Summerhill Winery funds sustainable agriculture research at UBC Okanagan

Donation of $30,000 will assist in the development of drought-resistant rootstock and other strategies to reduce water use in vineyards

KELOWNA, B.C. -- Summerhill Pyramid Winery is supporting research at UBC Okanagan that will address a critically important issue in vineyards - water use. A $30,000 donation from Summerhill will fund a project led by biochemist Susan Murch to develop drought-tolerant rootstock genotypes. As part of the project, molecular biologist Steven Lund at the Wine Research Centre at UBC in Vancouver will also create a portable kit for early detection of water stress at the molecular level.

As Canada's largest organic winery, Summerhill has been committed to sustainable agriculture for almost 20 years and hopes to advance the science of sustainability through this new research partnership. Led by Proprietor Stephen Cipes, Summerhill was recognized as the Sustainability Leader of 2009 by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Okanagan.

"We are honoured to partner with Professor Susan Murch and her team to pursue new and innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture," says Cipes. "Our strict practices of certified organic growing, permaculture, biodynamics and conservation, coupled with the technology of far less water-thirsty plants and rootstocks, will catapult our model to the world."

"Innovations in drought-tolerant rootstock and detection of water stress can improve the efficiency of water use and inform irrigation management practices in the Okanagan Valley and many other parts of the world," says Murch, Canada Research Chair in Natural Products Chemistry. "Summerhill has shown leadership in supporting this research -- it's exciting to think what improved rootstocks and management practices could mean for Okanagan producers and for the entire wine industry."

This collaboration draws on UBC Okanagan's outstanding strengths in sustainability, says Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, Provost at UBC Okanagan.

"We are a leader in campus sustainability, and we have a strong program of research directly connected to issues of sustainability," he says, noting that research underway at UBC Okanagan examines critical issues affecting communities here at home and around the world.

"This partnership with Summerhill Pyramid Winery is a great example of how our university and local industry - in this case the wine industry-- are collaborating on research and knowledge creation for the benefit of our communities and their economies."

Summerhill Pyramid Winery recently received the title of 2009 Canadian Wine Producer of the Year in the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, England, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.

"We continue to strive for excellence in our winemaking, in our partnerships and in our business practices in a way that is entirely natural," says Chief Operating Officer Ezra Cipes. "Only then can the fullest expression of our vision be realized."

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