December 2020
Advancing research to maximize the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness
 of the American grape industries.

Small but mighty: the three-cornered alfalfa hopper*
One of the benefits of having a newsletter that goes out on the last day of every month is, it's one of the last things to drop into your inbox for the whole, entire year. What can I say that hasn't already been said? Or what can I repeat that should be reinforced? Or what words of wisdom can I impart to send you into the new year we're all so hopeful for?
In This Issue
Really, I have only this to say: Thank you.
NGRA was able to not only continue our research mission in 2020, but strengthen it, in spite of everything the year threw at us. With the active engagement of our Board and Research Committee members, we designed new programs and seeded new projects that we hope to see blossom in 2021. We gave up our office and missed all the usual conferences and meetings throughout the year, but felt a sense of community in our shared separation. And through greatly reduced expenses, we will be able to grow our Research Fund in 2021--a promise for the future.
Collectively, I'd say we're all amazed at how much we were able to accomplish, especially when there were so many really valid reasons not to. And inspired by how people pulled together to get through the darkness of a year we're happy to leave behind.

2020 was nothing like we'd imagined. We may not have achieved everything we wanted, but we found renewed appreciation for all that we have.

I'm grateful for the lessons of the year, for the camaraderie of my colleagues (you!) and for the opportunity to try again next year. And in gratitude, I will offer this adapted quote from Winston Churchill as a toast tonight at midnight: If 2020 was a blessing, it was certainly very well disguised.

Happy new year,
Donnell Brown
*Photo Credit: Kathy Keatley Garvey, University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Entomology and Nematology
The agenda for the two-day ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Symposium is now complete and online! Planned for June 21-22, 2021, hopefully in person in Monterey, CA, preceding the ASEV National Conference, the event promises to pack a punch. The event will focus on research developments in the precision management aspects of pests and diseases, crop estimation and decision support systems, and vine management, and offer grower best practices in applying precision techniques, both in a panel discussion and live demos and tours in the Monterey region. It will feature 22 speakers from around the world, including two insightful keynoters. But to make it happen, we need the help of some generous supporters! Interested in sponsoring this impactful event? Get details!
December brought some high-profile staffing announcements at the USDA:
  • Tom Vilsack to Return as Secretary of Agriculture - President-elect Joe Biden nominated former Iowa governor and Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack to once again serve as the head of the Agriculture Department. He served as the 30th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 to 2017, and is expected to easily win Senate confirmation.
  • Carrie Castille Named NIFA Director - President Trump named Dr. Carrie Castille as the permanent director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), beginning in her new role on January 4, 2021. She will be the first female NIFA director in a non-acting role.
  • NIFA Seeks Deputy Directors - NIFA seeks three Deputy Directors to provide scientific and managerial leadership and direction in implementing policies and programs and serve as principal scientific and management advisors to the Director and to Associate Directors.
In the new Biden administration, the USDA is anticipated to lead the charge on climate change in America, so these new leaders will have at least one hot topic to tackle!
Researchers looking into the impact of smoke on grapes and wine will get an additional $1.5 million from the federal government under the newly signed spending bill. The new funding adds to a $2 million research effort launched earlier in 2020 at the USDA.
The USDA and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding to bring together NASA's experience in technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements with USDA's scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, forests and working lands. Together, the two federal agencies will explore research gaps of importance to the agricultural community that could be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems and technologies developed over the next decade.
Good news for scientists who publish papers and those of us who seek to read them! The American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) will adopt a hybrid open access model for both its journals: the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture and Catalyst: Discovery into Practice, effective January 1, 2021. This shift will bring both journals into compliance with Plan S, which requires open access (OA) publishing for research published by authors receiving funding from cOAlition S-affiliated funders. If authors choose to publish their articles with open access, a processing fee will apply. A CC BY license will be applied to all OA-published articles, allowing readers to distribute and adapt articles, as long as they credit the creator of the original work.
The New York Wine and Grape Foundation (NYWGF) secured grant funding from the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, USDA and the State of New York along with a matching funds commitment from Heron Hill Winery to launch a sustainability program for New York in 2021. NYWGF Executive Director and NGRA Board member Sam Filler says, "Our first step is to create a business plan for the program to ensure its long-term sustainability. While we have about two years of funding in-hand, we think that it is important to establish a clear strategic direction and program design to ensure it can become a statewide and self-sustaining program." The Foundation plans to begin business planning in early January. 
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Dahlberg, a prolific sorghum scientist and the director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, CA, will retire on January 8, 2021. He plans to relocate to Lake Ann, MI, to be close to family. UCCE irrigation specialist Khaled Bali will serve as interim director. The Kearney Ag Center is active in research on raisin and wine grapes, and rootstocks.
Robert Pollock Hartzell passed away on November 21, 2020; he was 86. From 1978 to 1996, Bob served as Executive Director of NGRA member-organization the California Association of Wine Grape Growers (CAWG), working tirelessly to promote the wines of California and receiving recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives for his contributions to the wine industry. Read more about Bob's leadership at CAWG in the December issue of The Crush e-newsletter. To learn more about his life and where to direct memorial donations, see his complete obituary.
The North Central Region - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) is seeking applications for two vacancies on its Administrative Council: farmer or rancher representative and land-grant university Agriculture Experiment Station representative. Council members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region and will serve a three-year term. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2021.
The USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) seeks to hire an Agricultural Water Resource Economist for its new Sustainable Agricultural Water Systems Unit in Davis, CA. The new-hire will provide economic expertise within the water-energy-food nexus by developing irrigation, water conservation, and managed aquifer recharge technologies and strategies that reduce economic risks and increase farm profitability. S/he also will organize and analyze large, complex data streams for long-term agricultural research (LTAR) networks. Deadline to apply is February 1, 2021.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada - Science and Technology Branch in Summerland (British Columbia) is hiring a Research Scientist - Plant Physiologist and Viticulturist. The successful candidate will lead and develop a program in grapevine physiology, ecology and production system design that plays an important role for wine grape producers throughout Canada, particularly in BC. Deadline to apply is January 18, 2021.
Cornell and the USDA have summer programs for aspiring young scientists, both with upcoming application deadlines:
  • Cornell AgriTech Summer Scholars is a nine-week internship for undergraduates. It offers the opportunity to do research with faculty at the AgriTech campus in plant pathology, entomology and horticulture. The program is anticipated to run June 9, 2021, through August 6, 2021. Applications are due February 5, 2021.
  • The USDA's AgDiscovery Summer Student Program is a two- to four-week national summer outreach program designed to introduce students in grades 7-12 to the exciting world of agricultural sciences. Participants get a first-hand view of careers in plant and animal health, wildlife management, biotechnology, environmental science, forestry, entomology, food safety and food production, as well as managing the business aspects of agriculture. In 2021, 21 universities will host AgDiscovery programs; each institution will decide whether to hold them in person or virtually. Applications are due March 25, 2021.
In 2020, a number of projects were initiated by teams of enterprising scientists seeking to help stop the scourge of grapevine red blotch virus, a significant and costly disease affecting Western vineyards that, so far, has eluded definitive answers regarding spread and management.

