November 15, 2006 | By: Aimee Nielson

A long history of grape growing in Kentucky precedes the resurgence of the industry in recent years. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund Agricultural Diversification Program realized the impact grape and wine industries could have in the commonwealth. As a result, they created incentives for growers to devote new acreage exclusively to the production of wine and table grapes.

UK Extension Viticulturalist Kaan Kurtural said the diversification program provides cost share assistance to producers already exploring alternative agricultural enterprises, but who may lack capital to further expand their programs. It exists to improve net farm income through the development of new agricultural products and new ways of dealing with existing agricultural commodities. While encouraging research and science-based decisions for the creation, management and expansion of these products, the fund impacts a high number of producers affected by loss of income resulting from cuts in tobacco quota. Many of these producers have diversified with grape and wine production.

“In contrast to previous years, the amendments to the program this year include seeds, cuttings, potted and rooted cuttings, scion/rootstock combinations and other materials related to production of grapes conforming to UK recommendations,” Kurtural said. “Reimbursement for grapevine cuttings, potted and rooted cuttings, scion/rootstock combinations that are on the Grapevine Cultivar Requirements List, (see link below) reviewed annually by the state viticulturalist, are also eligible investment items.”

Goals, guidelines and applications for the program are available on the fund’s Web site, in the section focusing on commercial fruit and sweet sorghum production.

The cost share program begins when prospective growers contact the UK Cooperative Extension service and indicate they would like to invest in a vineyard. The Cooperative Extension Service assists in conducting soil tests and then contacts the UK horticulture department, which then sends a representative to conduct a visit and digitally map the site. After the soil test results are analyzed, the UK horticulture department interprets the results and makes recommendations for the grower to ready the site for vineyard production. UK also makes cultivar, vine spacing and trellising system recommendations. 

During the production phase, UK Cooperative Extension will oversee the land and site preparation and make sure participating growers follow cultivar recommendations. 

“At least 75 percent of the acreage has to be planted with American, American-French hybrid or French-American hybrid grape varieties to apply for the 50/50 cost share program,” Kurtural said. “Currently, I don’t recommend planting grapes of European heritage in Kentucky until cultivars and/or their clones have been identified as being suitable to the state’s climate and soils by the University of Kentucky.”


Kaan Kurtural, 859-257-1332