Terroir Evaluation for Winegrapes in Nebraska

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  • 1 Univ. of Nebraska, Agronomy & Horticulture, Lincoln, NE 68583-0724
  • | 2 Univ. of Nebraska, Computer Science & Engineering
  • | 3 Univ. of Nebraska, Agronomy & Horticulture

Terroir embodies a defined place, integrating soils, geology, climate, the cultivar, and the role of cultivation, culture, and history in producing wine (Wilson, 1999; White, 2003).The understated topographic changes, thick loess soils, diffuse climatic boundaries (humid to arid), and brief viticultural history contribute to a misconception that “terroir” may not be applicable or that niche microclimates for vineyards may not exist in Nebraska. With many new cultivars and selections now available that are adapted to growing environments once considered marginal vineyard settings and the wealth of geospatial resource databases (soils, climate, and topography) available, we have begun to combine traditional field cultivar evaluation studies with the geophysical data to determine appropriate site/cultivar suitability. Our data have shown that cultivars that were previously considered unlikely to be successful may be suited to viticulture in specific locations, e.g., Riesling, Lemberger, Cynthiana/Norton, Vignoles, and Chambourcin in southeast Nebraska (our “vinifera triangle”). Mean hardiness ratings (scale 1 to 9, where 1 = dead and 9 = no injury) have been obtained for more than 50 cultivars and selections, ranging from 1.86 for Viognier to 8.66 for Frontenac and 8.71 for Saint Croix, for example. Data for most of the cultivars under test will be presented and matched with “terroirs”, providing growers with a vineyard decision support system that can help match genotypes to their specific vineyard sites and help avoid poor cultivar selection.

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