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UNR Prof. Developing Drought Resistant Grapes in High Country

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
In a bustling UNR laboratory, a student pours liquid nitrogen over test tubes.

STUDENT: "So you can fill that up and you have to make sure that those tubes are always covered."

Nearby, professor Grant Cramer watches. He's been testing drought-resistant grape varieties in the lab for years. This year he took his work literally into the field, building a commercial-sized one-acre vineyard in the high desert.
CRAMER: "We have a very good control experiment we don't have to worry about rainfall coming in and messing up our drought stress experiment out in the field, so Nevada is an ideal place."
Of the 7,500 varieties of grapes, he is testing six. One of the benefits of drought-stress is that grapes increase their production of a compound called resveratrol.

CRAMER: "It has been shown to be involved in longevity. So if you give resveratrol to mice and nematodes they have a 25 percent longer life-span."

Cramer's experimental winery license is for organoleptic purposes only.
CRAMER: "Which means tasting and it specifically says 'not for consumption.' We aren't allowed to drink it. We are only allowed to taste it. Ha, ha, ha."
Cramer says good flavor, more resveratrol and reduced need for water could help California wineries adapt to a drier climate. He also hopes to cultivate the fledgling Nevada wine industry which he says could grow to 5-billion dollar a year. 
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