Anita Oberholster, extension enologist at UC Davis is leading a project called, "Ecobiology, Impact and Management of Grapevine Red Blotch Virus and Its Vector(s) in California and Oregon Vineyards." After receiving a $3 million from USDA-NIFA's Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) in late 2019, it began in earnest this year. More than a dozen collaborators from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, Oregon State University, University of Georgia, and USDA-ARS are working with Anita on the project.

Anita's own recent research has revealed how GRBV affects the chemical composition of grapes to degrade the quality of the resulting wine, and confirmed that grapes were slower to ripen and had lower sugar content when infected with the virus. Waiting longer to harvest the grapes then dehydrating them can achieve sufficient sugar levels for producing wine, her research suggests, but it doesn't make up for their lost phenolics (the compounds that produce color, mouthfeel, stringency and bitterness). Here, she's continuing to work on fruit and wine quality.

Other team members are exploring managing the virus in the vineyard. Frank Zalom and Mysore "Sudhi" Sudarshana (UC Davis), Vaughn Walton (Oregon State) and Kent Daane (UC Berkeley) already have identified promising insect vector candidates beyond the three-cornered alfalfa hopper (TCAH, shown above), whose efficacy at transmitting the virus has not been replicated outside a laboratory setting. As the project overview states, because red blotch spreads in vineyards where TCAH has not been found, finding potential vector species is paramount.

And in previous research, collaborators Alec Levin and Achala KC (Oregon State) found that watering may mitigate some negative effects of GRBV, but deficit irrigation doesn't help. (Note: Alec, Achala and their colleagues led a nine-part red blotch webinar series from this past fall. Recordings are on the Oregon Wine Research Institute website.) For growers trying to optimize their investment in infected vineyards, is rogueing the only answer?

