By Lilian Schaer for "AgInnovation Ontario"
Peterborough, Ontario - Although Canada is home to internationally-awarded wines, cold winters and the short growing season, they are a constant challenge. The solution is how it has never been tried before with wine grapes: moving indoor production.
This was the subject of the work of Dr. Mehdi Sharifi, a Canadian research chair on sustainable agriculture and a lecturer at the School of Environment at Trent University.
The discovery can change the entire future of the Canadian wine industry, including the production of booming organic wine.
"Winter injuries and low yields are the two main challenges for the wine industry in central and eastern Canada," explains Sharifi.
Winter wounds are damage from freezing of wood and budding tissues, caused by cold temperatures or irregular temperature changes. This translates into significant direct losses in grape production and even greater losses in wine production, and prevents some vines, such as the popular Shiraz, from being grown in Canada.
In the case of severe winter damage, the vines must be replaced, but the plants, to be productive again, take between three and five years. This is an expensive wait without revenue for winemakers, who, to maintain the vines, sustain an annual expenditure of 10,000 to 15,000 dollars per acre.Sharifi's indoor grape cultivation began when he was contacted by the Canadian Distribution Channel Inc., a company interested in building an agritouristic enterprise, cultivating, within it, varieties of popular Australian, South American and European grape varieties.
Sharifi started by developing a specially designed growth medium that would allow the grapes to grow quickly indoors.
"We discovered that the vines can grow two to three times faster than outdoors. We can also simulate the equivalent of two or three seasons of growth per year, so that we can bring new vines into production in just one or two years, "he explains.
"This doubles or even triples annual yields, which will offset the cost additional greenhouse needed for indoor production."
Sharifi is optimistic about the results obtained so far. The grapes that has grown indoors have a higher sugar standard than the average and their pH and acidity are suitable for the production of wine, but, he warns, that much work still remains to be done before its discovery can be commercially implemented.
Along the way he sees the potential for producing wines with higher antioxidants or phenolic compounds that increase the level of health, but it is the widespread application of his innovation that promises more to Canadian wine producers.
"This can work for any grape variety and the industry's interest lies in being able to grow varieties that we can not grow in Canada right now because of our climate," he reports.Sharifi's work has received support from the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering.
Source: Ag Innovation Ontario
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