Virginia Tech team helping grape growers find perfect land for vineyards

Published: Nov. 29, 2017 at 6:10 PM EST
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Virginia wine may be tasting more rich and round because of a tool at Virginia Tech.

A team there developed a way to help hundreds of wine makers find the right spot to grow grapes.

"We look at probability of frost on any particular day," said Peter Sforza, the director of the Center for Geospatial Information Technology.

Everyday a team of about six people works with grape growers in Virginia who are looking for the perfect land to grow the perfect grape. That is a full time job.

"We're doing about 30 to 40 unique reports per day," Sforza said.

Just last year the Center for Geospatial Information Technology at Virginia Tech launched, a site for those curious of starting vineyard or starting another. Their work began years before the launch of the site.

Recently it's picked up interest as more people become more interested in starting a vineyard in Virginia. The Virginia Tech team's tools have been in high demand. Between May and August of 2015 the team had about 1,000 queries for information.

The success relies on location, and this team has the formula to find that special place.

Researchers look at things like the type of soil, climate, elevation, even the slope to determine if the plot of land is right for growing grapes.

"And so we've built tools to help growers not only select a site but match which variety of grape might fit best at a particular location," Sforza said.

Growers can enter information about their land on the website and get information from the team in Blacksburg. Data shows weather patterns, forecasts the growing season, and shows warnings, among other things.

"We take that weather forecast and evaluate your risk for fungal and bacterial diseases on grapes," Sforza said.

It's a growing industry that's uncorked new potential with research that originates in our backyard.

"Virginia is a fantastic place to grow grapes and establish a vineyard," Sforza said.