Not necessarily. A study co-led by Cornell virologist Marc Fuchs suggests that if less than 30% of plants in a vineyard are infected, replacing them with clean plants can minimize losses. But for anything more than 30%, it's advisable to remove the entire block. Otherwise, he says, "the virus moves like wildfire throughout the whole vineyard."

Marc is a collaborator on another new red blotch project launched this year, using sensors to detect viruses, led by Luca Brillante, Fresno State assistant professor of viticulture. Titled "Remote Sensing-Assisted Scouting of Virus Infections in Vineyards," or HYPERVID for short, the California-based project employs hyperspectral imaging (because viral infections affect light reflectance in leaves, detectable at wavelengths these sensors can "see") coupled with machine learning to scout out red blotch (and leafroll) in vineyards, before symptoms appear. The project received $280,000 in late 2019 from California's Specialty Crop Block Grant program for a three-year study through 2022.
With help from co-investigator, Napa County UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Monica Cooper, HYPERVID research began in the 2020 growing season in vineyards from Fresno County to Napa County. Images were taken with hyperspectral cameras at ground level from tractors and ATVs using a range of wavelengths, coupled with virus testing of the same vines to analyze for a correlation between the images and virus-positive vines. The study is focused on red winegrape varieties with an emphasis on cabernet sauvignon. The goal is to develop a tool that could be adopted by commercial companies and made available to growers or included in decision-support systems.
At greater elevations, another virus project took flight in September 2020, using aerial hyperspectral imaging to detect and map symptomatic and asymptomatic infections at scale. Led by Cornell grape pathologist Katie Gold, funded by NASA and done in collaboration with its Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), the project deployed the Next Generation Airborne Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS-NG, JPL's newest and best hyperspectral imager) over California vineyards to collect data to develop field and regional scale surveillance monitoring for viral diseases like red blotch.
Using the data collected this year and a new technique pioneered by scientists at NASA JPL, the team will determine how much "viral spectral signature" can be captured by both AVIRIS-NG and other imagers (from NASA, international space agencies and commercial satellite providers) at varying spatial and temporal scales. They will use these results to make recommendations to NASA about how their forthcoming satellite program can be used to immediately improve food security through plant disease surveillance and monitoring. One of the applied goals of the project is to develop new data products that can feed into field and regional level decision-support systems that enable growers to more strategically deploy high-accuracy ground diagnostics, such as the near-ground tools being developed by HYPERVID, to stop viral infections before they spread.

Understanding that red blotch and other viruses know no property lines, growers in California's Lodi AVA are taking a regional approach. Led by the Lodi Winegrape Commission (LWC), an NGRA member-organization, the project advocates basic strategies to reduce virus spread, including decreasing vector populations, lowering virus inoculum, scouting vineyards for virus symptoms, testing symptomatic vines, rogueing individual vines that test positive when they make up 25% or less of the vineyard, removing the entire vineyard if more than 25% of vines are infected, and replanting vineyards with clean vines that are virus-tested from certified nurseries. Its 2020 milestone was the publication of a 138-page workbook, What Every Winegrower Should Know: Viruses, written by LWC Research and Education Director Dr. Stephanie Bolton, who serves on the NGRA Board.

"It is easy to see that an integrated, extensive virus outreach program is needed immediately," Stephanie writes in the proposal establishing the collaborative research and integrated outreach effort, funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 2018. Specifically referencing California, but in words that apply anywhere viruses live, she adds, "the industry needs stronger communication between growers, nurseries, laboratories, researchers and government programs to find a long-term strategy for lowering (our) inoculum and reducing the spread of viruses."

This article was excerpted from these sources; click to read the full stories:
The Crush - September 2020 edition, California Association of Winegrape Growers
USDA-NIFA has published a new interactive flowchart to help applicants for its grants better understand the process and more accurately estimate the time required from application to grant closeout.
Sharpen your pencils! These grant programs have upcoming deadlines.

Specialty Crop Research Initiative
USDA-NIFA's Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) helps to accelerate the application of scientific discovery and technology specifically for specialty crops. The program's priorities reflect the needs of specialty crops to address key challenges of national, regional and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems. The pre-application deadline is January 26, 2021.
Editor's note: If you're applying for an SCRI grant and will be seeking a letter of support from NGRA, please submit your complete request online no later than Monday, January 11, 2021, or two weeks prior to your institution's deadline for your application package--whichever is earlier.

