Viticulture Extension Specialist hired.

New Viticulture Extension Specialist!

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is very pleased to announce that Jennifer Russo has joined their team as the new viticulture extension specialist! The viticulture extension specialist at LERGP plays a key role providing growers in the Lake Erie Grape Belt with the latest research-based information to assist them in producing grapes in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.  The Lake Erie Grape Belt extends all the way from Erie county Pennsylvania through Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties of New York.  The viticulture extension specialist is part of an extension team consisting of Tim Weigle, Grape and Hops IPM specialist, Kevin Martin business management specialist, and Andy Muza extension educator.



Jennifer Russo actually joined the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension in 2018 as a research technician with the Efficient Vineyard project where she was focused on improving crop estimation procedures and practices from vineyard through industry.  This improvement would have a ripple effect from helping a grower to better understand the amount of grapes in his/her vineyard(s) and the management decisions that flow from there, to trucking, processing, tank space, projections of revenues, and even crop insurance claims. In order to help solve this problem, the development of an accurate automated berry counting machine was deemed necessary.  Jennifer was integral in designing the Cornell Grape Counter (CGC) machine designed specifically to count grapes at the various stages in their development. Working with National Grape Cooperative she was able to fine tune the process over the 2018 growing season. This machine is able to count the berries in 50 clusters of grapes (3,000-5,000 grapes) in approximately 2 minutes with a 99.5% accuracy.  Traditionally it would take a person an average of 52 minutes to count this same number of berries and would add the possibility of human error.  By using this CGC machine a grower would be able to decrease labor costs, increase accuracy and provide digitized data for crop estimates required by local grape processors.


Graduating from The State University of New York at Fredonia with both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Degrees, Jennifer later went back as an adjunct Biology/Environmental Science professor and graduate research scientist.  Her career has been focused on environmental issues and sustainability and therefore her attention has been drawn to a number of local efforts including TimberFish Technologies LLC as the director of research and development.  This organization is working to offer solutions to the looming threats to the future food supply and safety posed by rising populations and environmental pollution. This is being done by developing and implementing new ecotechnologies that are environmentally sound and economically competitive in today’s marketplace.  Additionally Jennifer has been a Principal Investigator for the Chautauqua County portion of the Lake Erie watershed, and has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Northern Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative on stream stabilization and connectivity projects to ensure future viable specie populations, reduce shrinking habitats, and assess current infrastructure effects on hydrology, sediment transport, and water quality of streams and watersheds.

The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program is happy to have a viticulture extension specialist on staff again and welcomes members of the program to call or stop in to meet Jennifer.  She is excited to meet growers and looks forward to helping them get the best out of their vines.