Lake Erie Regional Grape Program Enrollment

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FALL   •   WINTER   •   SPRING   •   SUMMER          New Vineyard Timeline
Grape - Spring Content


Local Grower Assists in the Development of Technology for the Lake Erie Concord

Last Modified: July 27, 2017

One of the goals of the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is to ensure that the research they conduct is useful to grape growers. One way to ensure this happens is to incorporate grower participation into any research project from the very beginning. A good example of this is the current multi-year research project led by Dr. Terry Bates, Cornell University, and funded by the USDA/NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI). This project involves research on sensor technology and how it can be used to increase grower profitability and sustainability, as well as a Technology Outreach and Adoption component. It is in this area of the project where grower cooperators, like Thom Betts, have been key in helping to shape the project's research results into grower ready tools.

Thom Betts is a fifth generation grape grower in Westfield, New York. He and his parents currently operate 188 acres of Concord grapes. As grower/owners in the National Grape Cooperative, their harvest is delivered to Welch's where it becomes Concord juice, jam, jellies and other grape related products. He and his family have been involved with the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program since the late 1980's, approximately 30 years, and have been very involved in the Efficient Vineyard project, even before it was funded by USDA/NIFA. The Betts Family has been scanning their vineyards for 4 years now using the NDVI (normalized differential vegetative index) technology. For the first 3 years they used loaner units from the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, but soon saw the value of the information from the scans, and have since purchased their own unit. This allows Thom to scan the entire 188 acres approximately 3 to 4 times per year in an effort develop baseline information on the best time of the growing season to collect data crucial for a number of parameters needed to implement variable rate management. Using this technology Thom has been able to estimate the yield for their entire vineyard operation with an error of only 5% or less for the past three years. Betts Farms has also been using a yield monitor on their harvester for the past three years. This is calibrated by the weigh slips from National Grape when the grapes are delivered to the processing facility. Thom hopes that the Efficient Vineyard project will eventually allow the average grower to share their acreage maps on a computer with extension agents, allowing them to develop vineyard blocks that are more uniform, easier to manage, and more profitable.
The more Thom learns about his vineyards from his involvement in this project, the more questions come up. He is often wondering what else can be done with the data? He sees variable rate thinning being done on the fly, and wonders what other uses can there be for variable rate mechanization. Prescription fertilizer applications and targeted rootworm sprays are two management practices that are in his sights for development of data and equipment for implementation.

Thom believes that a grower needs three seasons of NDVI maps before implementing variable rate technology. It is imperative to validate these maps, no matter what is being measured. According to Thom, "A map is only a pretty picture until you validate the data for the parameter you are looking at, be it color in table grapes, crop size, or soils in a vineyard block." The amount of information that is available can be overwhelming until you start breaking it into pieces, but working with the data will provide information that is necessary to maintain profitability in any vineyard operation.

Upcoming Events

LERGP Coffee Pot Meeting #5

Event Offers DEC Credits

May 29, 2024 : LERGP Coffee Pot Meeting
Fredonia, NY

Come join us for timely and pertinent vineyard discussion, coffee, donuts, camaraderie and pesticide credits.

LERGP Coffee Pot Meeting #6- LERGREC Field Day

Event Offers DEC Credits

June 5, 2024 : LERGREC FIELD DAY
North East, PA

Come spend a day with us at the North East lab and earn pesticide recertification credits too!  FREE Lunch is provided, but please register so we can plan for food.

Precision and Digital Viticulture Field Day

June 6, 2024 : Precision and Digital Viticulture Field Day
Portland, NY

Come see what the digital equipment actually does in the field.  The presenters will explain the technology in the classroom in the morning and take you out after lunch to demonstrate it at work in the field.  We have a full day of guest speakers bringing in drone sensors, hyperspectral sensing technology, robotics and ai, pruning robots, Naio Ted robotic tool carrier, and others.  Take a look at the packed agenda.  You do not want to miss this meeting!!


Precision and Digital Viticulture Field Day

Thursday, June 6th, 2024 | 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory Regional Grape Program
6592 West Main Road
Portland, NY 14769


10:00 - 10:10 Welcome - Jennifer Phillips Russo & Dr. Terry Bates

Research Updates

10:10- 10:25 Drone Sensors - Dr. Rob Chancia, Rochester Institute of Technology - Rob is working together to address vineyard nutrition through better monitoring techniques and guidelines for grape production across the nation and all grape markets. He will discuss his research as a part of this collaborative project conducted at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory.

