New York Unveils Aerial View of Vineyards

Impressive detail on new website helps with vineyard site selection

by Linda Jones McKee
degree days map
This map displays growing degree-days throughout New York state.
Geneva, N.Y. -- New York now boasts more than 250 wineries and is the third-largest state for vineyard acreage, with more than 33,000 acres planted to juice, wine and table grapes. With the state's wine industry growing so strongly, more people are interested in planting grapes. Now, potential growers have a sophisticated and unprecedented new web-based tool that will help them evaluate areas and select appropriate sites where they will have the best chance of success.

The interactive vineyard site maps and tools are available at nyvineyardsite.org. The system includes a vast amount of information on topography, soil types, climate, rainfall, the number of degree-days and minimum temperatures that will be important in the search for a vineyard site. It is a valuable resource for defining which areas of the state are favorable, marginally suitable, or inappropriate for growing grapes.

The core of the website is its interactive "Data Layers" section. The user starts with a satellite-based image map of New York state and can then zoom in to a specific region and parcel of land. Color-coded overlays display information on winter low temperatures, and the length of growing seasons and seasonal degree-days. Estimated long-term temperature data is available down to a 3 x 3 mile grid.

grape growing soils map
This detail zeroes in on soil texture in the Finger Lakes district.
Users can focus on a site of interest to access specific information on geology, soil composition, topography, slopes and a variety of historical weather information. Other overlays provide applicable soils data including soil texture, internal drainage, soil pH, and topography -- factors which may affect root structure, water retention and air drainage.

While the site is very user-friendly, an online tutorial section provides newcomers with help in navigating the site and accessing the information. Additional educational material on vineyard site evaluation and selection is available in narrative form under "Educational Info." The "Resources" section provides links to many other websites for more information on areas or specific topics. Users can generate a written report on soil characteristics at any given point on the soils map by clicking on the "Information" button.

The new system is part of the "Total Quality Focus" research program funded by New York state and administered by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. Dr. Alan Lakso, professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Cornell University, and Dr. Tim Martinson, senior extension associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), coordinated the project with the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technologies (IAGT) in Auburn, N.Y., as well as other scientists, extension personnel and organizations such as USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Dr. Lakso told Wines & Vines that while potential growers will find a great deal of information on site selection on the website, "They can't depend totally on the data from the site. Individuals must also use soil testing, contact their local Cornell Cooperative Extension people to review all the data and to visit the actual site, as well as talk with other local experts. The site's greatest value will be to steer people towards good sites and away from bad ones. We want to help people to learn more before they start, and to avoid making as many errors as possible."
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