Good Fruit Grower

April 15

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Grapes Evaluating grape sites Computer model turns massive amount of raw data into valuable information for those thinking about planting grapes. by Melissa Hansen D r. Michelle Moyer, Washington State Univerdecision-making tool that can highlight the positives and sity's statewide viticulture extension specialist, negatives of a commercial vineyard site." regularly receives calls from Washington's wine grape industry is growers asking advice about going through a major expansion phase, planting wine grapes in the and new vineyards are being planted in state. Using a new computer model uncharted areas for viticulture. Moyer has designed by WSU to evaluate potential fielded a lot of calls about sites in western vineyard sites, she provides callers with Washington, but also locations in north specific site information to guide their central Washington, such as Douglas, decisions—all without ever leaving her Stevens, and Okanogan counties. She is office. charged with helping grape growers suc—Michelle Moyer These days, budget limitations preceed in producing quality grapes, and to clude county and state extension educators from visiting do that, the first step is to select an appropriate vineyard farms. Much of their expertise is shared digitally— site. through electronic newsletters, online webinars, and Much of what determines the suitability of a vineyard phone calls. "Nobody can travel all over the state anysite relates to soil. Factors like soil pH, texture, watermore," said Moyer. "But it's still my role to help commerholding capacity and drainage, and the presence of cial grape growers. While nothing can replace an on-site, restricting soil layers are key considerations when selectvisual inspection, the WSU computer model is a great ing a site. Some factors are topographical, such as slope, aspect, and elevation, while others are temperature based. The information is publicly available, but it is scattered among different government entities and databases. "Great vineyards are about the people." w Ne Data and more data Save Time, Save Money, Pick More Cherries! As a cherry grower, you're always gambling with nature. Put the odds in your favor—reduce rain induced splitting with new Parka. Two applications, first at straw color and a second 7 - 10 days later are all that's needed to sleep better when the black clouds roll in. For more information contact Cultiva at 888.638.1955. Developing a vineyard site-selection computer model had long been on the wish list of WSU soil scientist Dr. Joan Davenport. When she saw Ian Yau's application for WSU's graduate school, his geographical information systems experience caught her eye. Davenport became Yau's advisor, and funding was secured for his computer model project. Yau spent four years compiling massive amounts of raw data into a single database for the computer model. Some of the data sets, like soil surveys, solar radiation, and topographical maps were readily available, while others, such as growing degree days, were incomplete or needed interpolation. The second phase of the data-gathering process involved a literature search to weight the different datasets for their grape quality attributes, giving them a numerical rank, explained Moyer. The higher the number, the more appropriate the site is for grapes, she said while demonstrating to Good Fruit Grower how the model works. A zero means the site is inappropriate for a vineyard. The model has two sets of data: raw data and classified. The weighted rankings are part of the classified data. By using both data sets, Moyer can identify why a site ranked low or high, not just that it ranked low. Model limitations 888.638.1955 • Parka is a trademark of Cultiva. SureSeal is a trademark of Oregon State University. Always read and follow label directions. ©2013 Cultiva. 34 April 15, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Ideally, the model would work by using a mathematical calculation that combines multiple factors in a ranked form to determine the overall suitability of a site, she said. Moyer, who has experience in computer modeling, helped develop a powdery mildew risk assessment model at Cornell University, New York, before joining WSU. "The original concept was to have the site model available to the public, similar to other WSU computer riskassessment models, like those for powdery mildew and the Decision Aid System," she said. "It was to be a tool for growers to use in their decision making."

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