees are important to the USDA’s mission to preserve important apple germplasm, this block of seedlings must be removed by the end of 2015 to make room for future evaluation and selection of wild collected material from North America and elsewhere.

The Saturday tour (September 26th, 2015) will be a combined tour to see and taste the apple collection and also to tour the USDA-ARS cold hardy grapevine germplasm (Vitis spp.) The cold hardy grapevine germplasm is an important resource of wild North American grapevine species. These species play an integral role in the development of many of the hybrid grapevine varieties grown in the Finger Lakes wine region and also across the Midwest and Northeast. As this tour includes both the apple and grape germplasms, it is expected to take about 4 hours to complete (9 am to 11:30 am for apple and 11:30 am to 12:30 pm for grape).

Because the orchard and vineyard are planted on gently rolling ground, please note that uneven footing is possible and appropriate footwear is recommended. We request that all minors must be accompanied by an adult and all visitors should be responsible for their own safety. It is recommended that all visitors bring along appropriate sunscreen, bug spray, hats, and water bottles in order to enjoy the germplasm fully. Rustic restroom facilities (porta-potties) will be available. We will provide the tours rain or shine, except in the case of severe weather.

If you have any questions regarding the tours, please don’t hesitate to contact me through email:

Limiting Bird Damage in Fruit program August 19

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Saratoga County, 50 W. High St.,
Ballston Spa, NY 12020

8:30 AM-4:00 PM
Lunch included

Gain comprehensive knowledge about successful bird management strategies in susceptible fruit crops, including sweet and tart cherry, blueberry, ‘Honeycrisp’ apples and wine grapes.

In the morning learn which bird species damage fruit, economic losses from birds to fruit, consumer preference for management tactics (e.g. kestrel nesting boxes), NY grower survey, tactics for deer management, regulations & permitting for wildlife control, landscape factors that place fruit at risk, and bird mitigation strategies. Morning session available via WebEx webinar.

In the afternoon enjoy on-farm field demonstrations of scare tactics such as falconry, air dancers and exchange insights through discussions of tactics being used on your farms.

DEC credits available:
Category 10 — 2.5
Category 1A — 2.5
Category 22 — 2.5

Advanced registration required!
Register by Wednesday, August 12
Workshop limited to 30 attendees
Registration fee $10

More info.

Limiting Bird Damage in Fruit: State-of-the-Art Pest Management Tactics

Date:               August 19, 2015

Location:         4H Training Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County, Ballston Spa, NY


Morning Session- Ballston Spa CCE 4-H Center – Juliet Carroll moderator

8:30 – 8:50

(20 min)

Register, collect handouts, sign up for DEC credits
8:50 – 9:00

(10 min)

Welcome, introductions, announcements

Juliet Carroll, NYS IPM Program

9:00 – 9:20

(20 min)

Bird species most responsible for damaging fruit crops

Paul Curtis, Dept of Natural Resources

9:20 – 9:35

(15 min)

Birds in fruit crops: economic and consumer aspects of deterrence

Catherine Lindell, Dept of Zoology, Michigan State Univ

9:35 – 9:50

(15 min)

Grower perspectives of bird damage in fruit crops

William Seimer, Dept of Natural Resources

9:50 – 10:00

(10 min)

10:00 – 10:30

(30 min)

Tactics for managing deer in fruit

Paul Curtis

10:30 – 10:50

(20 min)

Wildlife management: bird resources, regulations and permitting

Ken Preusser, USDA Wildlife Services

10:50 – 11:30

(40 min)

Risk factors for bird damage in fruit and mitigation strategies

Catherine Lindell, Dept of Zoology, Michigan State Univ

11:30 – 12:00

(30 min)

Scare devices investigated in fruit plantings in New York

Heidi Henrichs or Paul Curtis

12:00 End morning session


12:00 – Lunch, provided


Afternoon Session- Farm Demonstrations

12:30 – Travel to field demonstration site

1:00 – Arrive at farm

1:05 (10 min) – Welcome, introductions, meet the farmer

1:15 (60 to 90 min) – Falconry demonstration by local falconer

2:30 (30 min) – Air dancer demonstration by Paul Curtis or Heidi Henrichs

3:00 (30 min) – break & grower discussions of current tactics being used and their success

3:30 (30 min) – Tour bird damage practices in use on the farm

4:00 – Adjourn; safe travels home


Bird damage factsheets

Fact sheets on the economic impact of bird damage to fruit crops are available on the Limiting bird damage in fruit crops website,  and we have linked to them within the Cornell Fruit Resources webpages for each commodity. Please share these fact sheets at winter fruit schools, grower conferences, Producer Expo sessions, etc.

The study crops included wine grapes, tart cherries, sweet cherries, blueberries, and ‘Honeycrisp’ apples. The results were based on grower surveys in NY done with assistance from the NYS Horticultural Society, NY Apple Association, NY Wine & Grape Foundation, NY Berry Growers Association, and Cornell Cooperative Extension Regional Programs and County Associations. Our colleague, Cathy Heidenreich, was instrumental in reaching NY berry growers with the survey. Thank you to all who helped with the survey effort a few years back.

The economic impact results are part of a larger, SCRI funded project, Limiting bird damage in fruit crops: integrating economic, biological, and consumer information to develop sustainable, long-term solutions, conducted in Michigan, Washington, California and New York.  Stephanie Schwiff, Research Economist, USDA-APHIS, National Wildlife Research Center conducted the economic impact analyses.

Economic impact highlights:

  • The average annual economic impact to New York from bird damage to the study crops is $16 million with the loss of almost 500 jobs.
  • The average annual economic impact of bird damage to blueberries in MI, NY, OR, WA, and CA was $51 million with a loss of 924 jobs.
  • The average annual economic impact of bird damage to tart cherries in MI, NY, OR, WA, and CA was $6.1 million with a loss of 152 jobs.
  • The average annual economic impact of bird damage to sweet cherries in MI, NY, OR, WA, and CA was $85 million with a loss of almost 1,300 jobs.
  • The average annual economic impact of bird damage to wine grapes in MI, NY, OR, WA, and CA was $126 million with a loss of 1,648 jobs.
  • The average annual economic impact of bird damage to Honeycrisp apples in MI, NY, OR, WA, and CA was $48 million with a loss of 788 jobs.
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