WSU, OSU, Davis To Study Smoke Exposure In Grapes

Washington State University, Oregon State University and UC Davis have received a $7.6 million grant to study the impact of smoke exposure on grapes. According to WSU, the four-year project will provide critical knowledge to grape growers and winery owners in Washington severely impacted by widespread wildfire smoke in recent years. Funding for the research came through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Photo: WSU

“This project really ties together our ongoing state-based research programs into a strong, coordinated effort up and down the west coast,” said Tom Collins, assistant professor at Washington State University, and on the project.

Washington is the second-largest wine producing state in the U.S., with over 1,000 wineries that produce over 17 million cases of wine each year, contributing to $8.4 billion in annual in-state economic impact.

Grape exposure to wildfire smoke can compromise the quality and value of wine grapes, and adversely affect the final wine. Wildfire season has been especially devastating for the west coast, where California, Oregon, and Washington are three of the nation’s top four wine-producing states.

The team of west coast researchers will work to assess the impact of smoke exposure on the health of grapes and grapevines, and how to optimize rapid small-batch fermentation to better predict what wine impacted by wildfire smoke will taste like.

Collins said in the early years, there were only three or four researchers in the U.S. working on smoke exposure. “Now we have a really substantial team to work through these challenges. This grant really brings the resources that are going to make significant headway,” he said.

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