By Erika Holmes, viticulture & enology

grapes-200RICHLAND, Wash. – The Washington State University viticulture and enology program will recognize donors contributing to the Albert Ravenholt Research and Teaching Vineyard with free, public tours at 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, at the vineyard. Blended Learning student-made wines will be available for purchase.

test-vineyard-500Located behind the state-of-the-art Wine Science Center (http://www.tricity.wsu.edu/
wsc/
) on the corner of George Washington Way and Sprout Street, the two-acre vineyard is named for Albert Ravenholt, a pioneer in the Washington wine industry and founding member of Sagemoor Vineyards.

The Albert Victor Ravenholt Foundation recently donated $500,000 to the WSU viticulture and enology program (http://wine.wsu.edu/). Learn more in the latest issue of Voice of the Vine (http://cahnrs.wsu.edu/blog/2014/11/wsus-voice-of-the-vine-water-saving-wine-donation-grape-sustainability-and-wine-matrix/).

“We are thankful for our engaged wine industry partners who have generously donated their knowledge, hard labor and vineyard supplies,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the program. “Their contributions provide invaluable opportunities for WSU students.”

Ground-cover weed-suppression research

Among those students is Gretchen Graber, an environmental science graduate student, who will soon begin the first research project in the new section of the vineyard.

Over the next year, she will compare the effectiveness of two ground-cover grass-seed mixtures in preventing invasive weeds from growing between rows in vineyards. One is a drought-resistant mixture of three grass types that was developed at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Experiment Center (http://iarec.wsu.edu/Pages/default.aspx) in Prosser, Wash.

The other is a mix of six native grasses from BFI Native Seeds (http://www.bfinativeseeds.com) in Moses Lake, Wash. Native plants have the added benefit of providing habitat for insects that have evolved to depend on local plants.

Invasive weeds compete with grapevines for water and space. Additionally, soils without vegetation lose moisture quickly, are susceptible to erosion from wind and water runoff and can encourage detrimental pests such as spider mites.

Useful ground-cover plants reduce erosion, are easy to mow and grow without irrigation. Identifying a ground cover with these traits could help Washington’s 350 wine grape growers save money on irrigation and pesticides and increase crop yields and health.

Taking learning beyond the classroom

Since 2007, undergraduate and graduate students have worked in the vineyard, conducting hands-on experiments and learning vineyard tasks. Students and instructors are fully responsible for tending the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Riesling, and Syrah wine grape varieties grown there.

“The Research and Teaching Vineyard aids my teaching by offering students outdoor, hands-on experience in a vineyard,” said Graber, who also teaches undergraduate courses at WSU Tri-Cities.

WSU Extension staff hold educational seminars for wine industry members in the vineyard.

Albert Ravenholt Research and Teaching Vineyard Advisory Committee
• Roger Gamache
• Jason Schlagel
• Tom Waliser
• Derek Way and crew

Project Donors
• Cresline Plastic Pipe Co., Inc.
• Ewing Irrigation
• Fresno Valves & Castings, Inc.
• Gamache Vineyards
• Inland Desert Nursery
• Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd.
• Linde Vineyard Supply
• Nelson Irrigation
• Quiedan Company
• Rain Bird Corp.
• Sagemoor
• Waliser Vineyards
• Wilson Orchard & Vineyard Supply

 

Contact:
Erika Holmes, WSU viticulture and enology program communications, 509-372-7223, erika.holmes@wsu.edu