MOUNTAIN GROVE, MO – Xinyi Zhang is a Missouri State Agriculture graduate student originally from Jinan City in the Shandong Province in China. She is working with Dr. Martin Kaps, research professor of pomology, and studying canopy management of Norton grapes at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station. Canopy management is how you manipulate the shoots, leaves and grape clusters on the grapevine. Xinyi is not only interested in how her management treatments affect the yield, cluster size, and disease incidence of the grapes in the vineyard, but also in how any differences in the field are reflected in the wines.
Missouri State offers students the opportunity to work both in the vineyard and winery. We also sell our wines and enter them in competitions, so agricultural marketing and business students may also work in this area. In fact, two students studying art at Missouri State designed the new spirits labels for our line of fruit brandies.
When I asked Xinyi how she became interested in grapes and wine she replied, "When I was in high school in China, I saw an American-made movie with grape vineyards. It was filmed in France. It was a very romantic movie and I loved it. I wanted to work with grapes and wine after that!" The scenery in the movie, "French Kiss," was filmed in Provence, a beautiful wine region in southeastern France.
In her experiment, Xinyi manages one treatment as a control where the grapes are managed without leaf removal and pesticides are applied regularly. In her canopy management treatments, various degrees of leaf removal are imposed. The test plots are sprayed according to predicted disease incidence based on recorded temperature, leaf wetness and relative humidity. With some of the leaves removed, the relative humidity may not be as high, fungi may not be able to grow, and the amount of pesticide needed may be reduced in some years. She observes and records disease incidence in the control and treatments as well as yield and cluster weight, and juice sugar, acid and pH level.
Harvest of Norton grapes was early this year, and Xinyi has already fermented the Norton grapes from each separate treatment and replication. With the help of Caleb, from the field and maintenance staff, she has pressed the must and put the wine in glass carboys in order for it to settle and later to be clarified. Her experiment looks at the entire process of grape and wine production.
To tell the truth, working in the vineyard is not exactly like it is in the movies. It can be hot and sticky or cold and wet and anything but romantic. On some days, however, harvesting when the weather is cool and bright, the sun can make the grape berries glow like jewels. At those moments, you could actually fall in love.
Page 2 of 2 - Direct comments or questions concerning this column to Marilyn Odneal via email at MarilynOdneal@missouristate.edu; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500. Visit our Web site at http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu.