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

Hands of Harvest*
Harvest is usually a bustling, positive time of year, when the fruits of growers' labors are ripe and ready for the next phase of their journey, whether that's drying for raisin production, packing and storing for fresh consumption, or pressing for juice or wine. But from coast to coast, this year's harvest has had a dark cloud (literally and figuratively) above it.
In This Issue
Massive, historic wildfires in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and California (new ones raging Napa and Sonoma Counties as I type). Hurricanes bearing heavy winds, rain and tornadoes to eastern states. Record heat across the western U.S., Southeast and Northeast, including a "nonsoon" in Arizona and the hottest-ever temperature on Earth in Death Valley. All in the context of a global pandemic and its public health and economic implications for all.
Living in California, I've felt these impacts most keenly: the dense, even hazardous air quality, the eerie orange sky with ash sifting down, the worry for colleagues in danger of losing not only their homes but their livelihoods, as buildings and fruit are potentially exposed to and/or consumed by smoke and flame. Wildfires have not swept into more urban areas like Sacramento, where NGRA is based, but so often these days it seems that even the unthinkable is entirely possible.

When so much is uncertain and so much at stake, it can be hard to see the path ahead. But that's what research is all about: solving the problems we have today with innovations tomorrow. Whether by analyzing grape smoke exposure effects (Elizabeth Tomasino, Oregon State University, et al.), as referenced below and in our spreadsheet of funded grape research across the U.S.or developing more precise nutrient management tools and techniques for an evolving viticulture landscape (Dr. Markus Keller, WSU), as outlined in the Research Focus below, research offers hope. These projects are proof that science is a means to achieving a brighter future.
If you work in the grape and wine industry and feel inspired by this moment to play a part in shaping research, I invite you to get involved, not only with NGRA but with any of the other organizations that seek to advance our industry through science, such as the American Society of Enology and Viticulture, American Vineyard Foundation and The Vineyard Team, which kindly invited me to give a talk on this subject as part of their International Sustainable Winegrowing Summit this year. States and commodities also have robust research committees that could use your input.
Maybe, by taking an active role in identifying and furthering our industry's research needs, you can bring some light to this year's dark harvest.

In hope,
Donnell Brown

*Photo courtesy of photographer George Rose
This image also appears on and was taken at
Bien Nacido Vineyards (a property of NGRA member Thornhill Companies)
near Santa Maria, CA.
Richard (Rich) Smith, founder of Valley Farm Management, Paraiso Vineyards and Smith Family Wines in California's Monterey wine region, was first and foremost a family man, and also a successful grape grower and winery owner, and respected colleague. Through his significant and selfless contributions of time, energy and funds to organizations that advance the American grape and wine industry, he came to be known as a highly effective, collegial and tireless leader. He passed away in December 2015. Three of the organizations Rich helped to shape--the National Grape Research Alliance, WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America--collaborated to create the Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award to honor his spirit and legacy. It recognizes people who demonstrate similar qualities and make a similarly positive impact on the industry. Nominations for the 2021 award are being accepted through October 30, 2020. Click to nominate a leader.
In July, we published a spreadsheet that captures all the funded grape research we can find. From state and federal grant programs, it's intended to provide a comprehensive snapshot into the ways scientists are working to improve viticulture in America, starting with 2020. It focuses on public funding sources in the U.S. and includes only projects that are directly related to grape--e.g., grapes are specifically referenced in the title or objectives of the research. With the 2020 SCRI projects (see Research Focus below for one we're particularly proud of), PD/GWSS funding (below) and others announced recently, the ongoingly updated spreadsheet is full of new news. Download the spreadsheet now! 
Congratulations to the 2020 class of Wine Business Monthly's Wine Industry Leaders! The honorees include several leaders in research, including Tony Wolf (Virginia Tech), Tim Martinson (Cornell University), Kris Beal (Vineyard Team) and Stephanie Gallo (E. & J. Gallo Winery), who's company is a founding member of NGRA.
Organizers of the World Ag Expo, the largest farm technology and equipment show of its kind in the world, announced this month that the event has been canceled for 2021. It's the first time in its 53-year history that the show, held each February at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, has not gone on.
The USDA invites nominations of qualified candidates to be considered for a two-year term on the Task Force on Agricultural Air Quality Research, typically referred to as the Agricultural Air Quality Task Force (AAQTF), established by the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 to provide recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on agricultural air quality issues (presumably including wildfire smoke). Nominations must be postmarked by November 9, 2020.
A proposal from Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) that would allow UC Davis to sell wine made by viticulture and enology students, generating funds for the university, was approved on August 31 by the California Legislature. Historically, the university disposes of wine produced by students due to a quirk in state law. Senate Bill 918 continues earlier legislative efforts to change that, allowing the issuance of a sales license to a nonprofit entity to sell up to 20,000 gallons of wine a year. The bill passed the State Senate and Assembly, and heads next to Gov. Gavin Newsom for a signature.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) this month issued rules for the establishment of three new American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), one in California and two in Washington. They are:
  • Alisos Canyon is the seventh AVA in Santa Barbara Wine Country. It spans 5,774 acres, including nine producing commercial vineyards and one winery, and went into effect on September 24. It is located entirely within the existing Central Coast viticultural area.
  • Royal Slope, effective October 2, is Washington State's 15th AVA. It covers a total of 156,389 acres, wholly within the Columbia Valley AVA, 1,900 of which are planted with wine grapes. More than 20 varieties are produced there.
  • Candy Mountain, effective October 26, is the 16th and smallest AVA in Washington. It encompasses 815 acres, where 110 acres of vineyards are planted; almost all are red varieties. The TTB also expanded the boundary of the existing Yakima Valley AVA by 72 acres to fully encompass Candy Mountain.
A team of researchers, including Elizabeth Tomasino (Oregon State University), Anita Oberholster (UC Davis) and Tom Collins (Washington State University), is collaborating on smoke exposure research. The proposed work includes using historical atmospheric data, including 2020, to help create risk models for smoke effects in the vineyard. The team seeks any grape and/or wine samples that may have been smoke impacted this year to help populate this data set. Note: These samples (grapes clusters, wine or both) will be stored until a time when we can analyze them in the future, this is not an alternative to having samples analyzed by commercial labs. Results likely will not be available for months to years.
If you would like to send samples for this future work, please contact Elizabeth (Elizabeth.tomasino@oregonstate.eduor Anita ( for sample and shipping information.
The Pierce's Disease and Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter (PD/GWSS) Board this month announced 2020 funding for 12 research and outreach projects. The projects will run from one to three years, with $2.4 million in total funding. See the complete list in the PD/GWSS Summer 2020 Bulletin and on NGRA's cumulative spreadsheet of funded grape research in the U.S.
Since 2010, the Board has had the authority to use funds collected through the PD/GWSS winegrape assessment for research and outreach on other winegrape pests and diseases. Projects funded in this cycle include work on Pierce's Disease and the glassy-winged sharpshooter as well as on grapevine red blotch virus, grapevine leafroll virus and mealybug.
Researchers, take note: In selecting projects for funding this year, Steve McIntyre, chair of the Research Screening Committee, said, "Given the increasing importance of grapevine virus diseases, the Board would like to see more virus-related proposals submitted in future years."

By Brandon Schrand
WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
Since the 1960s, American grape growers have followed a set of nutrient management guidelines that often entail more guesswork than precise strategies. An industry-driven project called "High-Resolution Vineyard Nutrient Management" seeks to change that. Led by Washington State University's Dr. Markus Keller, it was one of the projects funded this year by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's highly competitive Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). It officially launches today (September 30).
Historically, growers have relied on a one-size-fits-all method of managing nutrients, delivering the same amount of fertilizer to an entire vineyard block. That's because assessing the nutrient status of individual plants or even sections of a vineyard by conventional methods is impractical and costly. "While much of the crop receives the right amount of fertilizer, sections or individual plants may receive too much or too little," Markus says. "We want to reassess the way we approach nutrient management."
By using remote sensors and other technologies, Markus and a team of scientists from across the country hope to identify hitherto hard-to-detect nutrient surpluses or deficiencies (particularly nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous) in a timely manner, so that growers can make more nimble management decisions. "Right now, leaf analysis can take up to a couple of weeks," he says. "By the time the grower gets the results, it's often too late to correct any inadequacies." Nutrient-wise, soil can vary tremendously across the block, and plants are very selective about what they take from it, he adds.
Conventional methods of managing vineyard nutrition are still important for grape growers; this new research seeks to supplement rather than replace them. The more resources and data growers have, the more efficient and productive their vineyards become. That benefits more than just growers.
"This kind of approach could go a long way in helping the environment, too, by reducing the amount of fertilizers being used, and by applying them at the right time in the right place," Markus says. Plus, a reduction in inputs could be passed along, not only in end-price but also fruit and wine quality, benefitting consumers, too.
It's important to note, he says, "there's a strong Extension component to this project. In addition to providing training to growers around the country, we want to develop apps and other decision-support tools to [help them] form and augment their nutrient-management plans."
The project spans all viticulture and covers 97% of U.S. grape production regions. "We want all grape growers to benefit from this research," Markus says.
The project is a collaborative effort between WSU and Cornell, UC Davis, Oregon State, Rochester Institute of Technology, Virginia Tech and USDA-ARS. The total SCRI grant is $4.75 million, of which the first $1 million has been approved. Subsequent installments of the grant will be contingent on the project's progress. Financial support also comes from the Washington State Wine Commission's Research Program and the Washington State Concord Grape Research Council.
NGRA originally conceived of the project. "[It] has been industry-driven from its earliest conception, and continues to be," Markus says. "Given the prestige of all the institutions involved, it is a great honor to have been asked by NGRA to lead such an exciting and dynamic project," Markus says.
Read the original article, published in the WSU Insider on September 25.
In response to stakeholder feedback, NIFA this month published the Projected RFA Publication Timeline for fiscal year 2021. Currently, the timeline includes non-AFRI competitive programs only; a new notification will signal when AFRI RFAs are added to the schedule. NIFA notes that the timelines shown are targets only, and are subject to change until the RFAs (requests for applications) are officially published in Bookmark the URL and check back often for updates as target dates draw near.

Note that, as shown on the timeline, the RFA for the SCRI program is scheduled for release in mid-October. There will be 60 days to submit pre-proposals. Remember, if you plan to request a letter of support, NGRA requires at least two weeks to respond!

These grant programs have upcoming deadlines.

Michigan Craft Beverage Council
The Michigan Craft Beverage Council is now accepting 2021 research grant proposals with a maximum grant award of $40K. While any research topic will be accepted, the Council has identified priorities for funding, including climate change impacts, crop quality analysis, and development of new varieties for fruit or other agricultural inputs used in craft beverage production (including wine). Proposals are due October 19, 2020.
FFAR Climate-Resilient Crops
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research(FFAR) is now accepting applications for the new Improving Climate Resilience in Crops program. This grant opportunity is intended to increase tolerance for higher temperatures for maize, rice, sorghum, millet, wheat, sweet potato, cassava, banana, yam, common bean, cowpea, chickpea and groundnut, but FFAR will consider research in other plants if it would be transferable to the preferred crops. Matching funds for this grant were provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Deadline is November 11, 2020.
NIFA Centers of Excellence
In FY 2021, NIFA will fund four 1890 Centers of Excellence, giving priority to the following focus areas: student success and workforce development; farming systems, rural prosperity, and economic sustainability; global food security and defense; and nutrition, health, wellness, and quality of life. Applicants must address one of these focus areas and include an ancillary emphasis on Emerging Technologies in that area. As used here, an "1890 COE" refers to an administrative unit, not a brick and mortar facility. Centers facilitate administration, coordination and management of multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research, teaching, extension and integrated projects. Each will receive a minimum award of $1 million. Closing date is November 18, 2020.
Water Resources Research - Junior Investigators Only
The California Institute for Water Resources invites proposals for research that examines effective management of water resources, in the Junior Investigator category only (scientists in the UC system who have been in their current position less than seven years and are at the assistant level or equivalent). Studies with appropriate outreach plans and anticipated outcomes that will have immediate and direct impacts critical to California, such as climate change, drought and groundwater, are especially welcome. Funding is for up to two years. One-year proposals may request up to a total of $15K, and two-year proposals may request up to $25K with a maximum of $15K in a given year. Proposals are due October 30, 2020.