Minor Crop Pest Management Program Interregional Research Project #4
The IR-4 program, also from USDA-NIFA, provides the assistance needed to ensure that new and more effective crop protection products are developed and made available to minor/specialty crop producers. These efforts require effective collaborations among federal agencies, the crop protection industry, and land-grant colleges and universities. Deadline is February 12, 2021.

Crop Protection and Pest Management
USDA-NIFA's Crop Protection and Pest Management (CPPM) program addresses high priority issues related to pests and integrated pest management (IPM) approaches at the state, regional and national levels. CPPM supports projects that ensure food security and respond effectively to major societal pest management challenges as well as IPM challenges for emerging and existing priority pest concerns that can be addressed more effectively with new technologies. Deadline is March 15, 2021.

Organic Transitions
USDA-NIFA's Organic Transitions (ORG) program supports the development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, and those adopting organic practices. Deadline is March 15, 2021.

WA, OR and TX SCBG Programs
The Departments of Agriculture in Washington, Oregon and Texas are now accepting applications for their state Specialty Crop Block Grant programs. The deadlines are:
Unified Grant Management System
The Unified Grant Management System for Viticulture and Enology, hosted by University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is accepting proposals for grant funding, now through January 31, 2021. The organizations whose requests for applications are hosted here include:
  • American Vineyard Foundation
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture Pierce's Disease and Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board
  • California Grape Rootstock Improvement Commission
  • California Grape Rootstock Research Foundation
  • California Table Grape Commission
  • Oregon Wine Board
  • Washington State Wine Commission
# # #

If you're a scientist planning to apply for these or other grant programs, you can request a letter of support (if needed) from NGRA on our website.

December 30, 2020 | Good Fruit Grower
What if grape growers could point a sensor at a vine and it would tell them its nutrient status? Such insight could usher in an era of precision nutrient management. A team of 14 scientists at 7 research institutions, led by Markus Keller at Washington State University, is now at work on an NGRA-supported, SCRI-funded project to deliver on this vision.
December 17, 2020 | Science Daily
New research from the Bartlett Lab at UC Davis explored the relationships between growing region climate and traits across a wide range of cultivars. What did they find? The varieties thriving in hotter, drier regions have traits that help save water.
December 15, 2020 | Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research
New research from UC Davis on maize focuses on enabling plants to obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere with the help of soil microbes, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. (Plants aren't naturally able to do this on their own.)
December 14, 2020 | WSU Insider
The spoilage yeast Brettanomyces bruxellensis has always plagued winemakers. New research from Washington State University finds that Brett can be steam-cleaned from infected barrels, but with much higher heat and for much longer than previously thought.
December 11, 2020 | Vitisphere
In an effort to adapt to climate change, France's regulatory authority, the INAO, approved planting six of seven new varieties (two whites, four reds) in Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, as secondary varieties, not to be referenced on the label. Petit manseng was trialed but removed from the list.
December 10, 2020 | CBS San Francisco
Wente Vineyards is the first winery to field-test the first autonomous electric tractor. With machine learning capabilities on board, it "remembers" what to do. Monarch Tractor plans to start production and retail sales in 2021.
December 2, 2020 | Contagion Live
On coronavirus lockdown? Try eating muscadines. They're abundant in flavan-3-ols and proanthocyanidins, which seem to inhibit SARS-CoV-2's main protease activity and therefore prevent its replication. The research is being done by NC State University, Raleigh.

