Morris honored for service to industry at vineyard mechanization workshop

Nov. 17, 2011
Contact Information:

Renee Threlfall, Department of Food Science
479-575-4677 / rthrelf@uark.edu

Dave Edmark, Agricultural Communication Services
479-575-6940 / dedmark@uark.edu

Download story
justin morris and pam brady

Justin Morris and Pamela Brady show a copy of the book they co-edited, Vineyard Mechanization: Development and Status in the United States and in Major Grape Producing Regions of the World.
(Click on image to download full-resolution version.)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – An executive with the E&J Gallo Winery in California told an audience that "I'm standing on the shoulders of a giant" when he saw Justin Morris enter the room. Morris, University Professor emeritus of food science at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, had just joined the group attending the Justin R. Morris Vineyard Mechanization Workshop. Morris is largely credited with developing mechanization systems in vineyards through his 40 years of research.

The workshop attracted about 75 people from the enology and viticulture (grape growing and winemaking) industry and from academics.

Morris "did more than anyone to develop the idea of vineyard to glass," said Nick Dokoozlian, Gallo's vice president for viticulture, chemistry and enology. "This is a guy who broke multiple boundaries in viticulture. He has a passion for how his research would be used by industry."

The workshop, hosted by the university's Department of Food Science, was organized by Renee Threlfall, a research enologist at the university, and Keith Striegler, the owner of Flint Ridge Winegrowing Services in Fayetteville. It was the beginning of a day of activities on Nov. 16 that ended with a dinner and book-signing reception where Morris and Pamela Brady, adjunct professor of food science, signed copies of the book they co-edited, Vineyard Mechanization: Development and Status in the United States and in Major Grape Producing Regions of the World. The book was released this summer by the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Striegler said Morris, who retired in 2009, led a unique program of interdisciplinary work. "He produced changes in production systems and trellis systems with a focus on quality. All changes had to be accompanied by quality in the products. The result was higher yield and better quality."

Morris teamed up with Tommy Oldridge, a Lowell grape grower, to develop a patented mechanization system used in commercial vineyards. Hank Ashby, who knew Morris when he lived in Missouri, began implementing the system in 2002 at the French Camp Vineyards that he manages in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ashby's use of the system across his 1,400 acres validated its usage in a commercial operation. Ashby said one of the Morris-Oldridge system's major benefits is its risk management component that enables producers to plan activities months ahead of time.

Striegler said the presenters for the workshop represented grape-growing regions in California, New York and the Midwest. They spoke to an audience of vineyard managers and administrators from Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Carolina and California. The day's presentations provided them current information on the status of research that they can implement in their operations, he said.

Other presenters were Terry Bates, director of the Lake Erie Viticulture Research and Extension Laboratory at Cornell University; Gregg Hibbits, general manager of Mesa Vineyard Management in California; Andrew Hofherr, president of St. James Winery in Missouri, and Nick Pehle, vineyard manager of Stone Hill Winery in Missouri.

Proceeds from the workshop are being contributed to the Justin R. Morris Scholarship Fund in the UA Department of Food Science.