By Jodi Creasap Gee and Emily Knight
To address rising concerns about vineyard labor, the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP) held a mechanization workshop on July 21. More than 70 grape growers and members of the New York grape industry attended presentations on mechanization options and research at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory (CLEREL). Kevin Martin, LERGP business management educator, started the day with a presentation on the economics of mechanization, including decision-making strategies to help growers evaluate whether increased mechanization would benefit their operations. CLEREL director Terry Bates presented results from several mechanization research projects designed to address growers' questions about mechanization for crop management. Bates' collaborator Steve Nuske, a project scientist at Carnegie Mellon, shared images and videos of his work in vineyard sensor technology. The afternoon agenda brought growers into the field, where they had the opportunity to kick the tires of equipment, including a shoot thinner, shoot positioner, crop thinner, harvester, and several different mechanical pruners. Demonstrations of crop estimation and crop thinning with a Gregoire harvester and an OXBO fruit thinner were also available in the vineyard.
Jodi Creasap Gee is viticulture extension educator with the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, a joint program of Cornell and Pennsylvania State University. Emily Knight is a communications intern with the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program.