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.

Nonsoon Impacts Vineyard and Winery Grape Growth
September 27, 2020 | KOLD News 13
September is the last month of monsoon season in Arizona, but there was no rain in sight. The "nonsoon," or heat and lack of rain, impacted yield for growers like Flying Leap Vineyards & Distillery, which reported its crop was down about 60% and some clusters only grew about half their traditional size.

September 22, 2020 | American Vineyard Magazine
Wondering how the wildfires in California may impact the raisin harvest? Tune in to this interview with longtime NGRA Board member Rick Stark as he shares the status of Sun-Maid's harvest and how the smoke's impact on sun exposure has delayed drying.
September 18, 2020 | Mirage News
Penn State scientists are enlisting the help of birders to gauge the potential for native birds (and insects) to feed on the spotted lanternfly. "Because it's a non-native insect, it doesn't have natural enemies in the U.S. to keep its numbers in balance," said co-PI Kelli Hoover. "Finding predators that live in our environment would be a great biological control option."
September 17, 2020 | Wine Enthusiast
Ever heard of straw wine? To make it, wine grapes (mostly white varieties) are allowed to dry on straw mats for 60 to 90 days to let the sugar and acid concentrate. There are several types of straw wine, including a Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine from Oregon's Capitello Wines, but not all of them are sweet...or white. In fact, the one that's most well-known is a dry red.
September 16, 2020 | Faribault Daily News
Wines made from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities' newest cold-hardy wine grape, Itasca, are now commercially available for the first time. "With its low acidity and high sugar levels--coupled with its high resistance to downy and powdery mildew, and phylloxera--Itasca is well-positioned to create a robust market for grape growers and help winemakers succeed," says UMN grape breeder Matt Clark.

ARS Scientists Seek Answers from Spotted Lanternfly Dispersal
September 14, 2020 | Morning Ag Clips
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found that Spotted Lanternfly nymphs climbed much longer vertical distances than adults, while early adults jumped longer horizontal distances. Plus, marking SLFs with fluorescent powder doesn't impede their movement, so it's an effective way to track them.

September 11, 2020 | UC Davis
As West Coast growers grapple with possible smoke impacts from widespread wildfires, scientists advise "bucket fermentations" to assess the risk. Here, UC Davis Enology Extension Specialist Anita Oberholster demonstrates the Small-Scale Fermentation Protocol, step-by-step.
September 10, 2020 | Capital Press
Melissa Hansen, Research Program Director at Washington State Wine and an NGRA Board member, shares how the state views research as a means to improving wine quality...and the state of the industry at large. "Washington winemakers already make great wines, but our wines are going to get even better by giving growers and wineries science-driven tools to help them address vineyard and winery challenges," she said.
September 10, 2020 | Entomology Today
New research shows that the spotted lanternfly has a LOT larger range of host plants than previously known. Lawrence Barringer of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Claire Ciafré with Naturecite report that the invasive pest will feed on 103 plants and, if you add in plants it will use for egg-laying, the total number of host plants is a whopping 172!
September 9, 2020 | Fresno State
NGRA President Donnell Brown and Fresno State's Dr. Luca Brillante held a live interview, providing viticulture and enology undergrads to learn more about the industry's research landscape. The Fresno State Seminar Series takes place every Wednesday through December 2. See the other NGRA notables to be featured in the Upcoming Events below.

