Idaho’s wine region is growing as robust as a full-bodied cabernet and Boise State geoscientists Dr. Nancy Glenn and Dr. Alejandro Flores are working to ensure that happens under the best conditions possible. The duo are developing a web-based tool that will help producers evaluate the suitability of soils for specific grape varieties, thanks to a $139,000 grant awarded this year from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. They expect to launch the site in fall 2017.
The site will allow producers to explore a geographic location in the Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). When they click on a specific site location, a pop-up will display important information about the climate, soils and topography that are key to growing grapes.
“We may even develop a ‘suitability index’ for different varietals of grapes,” Flores said. “So producers might be able to assess how well a tempranillo or syrah grape would do in a specific location.”
Flores is a hydrometeorologic modeler. He uses numerical models and tools to understand and quantify how land surfaces interact with the atmosphere and how key variables like precipitation, temperature, soil moisture and snow cover vary in space and time across the landscape.
Glenn is an environmental scientist who focuses on developing remote sensing to identify different types of vegetation, their health and how vegetation and soils interact with one another.
“This is an exciting tool because it is scalable and can be used by a range of producers,” Glenn said. “Specifically, we can look at very site-specific conditions, like local soils and topography and how wind flow and humidity differ across the local site, or very large-scale conditions, such as how much wine production the Snake River AVA will be able to support in the future.”
“An interesting facet of the wine industry is that growers and vintners make decisions with really long time horizons (like 20 years), so having more detailed information about future climate is really important for how they invest,” Flores added. “Hopefully, this tool will allow existing and future growers to make decisions that reduce their costs and improve the quality of their product.”