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Agro Thermal Heat Treatment of Grapevines in the Okanagan, Chad Douglas, Quails' Gate Estate Winery

This presentation will provide information on, and initial experiences from, a project that is trialing and evaluating the effectiveness of an agro-thermal heat treatment machine to reduce the impacts of temperature extremes and increasingly variable temperatures on wine grape production in the Okanagan. Through a partnership with UBC Okanagan, the project is looking at how agro-thermal heat treatment affects three issues that directly impact yield, quality and management costs for the wine industry:
- extreme and variable temperatures during critical grapevine phenological stages that determine fruit set and final yield
- fungal disease pressure, which increases under variable wet and warm conditions
- extreme winter freezing events that increase the severity of bacterial diseases, such as crown gall of grapevines

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Agro Thermal Heat Treatment of Grapevines in the Okanagan, Chad Douglas, Quails' Gate Estate Winery

  1. 1. Agro-thermal heat treatment of Grapevines in the Okanagan Chad Douglas - Viticulturist, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery
  2. 2. Agro-thermal heat treatment of Grapevines in the Okanagan  What are the challenges/concerns for winegrape growers in a changing climate?  What are some approaches to mitigate these concerns?  Agro-thermal Systems – how does heat treatment (thermaculture) fit into this?  Quails’ Gate Estate Winery 2019  FAIP Project
  3. 3. Challenges/issues for vineyards in a changing climate?  Concern: Loss of varietal character – what does this mean?  Once vineyard is established limited options to mitigate climate  Warming and more extreme climate trends  Plant vineyards to cooler sites;  higher latitude, higher altitude, northern aspects = greater climatic risk ie. Frost, winter damage
  4. 4. Challenges/issues for vineyards in a changing climate?  Concern: Yield and ripening consistencies  Grapevines very sensitive to temperature during key phenological stages  Flowering and fruit-set;  poor or uneven set  Veraison - Ripening/maturation of grapes  Low or high brix and sugar, unbalanced fruit and wine
  5. 5. Challenges/issues for vineyards in a changing climate?  Concern: Increased Disease pressure  Specifically powdery mildew and botrytis  Increased rain events, higher humidity = increased disease pressure  Rotate chemistries, practice better IPM  Spray more  Rely on Chemical companies to formulate new products
  6. 6. Challenges/issues for vineyards in a changing climate?  Concern: Sustainability issues  Fungicide and pesticide resistance  FRAC: Group 3, 11 chemistries in-particular.  Pesticide applicator health and safety  Cost of fungicides, cost of increased number of sprays  Residual fungicides/pesticides in wine
  7. 7. Agro-thermal Systems – how does heat treatment fit into this?  How does it work;  Propane operated, hydraulic fan heater, generating 350+ degrees F hot air  Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRDt7jlN930  Instantaneous Heat Shock – activates plants self-defense mechanism  Claims state; heat results in:  Increase flower bud pollination; increase number of berries set = increase yield  Impact and kill fungal and bacterial spores  Increase plant phenol and antioxidant properties  Costs; propane approx. $8/ac + tractor driver @ 3.5mph  My experience in Oregon  2014-15 Growing seasons; Yield and botrytis trials
  8. 8. Quails’ Gate Estate Trials 2019 - 2 year trial in collaboration with UBCO  1. Botrytis cinerea; Chardonnay 3 treatments  Conventional program (1 botryticide)  Heat treatment only  Control – no botryticide, no heat  2. Vine metrics; Merlot treated vs non-treated  Yield, brix, pH, TA, others…  1st year results: No significant difference  3. Crown-gall – Agro-bacterium Vitis;  In-conjuction with other trail treatments in block
  9. 9. Quails’ Gate Estate Winery 2019 - other applications.  1. Ripening – increase brix  Cabernet Sauvignon in Northern Okanagan  3 applications after veraison  Crop-load: 3.6 T/a Brix: 25.4 (no-control)  2. Powdery Mildew  New lease - organic vineyard  Large population of over-wintering spores – black canes  6 x Sulphur + 5 x Heat = ZERO Mildew and Botrytis  3. Wine phenolics  Merlot block; treated vs non-treated  Juice panel to assess; tannin, anthocyanin  Formal tasting and evaluation to come
  10. 10. Agro-thermal heat treatment of Grapevines in the Okanagan - Summary  Climate trends are warming with more extremes  Known challenges for winegrape farmers  Strategies to mitigate these challenges  Is Agro-thermal heat treatment one of them, another tool to add?  Technology claims need to be validated… we hope to do that.  Thank-you  BC Agricultural Climate Adaptation Organization  Quails’ Gate Estate Winery  UBCO; Louise Nelson, Tanja Voegel and their team

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