10:25 - 10:40 Hyperspectral Sensing Technology - Kathleen Kanaley, Dr, Katie Gold Lab, Cornell University - Kathleen will update on her research with using satellite and drone imagery to develop remote sensing tools for early disease detection.

10:40 - 11:00 Meet PPB & Research Update - Dr. Yu Jiang, Cornell University - Yu will discuss his research utilizing the power of robotics and artificial intelligence to tackle major challenges facing farmers and drive a revolution in agricultural productivity and sustainability.

11:00 - 11:20 Carnegie Mellon University Pruning Robots - Dr. Abhi Silwal, Carnegie Mellon University - Abhi will present the design and field evaluation of a rugged and fully autonomous robot for end-to-end pruning of dormant season grapevines.

11:20 - 11:40 Vision Spraying and Electric Weeding - Dr. Lynn Sosnoskie, Cornell Weed Scientist - Lynn will update us on her research for sustainable programs that investigate other tools and technologies for controlling unwanted vegetation exploring non-chemical strategies for weed suppression including covering crops and mulches and vision-guided and electric weeders.

11:40 - 12:00 Naio Ted Robotic Tool Carrier- Chuck Baresich, Owner of Haggerty Creek - Chuck will be talking about the Naio Ted Robot and the potential use of robots to help improve efficiency in vineyards. Ted is the only autonomous straddle robot for vineyards with Augmented Autonomy. Perfect for mechanical weeding on the row.

12:00 - 1:00 Lunch

1:00 - 3:45 Outdoor Demonstrations of Precision & Digital Tools

3:45 - 4:00 Closing Remarks - Jenn Phillips Russo, Lake Erie Regional Grape Program

This is a FREE event but you must register!

Soil Health & Climate Resiliency Field Day 6/12/24

Come join us for a full day of education on soil health.  We have special guest speakers, soil pits, demonstrations and lunch.  This program is being hosted by the Betts' Farm.  Sponsorship from the LERGP, USDA NRCS, Cornell CALS, New York Soil Health, King's Agriseeds and E & J Gallo Winery have made this program come together and provide lunch for the day.
See agenda here:

10:00am-10:20am- Welcome

10:20am-10:40am- Our Soil Health Journey- Bob Betts, Betts Farm

10:40am-11:05am- Soil Health in Perennial Fruit Systems- why it matters?- Debbie Aller, Cornell University

11:05am-11:35am- NYFVI Cover Cropping Trials- Jennifer Phillips Russo

11:35am-Noon- Cover Crop Options for Different Applications- Rod Porter, Kings Agri-Seeds

Noon- 12:45pm- LUNCH

12:45pm-2:15pm- Soil Pit and Soil Health Trailer and Demos- Dan Ufnar (USDS, NRCS), Debbie Aller & Michael Glos(Cornell University)

2:15- Closing Remarks

This is a FREE event but you must register to help us plan for enough food. Thank you!

Welcome Andrew Holden to the LERGP team!

In case you have not heard yet, we have filled the vacant position of Business Management Educator. We are pleased to welcome Andrew Holden to our team. Here is a brief introduction with a little background. Please stop in to say hello and introduce yourself. Bring questions- he is ready to get to know you and your farm operation!

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program welcomed Andrew Holden, LERGP's Business Management Specialist, to our team on March 1, 2024, filling the vacancy since May 2023. Andrew pursued his education at Ohio State University, earning a B.S. in Agribusiness and Applied Economics and later obtaining an M.S. in Agricultural and Extension Education. In his previous role he served as the Ashtabula County Agricultural Extension Educator with Ohio State University Extension for the past 5 years. Andrew is eager to bring his passion for agriculture, grapes, and wine along with his economic knowledge to this new position and to the growers in the Lake Erie Grape Region. He is looking forward to engaging with growers to help him understand their needs to ensure that his role equips them with the tools needed for success. His office is located at the Cornell AgriTech campus in Portland, NY (CLEREL).

Commercial Vehicle Awareness slide presentation

NYS Trooper, Matt Luft, presented on Commercial Vehicle Awareness at CLEREL on Thursday, August 2nd.  He has given us the permission to share his slides for you to reference at your convenience to share with others or to review. Please reference this link. 

LERGP Podcasts- check them out!


LERGPLake Erie Regional Grape Program - Cornell Cooperative Extension
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