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Brock’s CCOVI receives $2.4M for grape and wine research

March 20, 2024  By Fruit & Vegetable

Researchers with Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) recently received more than $2.4 million in cash and in-kind support for projects that aim to strengthen Canada’s grape and wine industry.

On March 1, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN) announced the funding for three projects by CCOVI researchers Debbie Inglis, Wendy McFadden-Smith and Jim Willwerth through AAFC’s and CGCN’s $10.9-million Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (SCAP) AgriScience Cluster.

“This funding will allow researchers out of CCOVI to work side-by-side with industry partners to overcome challenges threatening the grape and wine industry across Canada in areas of grapevine cold damage, trunk diseases and wine production to ensure the sector remains sustainable and competitive as it adapts to climate change,” says Inglis, CCOVI’s director, in a press release.


Brock’s funding comes from AAFC plus support from industry partners with the CGCN.

“CGCN is thrilled to continue working with CCOVI on research initiatives that improve our sector’s sustainability and competitiveness,” says CGCN executive director Darien Temprile in a press release. “The work that CCOVI is conducting under the cluster will work towards finding solutions and help inform future decisions as our industry works to navigate climate change.”

The cluster funding provided by AAFC is being matched by industry funds through Ontario Grape and Wine Research Incorporated (OGWRI) and various in-kind partners. This research is possible thanks to the long-standing collaborative relationship between CGCN, CCOVI and OGWRI, says Temprile.

Inglis’s project, “Wine flavour modification through non-traditional yeasts, oenological treatments and taint remediation,” studies how oenological tools can be used to help the industry overcome threats from climate change that can negatively impact fruit quality.

Those tools include non-traditional yeast strains that alter and improve the aroma and flavour in wine, and oenological additives and fermentation temperature that allow yeast to create flavours that further enhance wine character, she says.

Her team’s research focuses on two areas of concern: managing Botrytis and sour rot-infected fruit to overcome wine quality issues and improving the aromatic profile and quality of Vidal table wine to diversify the use of Vidal beyond Icewine.

“Results from this program are anticipated to produce wines that are price-competitive but with added quality, providing resilience to the sector in dealing with challenges from erratic weather events and ensuring continued economic growth of not only the $5.5-billion industry in Ontario but also the $11.5-billion industry across Canada,” says Inglis in a press release.

McFadden-Smith, adjunct professor of biological sciences and CCOVI professional affiliate, is leading a team on the project “Grapevine trunk disease: An underrated threat to the Ontario grape industry?”

Grapevine trunk diseases (GTD) are caused by several fungal pathogens that infect vine trunks. Petri and Black-foot diseases destroy young vineyards, while Esca, Eutypa, Phomopsis and Botryosphaeria dieback diseases cause overall decline and vine death in mature vineyards.

McFadden-Smith and her team are studying the prevalence and impact of GTD in Ontario vineyards and how these diseases occur, with a view to optimizing and developing methods to prevent and minimize infections.

“Most of the research on GTD has been done in areas where environmental conditions are very different from Ontario,” says McFadden-Smith in a press release. “This project will determine the species of pathogens present and provide understanding of their biology, particularly the time when infection occurs, so that growers can make the best decisions regarding pruning time, which in turn will optimize vineyard longevity.”

Assistant professor of biological sciences Jim Willwerth is heading the project “Selection of superior grapevine material using traditional field evaluations and genomic/metabolic signatures for cold resilience.”

Freeze injury is a huge threat to the grape and wine industry, resulting in “significant fruit shortages and economic losses across the entire value chain from one single cold event,” says Willwerth in a press release.

He and his team are identifying and developing superior grapevine material that will increase vines’ resilience to the cold and improve their overall performance – research that will support CGCN’s domestic clean plant program.

“New technological advances and innovative products produced through this funding will improve the sustainability of the grape and wine sector in the face of climate change, where erratic and extreme temperature events can threaten vine health and crop production,” says Willwerth in a press release.

In addition to the funding for the three projects, SCAP’s AgriAssurance program will cover 50 per cent of virus-testing costs for members of CGCN’s Verification or Certification Programs. CCOVI is the national testing centre for grapevine viruses for CGCN.

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