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Cornell Gets $68.9 Million For Grape Genetics Research

Concord grapes at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory in Portland, New York.
Concord grapes at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory in Portland, New York.

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) - Cornell University has received over $68 million from the United States Department of Agriculture to build a new federal research facility for grape genetics. The site will be in Geneva, New York, home to ongoing collaborations between Cornell and the USDA.

New York is home to the largest Concord grape industry in the eastern United States. And it’s one of the top five wine producers in the nation. Overall, the New York grape industry contributes $4.8 billion annually to the New York State economy.

This money from the USDA will further research of national benefit, particularly the cooler climates of the Northeast.

The center will work on developing ways for crops to better survive weather changes like this past year. Jan Nyrop is the director of Cornell AgriTech, the center that will receive the money. He described the weather in Finger Lakes region last year as "volatile."

"This year [2018] was a classic example." Nyrop said. "So, this year we had very, very dry weather in June and then it was basically monsoon from mid-August on. That creates challenges just managing a crop."

He said there are a number of ways to address the problems climate change is creating for crops.

"We can manage these things with pesticides," he said. "We would much rather be using biologically-based approaches, plant resistance, so that we don’t have to use pesticides."

The new center will make research into those solutions possible.