September 7, 2020 | Lodi Wine Growers
Sustainability champion Cliff Ohmart analyzed pesticide records from California Department of Food and Agriculture for Lodi Winegrowers and found that, whether organically approved or conventional, use was down significantly--as much as 89% in one class. "By any measure, this is a dramatic decline in the use of these high-risk pesticides," he says. A great case study!
August 31, 2020 | UCANR
Can mulch make a difference in an organic raisin vineyard? A $100K grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Healthy Soils Program will help UCCE extension specialist Ruth Dahlquist-Willard and Cardoza Farms prove it does.
August 28, 2020 | USDA
This 17-institution project funded by USDA-NIFA's Multistate Research Fund is developing automated systems for specialty crops like fruits (including grapes), vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery plants. The solutions span disease detection sensors and management technologies, harvest robotics, and more.
August 27, 2020 | UCANR
While tremendous progress has been made on understanding the effect of grapevine red blotch virus, research has still not confirmed a vector or vectors. (Even the study finding the three-cornered alfalfa treehopper as a GRBV vector has not yet been replicated.) Here, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources' Lynn Wunderlich explains the latest in the search with Kent Daane's lab.
August 27, 2020 | Wine-Searcher
In a California Association of Winegrape Growers seminar last week, UC Davis extension enologist Anita Oberholster shared key findings of smoke exposure research to date. Most smoke taint in grapes comes from fresh smoke, not smoke that has been lingering in the atmosphere for more than 24 hours, as with California's near-fortnight of wildfires. The Air Quality Index, she said, is not a measure of the volatile phenols (the compounds that produce smoke taint) in the air.
August 26, 2020 | National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and USDA-NIFA have invested more than $140M over the next five years in seven Artificial Intelligence Institutes, two focused on agriculture. The USDA-NIFA AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems is led by UC Davis and the USDA-NIFA AI Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability is led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
August 26, 2020 | National Science Foundation
A Georgia Tech study using pollen data from 12 major plant biomes in North America over the past 20,000 years concludes with a dire warning: mass plant (and animal) extinctions ahead. It is believed to be the first to quantify biome residence and recovery time over an extended period. It was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
August 20, 2020 | The Academic Wino
Does size really matter? When it comes to winegrapes and the traditional notion that smaller berries are best, you might be surprised. Thanks to The Academic Wino (Anna Katherine Mansfield of Cornell) for testing the long-held belief!
August 17, 2020 | The New York Times
It's official: Death Valley really does feel like death. Climatologists believe the desert's 130-degree world record will be followed by others. Scientists still have to validate the reading of 130 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, the equivalent of 54 degrees Celsius.
August 6, 2020 | Pest Control Technology
This research was originally published in 2019, but carries a great message worth repeating: Thanks to a cooperative, multi-pronged approach, EVGM was eradicated in California in 2016. When stories like this one aren't shared, it's "difficult for researchers to understand the invader's biology outside of its native range and assess how and what management strategies were effective in mitigating the invader's spread and impacts. (And) the general public is not made aware of the fact that it is possible to successfully manage invasive pests of concern," say study co-authors from UC Riverside, UCCE, Dominican University, USDA-APHIS and Ryerson University.
July 30, 2020 | UCANR
Want to know more about bunch rot? UC Agriculture & Natural Resources viticulture extension specialist Gabriel Torres gives a great overview of how it starts--and spreads--not just through clusters but other parts of the grapevine, alive or dead.

Find these stories and more, published daily, on NGRA's Facebook and Twitter feeds.

October 22, 2020
ASEV Invasive Pests Webinar Series:
Lifecycle Modeling and the Impacts of Climate Change

Gwen-Alyn Hoheisel, Washington State University, Prosser

October 28, 2020
Fresno State Seminar Series
Markus Keller, Washington State University

November 4, 2020
Fresno State Seminar Series
Patty Skinkis, Oregon State University

November 6, 2020
Central Coast Grape Expo
King City, CA

November 9 - December 4, 2020
Sustainable Ag Expo & International Sustainable Winegrowing Summit
Virtual event

November 10, 2020
2020 Tree & Vine Expo
Virtual event

November 12, 2020
ASEV Invasive Pests Webinar Series:
Invasive Species Response: Lessons from the European Grapevine Moth Collaborative Program
Monica Cooper, University of California, Cooperative Extension, Napa County

November 13, 2020
2020 Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit Expo
Virtual event

November 19, 2020
End-of-Year Board Meeting
Via Zoom

December 2, 2020
Fresno State Seminar Series
Franka Gabler, California Table Grape Commission

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.