UW Changes Lives: Experts advance new crops for long-term profitability
On a field in western Madison, where cornfields sprout houses, Amaya Atucha and three graduate students are giving a buzzcut to some experimental grape vines. As the sun plays hide and seek with clouds above the West Madison Agricultural Research Station, the group shortens each cane branching off the main vine to just two buds.
As a yard of cane, severed, drops to the ground, Atucha explains that when sunlight can strike the grape clusters, acidity will decline. At the same time, the ruby-red color so desired in wine will gain depth.
It’s easy to pity the vines, as the canes pile up beneath them, but vineyards are not planted to grow wood. The goal is grapes – fresh, abundant, and full of the chemistry that makes great wine, says Atucha, an assistant professor of horticulture at UW–Madison.
Atucha is also the Division of Extension’s expert advisor for fruit farmers statewide.
At West Madison, and other sites around the state, Atucha does practical research on new varieties. She studies pruning, timing and other cultural techniques to increase profitability of grape production in the state.