December 1, 2020 | Cornell Chronicle
Two Cornell soil scientists helped to develop a new tool that maps soils' potential for carbon sequestration. Soils Revealed is an open-access, interactive platform that uses modeling technology to assess how soil organic carbon has fluctuated over the last 11,000 years and to project its future carbon-storing capacity.
December 2020 | Science Direct
New research from Washington State University shows promise for the use of hyperspectral imagery to detect leafroll virus (GLRaV-3) before symptoms start to show.
November 30, 2020 | Plantopia
Cornell University plant pathologist David Gadoury hosts this two-part podcast on the "Robotics Revolution" in agriculture. From harvesting strawberries to accelerating the discovery of genes for powdery mildew resistance in grape, there's a growing emphasis of applied robotics in ag.
November 28, 2020 | Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Will a grape berry moth land on anything that smells, looks or feels (moisture-wise) like a grapevine? No. But maybe if all three stimuli are present... This work was led by scientists at Cornell AgriTech.
November 25, 2020 | Ives Technical Reviews
Got Saran wrap? New research suggests it could fix your corked wine. (See a more consumer-friendly interpretation of the study here.)
November 24, 2020 | Cornell Chronicle
This project from Cornell University scientists, focused on maize, aims to develop new tools to "tap into the below-ground environment of plants and soil in a way that allows us to shine light in a black box of plant and soil interactions," says one PI. It "the next frontier in plant biology."
November 23, 2020 | California Ag Network
Glassy-winged sharpshooter numbers are on the rise in California's San Joaquin Valley. Kern County UC Cooperative Extension Entomology Farm Advisor David Haviland explains local coordinated treatment efforts and pesticides that can help.
November 23, 2020 | Good Fruit Grower
A tiny parasitoid wasp could be coming for spotted wing drosophila next year. Native to Eastern Asia, it will be released in vineyards and orchards throughout the US at the recommendation of the USDA's Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit. The release could happen in early fall 2021.
November 18, 2020 | Good Fruit Grower
Looking for the most promising place to plant vinifera wine grapes in Michigan? Michigan State University has a new tool that maps potential by county and by red or white varieties. The state's current vinifera plantings are clustered along the western edge of the Lower Peninsula along Lake Michigan. But the tool suggests many suitable sites along Lake Huron, where there's little to no vinifera cultivation today.
November 16, 2020 | AgriLife Today
Breakthrough! Texas A&M AgriLife scientists have made a discovery to help fight fastidious bacteria that infect citrus, grapes and other crops. Because these pathogens are unable to grow outside their native environment, or "unculturable," researchers were unable to cultivate them in a lab for study. Until now.
November 10, 2020 | Frontiers in Plant Science
Is it possible to protect grapevines--and grape berries--from summer heatwaves? New research from UC Davis shows that fruit-zone partial shading paired with irrigation management can help.

November 2, 2020 | Good Fruit Grower
Following the discovery of phylloxera in traditionally own-rooted vineyards in Washington, new research funded by NGRA member-organization the Washington State Wine Commission aims to improve detection, determine the scope and severity of the phylloxera infestations, and provide cultural and chemical management strategies.
October 15, 2020 | Western Farm Press
Did you know that non-native plants have fewer insect enemies than those related to native plants (like grapes)?

October 2020 | Wine Business Monthly
New research funded by the Washington State Wine Commission gives new guidelines for water monitoring and management for vineyards where different varieties are grown. The study focused on 18 own-rooted varieties grown side-by-side in Prosser, an arid, high-desert area. And it refutes the classic isohydric vs. anisohydric approach.
August 27, 2020 | APS Publications
New research shows that, in California's San Joaquin Valley, June and July can bring a secondary spread of Pierce's Disease. The surge comes after growers treat their vineyards for glassy-winged sharpshooter in spring and as vector acquisition accelerates.
July 24, 2020 | The Robot Report
Ted is an autonomous electric robot that can weed vineyard rows with centimeter-level precision. While development continues, there are more than 20 Teds working in vineyards, including the newest version in two vineyards in France.

April 17, 2020 | Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester Institute of Technology is developing a sustainable, biodegradable alternative to plastic mulch that decomposes faster and can be more easily disposed of. It can drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste farmers produce, and also reduce pesticide use, conserve water and increase crop yield and quality.

October 4, 2019 | Futurity
Graham Brodie of The University of Melbourne has designed a modular antenna that can be fitted onto field equipment, like tractors, to deliver microwave energy to kill weeds and "literally cook the seeds, deactivating their germination," he says.

Find these stories and more, published daily, on NGRA's Facebook and Twitter feeds.
January 18-22, 2021
Virtual event

January 20, 2021
Washington Advancements in Viticulture and Enology (WAVE) Webinar Series
Clark Seavert, Oregon State University

January 25, 2021
NGRA Annual Meeting of the Members and First-of-Year Board Meeting 
Via Zoom

January 26-29, 2021
Virtual event

February 9-10, 2021
Virtual event

February 9-11, 2021
Virtual event

February 15-17, 2021
Virtual event

February 16-19, 2021
Virtual event

March 3-5, 2021
Virtual event

March 4, 2021
Washington Advancements in Viticulture and Enology (WAVE) Webinar Series
David James, Washington State University

March 15-18, 2021
Kennewick, WA

March 31, 2021
Paso Robles, CA

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.