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Viticulture leader promotes better science for better grapes; wins Excellence in IPM Award

Contact: Don Rutz, 315 787 2208;

by Mary Woodsen

Viticulture leader promotes better science for better grapes; wins Excellence in IPM Award

Geneva, NY: Tom Davenport’s parents didn’t want him coming back to the family farm once he finished school. They hoped for a better life for him. But Davenport wanted to stay in agriculture.

Davenport’s first job out of college as a field rep for National Grape Cooperative took him into vineyards across New York and several other states. His job: helping growers put scientific research to use on their farms, using better methods to grow better grapes. The Cooperative is the parent company of Welch’s Grape Juice.

Now, as director of viticulture for National Grape Cooperative, Davenport has received an “Excellence in IPM Award” from the New York State Integrated Pest Management IPM) Program at Cornell University for his outstanding work in promoting least-toxic solutions for vineyard pest problems.

“Tom has done exceptional work behind the scenes in making sure that growers, land-grant researchers, and Cooperative Extension educators are on the same page in the same book,” says Don Rutz, director of the New York State IPM Program. “Whether he’s in a vineyard off Lake Erie or in Washington, D.C., Tom’s contributions in finding bold new ways to bring sustainability to the farm and his industry can’t be overlooked.”

The first successful IPM tactic that Davenport helped fund was scouting methods developed at Cornell University for grape berry moth, perhaps the most destructive insect pest of grapes.

“That breakthrough potentially saves our members about $2.5 million a year in pesticides they don’t need to use,” Davenport says. “Now growers routinely scout for about a dozen pests that range from insects to weeds to plant diseases.”

National Grape Cooperative’s 1,300 members farm 50,000 acres in five states and one Canadian province. Many vineyards are sited on lakeshores. Scouting techniques and other IPM methods, Davenport notes, are essential in protecting watershed from runoff.

Many of National Grape’s members offer their farms for research projects. “The innovators are the ones who are willing to be guinea pigs,” Davenport says. “They maintain close working relationships with researchers, Cooperative Extension, and us.”

Davenport receives his award on February 8 at Viticulture 2007 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center in Rochester, NY.