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Grape growers grateful for 100 years of UC Cooperative Extension

Viticulture publication credits UC Cooperative Extension for helping California winegrape growers.
The vital link that UC Cooperative Extension provides between public universities and communities is nowhere more true than in viticulture, reported Paul Franson in Wines and Vines. Cooperative Extension advisors have helped winegrape growers improve cultural practices and overcome a host of pests, diseases and water and climatic issues by applying university research to solve problems.

The lengthy article was written in honor of UC Cooperative Extension's 100th anniversary. The organization was formed on May 8, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act into law.

For the story, Franson interviewed Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, and several UCCE advisors who work in Northern California viticulture. Allen-Diaz noted agriculture's wide scope in the Golden State.

“We farm 400 commodities in California with a value of $45 billion,” Allen-Diaz said. UC Ag and Natural Resources focuses on healthy food systems, healthy environments, healthy communities and healthy Californians.

Rhonda Smith, a UCCE advisor in Sonoma County, said she has seen many changes since she started in 1986.

"In early days, most growers were small, independent farmers," Now most of the people Smith works with are employees of large corporations, many multinational.

In the early days, farm advisors dealt with multiple crops, and the viticultural work and research was primarily focused on improving the culture of vines. Things soon changed. “Increasingly, the trials were associated with grapevine pests, especially exotic pests,” Smith said.

Monica Cooper, UCCE viticulture advisor since April 2009, walked into a big problem when she took her job: the European grapevine moth. She also conducts research with mealybugs and leafroll virus and believes red botch virus and water issues to be important concerns for winegrape growers in the near future.

Glenn McGourty, UCCE advisor in Mendocino County, agrees.

“I’ve been telling growers that they need to learn to farm without irrigation,” McGourty said.

Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 3:21 PM

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