ASEV 68th Annual Conference

Last week, Fruition Sciences attended the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) 68th Annual Conference in Bellevue, Washington.  This event was a true meeting of the minds for North America’s top scientists and practitioners related to winemaking and grape growing. Hundreds of recently released studies were discussed throughout the three day affair.  It was a must-attend event for wine scientists in North America and beyond, with researchers from as far off as Japan and New Zealand in attendance.  This event promoted not only the most recently published materials in ASEV’s journal, but also exposed emerging scholars in the industry, with poster sessions demonstrating research projects at the undergraduate, masters, doctoral, and postdoctoral levels.

The event was split into two separate disciplines, viticulture and enology, and for much of the conference simultaneous presentations were given.  Mark, from Fruition Sciences maintained a presence at all viticulture talks and had the opportunity to attend the conference’s joint sessions.

One of the most fascinating components of the ASEV conference was the exposure to new understandings of remote sensing.  During this discussion, Mark Battany of the UC Davis San Luis Obispo Cooperative Extension described the importance of taking accurate weather data to thoroughly prepare for untimely frost events.  While there is a definite need for accurate weather data,  Mr. Battany noted the difficulties in managing data and maintaining equipment for this process.  In the end, Mr. Battany alluded that private enterprises could be at an advantageous position to deploy weather stations.

An excellent discourse on remote sensing continued through Thursday afternoon with Professor Samuel Ortega Farias and Vinay Pagay both giving talks on their trials using aerial imagery to understand various components of vineyard variation.  Professor Ortega Farias, of Universidad de Talca, Citra-Utalca, discussed his team’s field experiment which implemented a remote sensing energy balance (RSEB) algorithm to estimate spatial variability of vine water requirements or evapotranspiration (ET) over a drip-irrigated Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard located in the Pencahue Valley in the Maule Region, Chile. The team concluded that multispectral and thermal cameras placed on an UAV could provide an excellent tool to evaluate the intra-vineyard spatial variability of evapotranspiration.

Vinay Pagay traveled to the conference from the University of Adelaide to discuss his team’s effort to determine vine water and nitrogen status from a regional scale.  The objectives of this research were 1) to validate vine water and nitrogen status data obtained from an airborne remote sensing platform (compared with conventional on-ground measurements across an entire viticultural region); 2) to determine whether remotely-sensed vine water status data could be used to make irrigation scheduling decisions.  Professor Pagay concluded that remote sensing was a powerful tool for large-spatial scale characterization of water and nitrogen status which, generally, correlated quite well with ground-truthed data.  As it has been indicated by other research, remote sensing also improved irrigation uniformity by delineating zones of non-uniformity in certain blocks.  Additionally, Professor Pagay noted that it was indeed difficult to find conclusive water status data in wet weather years and that all remote sensors need to be accurately calibrated by plant-based methods.

Another noteworthy presentation came from Washington State University’s Yun Zhang whose talk “Grapes and Irrigation: Of Myths and Dogmas” looked at the impacts of preharvest irrigation.  Her team’s research indicates that avoiding excess water stress close to harvest may alleviate berry weight loss and dehydration during extended hang-time.  In what has become a contentious debate amongst grape growers, Dr. Zhang has the data to back up her claim.  It will be interesting to see this theory in action at sites throughout California!

As part of the conference’s joint viticulture and enology talks, Professor Alan Lakso of Cornell University was asked to give the Honorary Research Lecture for his lifetime of research devoted to the production of wine grapes and other horticulture.  With this, Mr. Lakso shed light into some of his most crowning achievements.  At the forefront of all his accomplishments and throughout his 40 year career Dr. Lakso was known for his ability to turn research into practical advice for growers and winemakers.  Dr. Lakso’s lecture was capped off with a moving and emotional acknowledgement to all who had worked with him along his career–including his wife.  To this, the conference’s attendees responded with a standing ovation in praise of Dr. Lakso’s career of accomplishments and scholarship.  Clearly Dr. Lakso’s research will have an impact on the greater wine industry for generations to come.

In a similar regard, an industry favorite Professor Andrew Walker of UC Davis was asked to give  a merit award presentation.  Professor Walker, known for taking plant sampling journeys around the U.S. Southwest to discover uncatalogued rootstocks, gave the audience a wild ride through his detailed analysis of how wild plant life can help us design better grapevines to stand up to such challenges as drought stress and salinity. 

Overall Impressions

A significant amount of the research showcased at the ASEV Bellevue meeting related to water related issues and irrigation management.  In the context of climate change and the years of drought that have ravaged viticulture throughout the U.S. West Coast, Australia, and other wine growing regions, there is not only a significant amount of research funding for this subject area, but a duly needed sense of purpose in this scholarship.  Other topics covered included plant disease management and nutrient uptake.

 It was certainly a pleasure to be subjected to so many bright ideas in viticulture and enology and with this, you can bet the Fruition Team will be back for ASEV’s next conference to absorb some of the world’s best ideas in grape growing!

Vincent Sauton
Vincent holds a master of science in wine and a master of marketing from the Toulouse France based Purpan school. After doing an internship at the Hafner vineyard (sonoma) in 2009, he decided to come back to the US to work in the wine industry and finally joined Fruition sciences.
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