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Developing and Testing a Code of Sustainable Viticulture Practices for Vineyards in New York and Pennsylvania 2006

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Project Leaders: T. Martinson, Finger Lakes Regional Grape Program ; A. Wise, Suffolk County CCE Long Island Grape Program; T. Weigle, NYS IPM Program, Cornell University

Cooperators: T. Davenport, National Grape Cooperative, et.al.

Abstract: We propose to develop and work towards implementation of a sustainable viticulture program for the Long Island, Finger Lakes, and Lake Erie/Ontario regions in NY and the Lake Erie region of Pennsylvania. Such a program addresses risk management for this clientele because much of the grape production in NY occurs in environmentally sensitive areas adjacent to major bodies of water (Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, Long Island sound), and amidst a growing suburban and lakeshore-cottage population. By defining a code of sustainable practices that are both environmentally sound (reducing inputs) and economically sustainable, the wine and grape industry in NY will be able to demonstrate to policy-makers, regulators, and neighbors that they are dealing proactively with potential environmental risks. This will reduce the risk of potential regulation that could have severe negative economic impacts for the industry. Consumers and industrial purchasers are increasingly asking for documentation that their products are being produced in environmentally sustainable ways. Adoption of sustainable production practice guidelines will allow both major purchasers (bulk juice and wineries) and the small winery segment to demonstrate their commitment to environmentally responsible production, and may allow value-added marketing opportunities for their products.

The key steps in developing sustainable ag programs are defining a set of sustainable practices, developing a grower self-assessment workbook to enable growers to rate their practices and develop action plans, and finally a means of verifying adoption by growers and publicizing the program to consumers, neighbors, and the general public. This project will focus on the first two steps by involving a broad segment of the grower population in defining the practices and developing a grower self-assessment workbook.

The self-assessment guidelines will address the totality of vineyard management practices, including: specific weed and vineyard floor management, pesticide application technology, disease and insect management, and fertility management practices. The first step in the process will be to convene grower meetings to introduce the concept of sustainable viticulture. These groups will help define the specific practices to be incorporated into the guidelines. We will then produce a draft set of guidelines by working with a representative group of grower and processors recruited through the NYS Winegrape Growers, the Long Island Vineyard Technical Group and contract growers with National Grape Cooperative and Canandaigua Wine. This workbook will build upon the draft Long Island Sustainable Viticulture Program guidelines produced by Alice Wise and Libby Tarleton. A draft will be produced by early 2006 and tested with a minimum of 5 producers in each region during the 2006 growing season. Following revisions during the winter of 2006-2007, the workbook will be released for general use in 2007. We expect 30 Lake Erie, 30 Finger Lakes and 20 Long Island producers to complete the workbook and document adoption of some or all of the sustainable practices during 2007.