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CU begins 'new era' in grape research in Lake Erie region

Nearly 100 years ago, the New York Legislature appropriated $10,000 to the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station to establish a grape research laboratory in Fredonia, N.Y. Now, with more than $5 million of state funding, Cornell is poised to break ground on 53 acres of recently purchased land in Portland, N.Y., for a new laboratory to support innovative research and extension programs to serve grape growers in western New York and beyond.

"This state-of-the-art facility will begin a new era in Cornell's rich history of commitment to the grape and wine industry in the Lake Erie region," said Susan A. Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The facility, whose groundbreaking will be spring 2007, will provide expanded field research; modernized laboratory space for research on juice and wine quality; additional office space for research and extension staff and visiting scientists; and meeting space for grower education and training.

Rick Dunst, manager of the current laboratory, said Cornell researchers have made major advances in the areas of vineyard mechanization, grapevine physiology, development of economic thresholds and effective control programs for insect and disease pests of these grapes. Researchers have increased yields, improved quality and lowered production costs of grapes grown in the Lake Erie region, especially Concord and Niagara.

"The new facility will be the foundation for the development of new technology that will be transferred to grape producers throughout New York state and enable them to successfully compete in today's global marketplace," said Tom Davenport, director of viticulture for the National Grape Cooperative.

"Cornell has provided premier research and services through the vineyard lab for many years, not only to local farmers, but to growers across the state and the Great Lakes region," said New York State Sen. Catharine Young (R-Olean), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, who led the recent effort to secure state funding for the project with major support from New York Assemblyman Bill Parment (D-Jamestown), who has been working to find funds to modernize the laboratory for more than 10 years.

Added Parment: "The key to success for the grape industry has been a combination of hard work on the part of our growers with applied research and extension coming from the grape experiment station. A new facility will give the industry a basis for productivity gains going forward. I'm pleased that we have reached this important milestone."

Since 1961, Cornell has conducted research and extension programs on the 30-acre vineyard and converted potting shed in Fredonia. The current laboratory and field research acreage will be sold, and proceeds will be invested in the long-term operations of the new facility in Portland.

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