204 Hedrick Hall
I specialize in the development of new wine and table grape varieties, as well as new grape breeding techniques. Since joining the Cornell faculty in 1980, my program has released eleven new grape varieties - eight wine grapes (cooperatively with the Dept. of Food Science and Technology) and three seedless table grapes. The grape breeding program continues to emphasize wine variety development with a strong emphasis on combining wine quality with disease resistance and cold tolerance. We develop flavorful, attractive table grapes, as well. We complement the traditional breeding program with experimental approaches to develop complete maps of grapevine chromosomes, and to study functional gene expression. In addition to my research responsibilities, I was Chair for over 10 years of the Grape Crop Germplasm Committee, a national committee overseeing U.S. Department of Agriculture efforts to preserve wild and cultivate grapevines. My studies have taken me to international conferences, research stations and the grape growing regions of France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Israel, Hungary, Turkey, Thailand, Switzerland, China and Japan. My laboratory has hosted graduate students and researchers from many parts of the world, including Japan, Chile, Brazil, Pakistan, France, South Africa, Germany, Hungary, Korea, Israel and China. I currently co-teach a portion of the Grapevine Biology course focusing on grapevine breeding and genetics.
Program objectives focus on the genetic improvement of grapevines while integrating traditional and novel techniques. In the traditional portion of the project, interspecific hybridization is used to select wine grapes with cold hardiness, disease resistance and high wine quality. Our 1996 release, 'Traminette', a cold-hardy, disease resistant white wine grape producing a wine reminiscent of Gewürztraminer, has been extremely well received by the premium wine industry. ‘GR 7’, a 2003 release, is already in commercial use as a blending base for red wines by a number of wineries east of the Rockies. Three new wine grapes were released for use in 2006 and are quickly being adopted by the eastern grape industry. Also, table grapes with pleasing flavors, cold hardiness, seedlessness, storage potential, and large berry and cluster size are under development. Disease resistance is a high priority objective. Our best accessions, usually derived from native American species, are used as parents to impart high levels of disease resistance. Promising selections are tested across New York State and with University cooperators across the United States. Novel techniques in plant breeding are also being studied for potential contributions to grapevine improvement. These studies currently focus on an assortment DNA techniques to place molecular markers on genetic linkage maps in Vitis. Our present efforts focus on use of these maps for marker-assisted selection. A large mapping population is being used to study the genetics of trichome development, in relation to making grapevines more suitable hosts for mites used in biological control efforts. Further efforts are to map an assortment of traits related to fruit quality, cold hardiness and disease resistance, and apply marker-assisted selection directly to the ongoing breeding program.
Extension is a small but highly important position responsibility. The wine and grape industries rely on me as a source for information not only on the new cultivars developed in my program, but also on the full range of wine and table grape cultivars available on today`s market. Our approach is to supply test selections and cultivars to researchers in many states; gather information on cultivars and selections in trials at Geneva, Fredonia, Pennsylvania, and Niagara County; and to present information at public meetings, workshops, and on our program web site.
I team-teach a course in Grapevine Biology, focusing my lectures on the field of grape breeding, genetics, and germplasm conservation.