Spray Coating Protects Grapes from Wildfire Smoke

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2024


Wine can now reportedly be safeguarded from unwanted wildfire smoke flavors, thanks to a new spray coating for vineyard grapes from Oregon State University.

“Wildfire smoke is an increasing problem for wineries in the United States and around the world, and right now vineyard managers really have no tools to manage the effects of the smoke,” said Elizabeth Tomasino, an associate professor of enology at Oregon State. “This coating has the potential to transform the wine industry.”

About the Research

According to Oregon State, the research was prompted by wildfire smoke in September 2020 that affected Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia. The smoke was said to have “significantly” impacted wine grape quality and resulted in $3 billion in losses for the wine industry.

Led by professor Yanyun Zhao, researchers from the university targeted three compounds known as volatile phenols that contribute to smoke taint in grapes. Zhao, alongside senior research assistant professor Jooyeoun Jung, developed cellulose nanofiber-based coatings containing chitosan and beta-cyclodextrin that can be applied to grapes in the vineyard.

The work reportedly showed that depending on the formulations, the films can block guaicol and syringol and capture meta-cresol, wildfire smoke compounds that when absorbed by wine grapes result in off-flavors in wine.

The difference between blocking and capturing is important, Zhao said. Blocking means the coating doesn’t absorb the phenol compounds and wouldn’t need to be washed off before winemaking. Capturing means the coating absorbs the compounds and would need to be washed off.

“Not having to wash it off saves time, money and water for grape growers,” Zhao said. “That is what we are aiming for.”

The researchers explain that developing the coatings is challenging because the phenols have different chemical shapes, making it difficult to create a coating that adheres properly to all the shapes to block the smoke. The team is reportedly continuing to refine the coating formulations and perform cost analysis studies.

The coatings were analyzed from application studies at Oregon State's Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center and Woodhall Vineyard. In the prior study, the coatings were reportedly found to not impact the growth and quality of the grapes.

At Woodhall Vineyard, smoke chambers were placed over vines to test the smoke-blocking ability of the coatings. Wine from these grapes is currently being analyzed for quality attributes, Oregon State reports.

“Growers want something they can spray on their vines to protect them,” said Alexander Levin, a viticulturist who is the director of the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. “If this becomes a commercially available thing it’s going to be a big game-changer.”

The team anticipates having the spray coating available in the next several years.

The paper was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. In addition to Tomasino, Zhao, Jung and Levin, the paper is authored by Trung Tran, Lindsay Garcia, Joseph Deshields, Cole Cerrato and Michael Penner, all of Oregon State.

The work is funded by the Oregon Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Grant.

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials - Commercial; Coatings; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Control; Environmental Controls; Environmental Controls; Fire; Good Technical Practice; Latin America; North America; Paint application; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Spray equipment; Z-Continents

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