After a hiatus of more than 20 years, grapes are once again growing at the University of Missouri’s Southwest Research Center near Mt. Vernon.

Two studies involving the promising wine-grape cultivar Chambourcin were planted this summer, with a third study slated for installation next winter.

The new vineyard, located just north of Hwy. H across from the Southwest Center headquarters building, covers two acres and will eventually contain nearly 1,000 plants according to Andy Thomas, a research assistant professor with the University of Missouri.

This is an ambitious and costly project made possible by a number of very generous donors and with direction and cooperation from the Institute for Continental Climate Viti-culture and Enology (ICCVE), located on the MU campus in Columbia according to Thomas.

“Missouri now has about 78 wineries with more opening every year as the quality and distinctiveness of Missouri wines continue to improve. Wine tasting and agri-tourism are becoming increasingly popular in Missouri, as is the interest in locally-produced, value-added agricultural products such as wine and grape juice,” said Thomas.

In order to meet this increasing demand for high-quality grapes and grape products in Missouri, Thomas says it is important to entice new producers to enter the market while encouraging established producers to expand and improve production.

“Both basic and cutting-edge research conducted by the University will help provide the scientifically-based guidance needed to make grapes a major commodity in Missouri once again,” said Thomas.

Chambourcin is a very promising grape cultivar for Missouri, and especially southwest Missouri. It is a European-American interspecific hybrid that was developed in France by Joannes Seyve, and released in 1963. Its pedigree is uncertain, but is believed to be based on Seibel hybrids and a number of undetermined American grape species.

Chambourcin is a highyielding, cold-hardy grape with good resistance to fungal disease that produces a deep colored, full-bodied red wine. It has been widely planted in France, Australia and southeastern Canada, as well as the northeast and mid-west portions of the U.S.

“One source estimates that there are now about 800 acres of Chambourcin in the US—well, make that 802 now,” said Thomas.

The first of the three studies will evaluate the performance of Chambourcin grafted onto 11 experimental rootstocks versus self-rooted (ungrafted) plants.

The second study is an evaluation of Chambourcin either self-rooted or grafted onto three promising rootstocks (1103P, 3309C, SO4) in combination with three irrigation regimens.

The third experiment (to be planted next winter) will be an establishment study comparing the effectiveness of several training methods that can be used to bring grapevines into production.

“We hope to begin harvesting grapes in 2010, with full production a few years later. We also look forward to eventually expanding our grape and vineyard research beyond this initial two acres into additional cultivars and production techniques,” said Thomas.

As Missouri's grape and wine industry continues to develop, Thomas says the University looks forward to conducting research guided by the “needs and demands of our grape and wine producers.”

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