Courtesy of Cornell University

The construction of a new, cutting-edge research facility will be a boon to Upstate New York's multi-billion dollar grape-growing industry.

March 3, 2019

Cornell to Become ‘Epicenter of Grape Research’ With New $68.9 Million Lab

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New York’s grape industry won’t be going sour anytime soon, thanks to $68.9 million in funding secured to construct a new state-of-the-art research laboratory at Cornell’s Grape Genetic Research Unit.

The group plans “to reduce losses to crop yield and quality that result from diseases, pests, and abiotic stress and improve grape and grape product quality and utilization,” according to its website.

The Research Unit has long been located at Cornell’s Geneva, New York, AgriTech campus, a rural offshoot of the University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences that was founded over 100 years ago, according to the institution’s website.

The nearly $70 million dollar sum will go to constructing a new laboratory at the same site.

For the thousands of vineyards that line Cornell’s Finger Lakes hinterlands, grape-growing is no small business: The industry is estimated to generate over $4.8 billion in economic benefits for the Upstate New York region each year, according to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.

While AgriTech already had the largest concentration of grape researchers of any institution in the northeast, the massive U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project is poised to put the University at “the epicenter of grape research,” Jan Nyrop, associate dean of CALS said in a press release.

“Cornell AgriTech, in partnership with the USDA-ARS, will now lead New York state and the world in grape research as the result of the new facility,” Nyrop said. “While our researchers have always had an important role in the wine and grape industries, the new facility will increase our overall impact, thanks to support from Sen. Schumer.”

The project was largely shepherded by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who has long been a staunch backer of New York state’s burgeoning wine and grape industry. Funding for the facility was secured in a passage of a recent appropriations bill, and will be provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, which spends over $1.2 billion on food science research annually.

“I want to thank Sen. Schumer for his persistence over many years to see this lab built,” said President Martha E. Pollack, as reported in the Chronicle, a University-run publication. “He championed this project from the start, always looked for ways around obstacles, and never missed an opportunity to advocate strongly for its completion.”

The facility will focus on accelerating the “genetic improvement of grapevines” and “collaborative work connecting cutting-edge genetic research to grow the sustainability and the competitiveness” of the United States’ nearly $7 billion grape industry, Gan-Yuan Zhong, the research leader for the Grape Genetics Research Unit said in a press release.

“This new facility will provide much needed infrastructure for the USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Research Unit to pursue our world-class research that addresses the U.S. grape industry’s need to maintain its competitive edge,” Zhong said.