Timothy E. Martinson is a senior extension associate
in Cornell’s Department of Horticulture whose Geneva N.Y.-based program shares leading scientific research in enology and viticulture to support the New York wine and grape industry. His research focus includes addressing sustainable production and the impact of cultural practices and climate on grapes.

Martinson says:

“Ditto to what Justine just said.

“The assumption of this study seems to be that viticulture will move en mass to new, previously unexploited land. In production areas with a Mediterranean climate, the assumption seems to be that production would move into arid production regions, which will include higher-elevation areas and habitat currently in native vegetation. In other words, grape growers may be plowing up alpine meadows as global temperatures rise. And the water demands of the crop would increase.

“It seems more reasonable to me that viticulture would displace other agricultural uses – because, they already have the infrastructure in place for agriculture. So you may have vineyards in Montana, but they are likely to be in places like the Flathead valley, and not in or around Glacier National Park. So, if the climate modeling is accurate, there will be a shift, but it will probably be a displacement of other crops.

“Growers and practices are not static, they are dynamic. Wine grape production in the U.S. could migrate to other agricultural areas, for example land currently in row crops in the Midwest or Northeast. Our main limiting factor has been severe winter low temperatures that cause injury to vines. But there are ample, unexploited water resources in the Northeast, and much land that could be converted to grape production. Wine grape acreage in California is 580,000 acres. There are 8.6 million acres of agricultural land in New York alone. New York and other Northeastern and Midwestern states could absorb a good share of that acreage.

“I think, however, it’s more likely that grape production in the West will displace other crops on land currently in agriculture. For example, there are 15 million acres of agricultural land in Washington State. I don’t see farmers gobbling up highland meadows or high elevation rangeland, it’s more likely that they will go to places that already have the agricultural infrastructure in place, but are dedicated to other crops.

“The final question may be: ‘Are grapes less sustainable than a monoculture of potatoes, wheat, corn or sugar beets? Will wine grape production supplant apples in Washington or New York?’ To me, it seems there is plenty of existing agricultural room, available water and smart growers, so it’s too early to predict doom for wine or wildlife just yet.”

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