Researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Summerland Research and Development Centre have spent years researching and working with local farmers to try to mitigate grape diseases. (File photo)

Summerland researchers fighting to keep Canadian wine thriving

Throughout their growth, grapes must survive a wide range of diseases before being made into wine.

Diseases in fruit might not be something you think about on a daily basis. However for those in the fruit and wine industry, it’s often at the forefront of their minds.

For the last five years researchers in Summerland have been dissecting the well-being of grapes.

They are doing so in the hope that the wine industry in the Okanagan, and Canada, will continue to thrive for years to come.

Dr. José Ramón Úrbez-Torres, Dr. Pat Bowen, Carl Bogdanoff and Dr. Kevin Usher of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Summerland Research and Development Centre understand that every Canadian grape that becomes wine must first survive a range of diseases. The researches have spent years researching and working with local farmers to try to mitigate those diseases.

One major threat to grapes is leafroll disease. It’s caused by several viruses that combine to delay fruit ripening and lower fruit quality and is considered one of the most destructive diseases for grapevine health in the world.

Úrbez-Torres, a plant pathologist, elaborated, “once it attacks, it can cut grape yields by as much as 40 per cent. It can be devastating to farmers, local wine makers and winery-based tourism because no healthy grapes means no high quality wine.”

Another enemy is red blotch disease. Research conducted at AAFC’s Summerland Research and Development Centre showed infected grapes ripen later, have altered colour and are smaller, which lowers the quality and value of the wine.

Diseases, they explain, can be carried by insects. To fight this, they teamed up with AAFC Entomologist Dr. Tom Lowery to figure out which insects were carrying the disease to plants, study the biology of the disease, and test ways to control it naturally.

READ MORE: New scholarship to honour Canadian wine icon Harry McWatters

The traditional method of using chemical pesticides to control grapevine diseases is now being replaced with more environmentally friendly methods, explained Úrbez-Torres.

“Both consumers and farmers are looking for alternative methods to win this battle. It’s a pressure cooker to find solutions,” he said.

Úrbez-Torres and his colleagues have been working with local farmers for the past five years. They’ve been teaching growers about the diseases, the germs involved and in some cases the insects that spread them. Their goal is to use all available information to develop and implement regional strategies to control the spread of grape viruses.

The researchers explained that this knowledge didn’t come out of thin air; it is the result of years of mapping and monitoring the natural spread of the viruses.

“My colleagues and I are passionate about what we do. Canada has an award-winning wine industry that bottles over 250 million bottles a year. We can’t let farmers, vintners, and Canadians down,” said Úrbez-Torres.

“This is a battle we will continue to fight so that people can lift a glass of Canadian wine and say this is the best wine they ever tasted.”

READ MORE: Growing demand for skilled workers in the wine industry

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

wine

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students across B.C. vote in a BC NDP majority government. (Student Vote B.C.)
Local students elect a BC NDP majority government

Penticton students elect NDP Toni Boot, with Green’s Ted Shumaker close behind

Incumbent B.C. Liberal Dan Ashton watching results come in on election night. (Contributed)
B.C. Votes 2020: Incumbent Dan Ashton heading towards third term in Penticton

Ashton was first elected to the legislature in 2013

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
One case of COVID-19 identified at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health will follow up directly with those who may have been exposed to the virus

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu offered praise to her team of volunteers (pictured Oct. 21), following a too-close race with BC Liberal and incumbent Eric Foster in the 2020 provincial election Oct. 24. The outcome will be dependent on the final count from mail-in ballots expected in three weeks. (Facebook)
‘Every vote counts’ in tight Vernon-Monashee race: NDP Harwinder Sandhu

Incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster finishes election night with slim lead

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO)
UPDATE: One dead after Highway 97A crash near Armstrong, police watchdog investigating

The crash happened as RCMP attempted to stop an alleged stolen vehicle

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Most Read