Brock University: CCOVI demonstrates commitment to industry with technology transfer


As the impending winter season looms, it signals the time for the return of VineAlert, a flagship industry outreach service developed by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

Now that the research and development of the system has been completed and as growers have come to rely on the program since its launch in 2010, CCOVI has licensed VineAlert to two industry associations to ensure the service continues to support grape growers.

The Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) and Centre de Recherche Agroalimentaire de Mirabel (CRAM-Mirabel) will manage the program in Ontario and Quebec, respectively.

VineAlert tracks grapevine bud cold hardiness throughout the dormant period from fall to spring to assist grape growers in mitigating the impact of a cold weather event, to avoid winter injury of the vine and crop loss.

Grapevine cold hardiness is not static, but varies throughout the dormant period, determined through a grapevine’s genetic potential and environmental conditions.

Bud sampling and testing for VineAlert will be completed by the GGO in Ontario and CRAM-Mirabel in Quebec throughout the entire dormant season. Based on this data, the industry associations can send real-time alerts through the VineAlert platform to warn growers which grape varieties are at risk of sustaining damage from a forecasted cold weather event, enabling their growers to determine when to utilize wind machines or other freeze-avoidance methods to mitigate the impact of any potential damage.

CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis said this example of technology transfer back to industry illustrates the Institute’s commitment to advancing the Canadian grape and wine industry.

“What began as a research tool has expanded over the years to become an important service for the industry,” she said. “This investment from our stakeholders shows us that the industry has seen value in VineAlert in order to provide growers with the ability to make informed cold hardiness-related decisions.”

GGO CEO Debbie Zimmerman said VineAlert is an important tools growers can use to “mitigate further devastating winter damage in Ontario’s vineyards.”

“As a founding partner of Ontario’s VineAlert technology, Grape Growers of Ontario support our members’ endeavours to monitor and adapt their vineyard management practices during critical changes in the weather,” she said.

Andréanne Hébert-Haché, Brock University Biological Sciences PhD candidate and Viticulture Research Scientist at the Centre de Recherche Agroalimentaire de Mirabel (CRAM-Mirabel), will oversee VineAlert’s launch in Quebec.

Hébert-Haché said providing access to VineAlert for Quebec’s grape growers was imperative, as the climate and core varieties are very different from Ontario.

“Quebec winters are generally much colder compared to Ontario, which has led the industry to favour cold-hardy cultivars, such as Frontenac and Marquette,” she explained. “As cold hardiness is significantly impacted by temperatures and varies between cultivars and site, implementing a Quebec-specific cold-hardiness monitoring program was critical.”

For the past three years, researchers at the CRAM-Mirabel have been collecting cold-hardiness data and sharing it through e-bulletins every other week, so Hébert-Haché said joining VineAlert will bring many advantages to the region’s growers.

“Leveraging VineAlert’s technology will allow us to share data as soon as it is collected, aiding growers in making faster decisions regarding cold protection as they will be able to subscribe and be instantly notified when new data relevant to their vineyard is available.” she said. “Moreover, VineAlert hosts data we previously collected, allowing growers and agronomists to compare annual trends in cold hardiness between sites and cultivars.”