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Extension Focus

Lake Erie Regional Grape Program celebrates 25 years

Article by Tim Weigle
Photos by Damian Dodd

Rhiann Jakubowski, Jackie Dresser, and Thom Betts discuss the use of field sensors to develop detailed maps in vineyards. This research is a collaboration between LERGP and local grape growers.

As you drive west on Route 20 in Chautauqua County, New York, just after leaving the Brocton/Portland area, you will see a subdued brown sign that identifies the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory (CLEREL) on the right. Over the years, many of those who have noticed the sign, and the facility, have asked the question: “What do you do there?”  To help answer this question, and to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program held an Open House on Saturday, August 12, 2017.

Approximately 85 members of the local community took the opportunity to meet extension and research staff from the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, NYS IPM Program, Cornell Vegetable Program, and Cornell Willow Breeding Program. Senator Cathy Young started the Open House with a presentation of a proclamation for the 25th anniversary of the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program. In addition, Jacqueline Phelps of Congressman Tom Reed’s staff was also on hand to present a commendation congratulating LERGP on their 25th anniversary. 

Kevin Martin guides participants during a hay wagon ride through CLEREL fields.

Open House participants were then off to explore the CLEREL facility and learn about the various research and extension projects through displays in and around the main building. In addition, a hay wagon ride brought participants through CLEREL vineyards, vegetable plots, willow plantings and hop yards found at CLEREL, directly guided by project team members at five stops along the route. 

Research topics presented by LERGP specialists included variable rate bud thinning (Terry Bates) and sensor use to develop management zone maps in vineyards (Thom Betts, Rhiann Jakubowski and Jackie Dresser) - both part of the USDA/NIFA SCRI project, cover cropping in grapes and hops (Kevin Martin and Larry Smart), sustainable and organic vegetable production practices (Darcy Telenko), and IPM projects on weed management and biological control of two spotted spider mites in hops, funded by the NY Farm Viability Institute.

Tim Weigle presents the latest in hop research in the Lake Erie region.

Between stations, Terry Bates, Director of CLEREL, and Luke Haggerty, Constellation Brands, treated tour participants to a guided tour of the property and the history of grape growing in the Lake Erie region. After filling up with knowledge, open house participants enjoyed a hotdog and hamburger BBQ courtesy of the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program.

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is a cooperative effort between Cornell and Penn State Universities; the participating Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara and Cattaraugus Counties in New York and Erie County in Pennsylvania; and participating industry partners National Grape Cooperative (Welch’s), Constellation Brands and Walkers Fruit Basket.  The LERGP extension team provides research-based educational programming for commercial grape growers throughout the year at venues across the Lake Erie grape belt.  For more information on LERGP, call 716-792-2800 or visit our website at

Tim Weigle is a senior extension associate for the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, based at CLEREL in Portland, NY.