August 2021
Marselan wine grapes ready for harvest*
As the start of the grape harvest—typically a time of celebration—August seems to have brought a shroud of darkness. The late summer sunshine has been overshadowed by devastating flooding, deadly wildfires and extreme heat. It can be hard to find any positivity.

This month, a report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offered a faint glimmer. Although we're past the point of no return on climate change, it says, we can prevent things from getting worse. The UN Secretary-General called the report "a code red for humanity."

Much of the work NGRA and our industry stakeholders are focused on can be seen through the lens of climate change. Pests like the glassy-winged sharpshooter are persisting through warmer winters and spreading to regions that were once unsuitable for them. Pesticides, fungicides and even nutritional applications in vineyards are now viewed as contributors to poor soil health and greenhouse gas emissions, and in at least one case (the now banned chlorpyrifos), hazardous to human health. Drought and heat are drying up wells and aquifers in the West, limiting water availability and sparking wildfires. Ferocious summer storms batter and waterlog fruit in the East, just as it's reaching ripening. And elongated growing seasons present the newly persistent threat of late-winter freezes that can kill a crop before it even begins.

These are all issues that science can solve. With research priorities of genetics and grapevine improvement, natural resources and the environment, integrated production systems, and extension and outreach, NGRA seeks to steer the grape and wine industry and the scientists who support us toward solutions. New varieties that ripen later and can withstand pests, diseases, heat and drought. Vineyard soil treatments to improve carbon sequestration and water holding capacity. Grape treatments that can resist smoke or excess moisture infiltration. Technology that can track threats or pinpoint quality and yield parameters for smarter, safer and more efficient harvest. New methods and support for extending research outcomes to industry. And there are more blue-sky ideas out there, waiting to be hatched.

I have always admired the long view NGRA members take of science. They work together to identify and activate research that may not even yield results in their lifetime. It's a sort of faith born of action. But in the words of Greta Thunberg and her fellow young climate activists, "The world’s climate scientists have made it clear that the time is now—we must act urgently to avoid the worst possible consequences."

If there's a ray of light in the darkness, it's science.
Donnell Brown
Dr. Matthew Fidelibus, Viticulture Extension Specialist at UC Davis, snapped this photo this month for the NGRA-supported, AVF-funded project, "Online Guide to Grapevine Varieties and Rootstocks." He writes, "Marselan, a planned cross of cabernet sauvignon and grenache from the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), performed well in our warm climate screening trial in the San Joaquin Valley."

Save the Date for NVEELC 2022
The dates have been announced for the next National Viticulture and Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC)! Make plans to join with fellow extension and outreach specialists August 14-17, 2022, in the central San Joaquin Valley—the largest, most diverse viticulture production area in the U.S. NVEELC 2022 will offer professional development, including research and regional reports, and foster collaboration and dialog, helping viticulture and enology extension professionals stay apprised of industry challenges across the country. Tours of vineyards, labs and other local viticulture and enology research and extension assets is an important part of the agenda for this event, and this year will cover mechanization and wine, raisin and table grape production. Stay tuned for details and registration for NVEELC 2022!
OIV Announces Research Consortium
The International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) recently announced a consortium of five international wine producers that will promote and support the organization’s "vitivinicultural" research and development efforts. To begin, the companies—Viña Concha y Toro (Chile), Moët-Hennessy (France), Sogrape (Portugal), Familia Torres (Spain) and Yalumba Family Winemakers (Australia)—will work together to identify priority research areas for the global grape and wine sector. The OIV represents 48 member-states; the U.S. is not a member.
Chavonda Jacobs-Young Nominated as Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics
President Joe Biden has nominated Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young as Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics at the USDA. Dr. Jacobs-Young is the Administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service and currently serves as the Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and as Acting USDA Chief Scientist. She is the first woman and person of color to lead this agency, which manages an annual budget of $1.82 billion. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said of her appointment, "Dr. Jacobs-Young has a deep understanding of USDA's commitment to science, research and education and of the importance of advancing scientific knowledge to best serve the American people." Her appointment is at the Senate; track its progress here.
Meet NIFA's New Climate Change Division Director
Dr. Shafiqur (Shafi) Rahman, a North Dakota State University professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, is the new Global Climate Change Division Director at the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). For the last 20 years, he has been researching agricultural waste management and treatment, water quality, and air quality from agricultural and livestock production systems. He is extensively involved with the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, currently serving as its Technical Program Chair for the Plant, Animal and Facility Systems (PAFS) community and Chair of the PAFS-50 Environmental Air Quality committee.
WSU to Lead New National AI Institute for Ag
With a new $20 million, five-year federal grant, Washington State University will lead a multi-institutional research institute to develop artificial intelligence solutions to tackle some of agriculture's biggest challenges related to labor, water, weather and climate change. Called the Institute for Agricultural AI for Transforming Workforce and Decision Support, or AgAID Institute, it is one of 11 institutes launched by the National Science Foundation and among two funded by USDA-NIFA in 2021. It will be a multi-disciplinary, collaborative effort involving faculty and scientists with expertise in computer science, agriculture and agricultural outreach. Plus, the AgAID Institute will involve the people who will use the AI solutions—from farmers and workers to policy makers—in their development, said Ananth Kalyanaraman, a WSU computer science professor and PI for the Institute. Other Institute members are Oregon State University, UC Merced, University of Virginia, Carnegie Mellon University, Heritage University, Wenatchee Valley College and Kansas State University. Private sector partners include IBM Research and the startup
Maher Al Rwahnih Is New FPS Director
Foundation Plant Services (FPS) at UC Davis announced this month the appointment of Dr. Maher Al Rwahnih as the new FPS Director. Maher’s extensive work with clean stock programs and viral diseases of woody plants along with his development of advanced diagnostic tools make him uniquely suited to advance the mission of FPS. He joined FPS as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 2004, was promoted to Academic Administrator and, in 2016, became Director of Diagnostics and Research Laboratory. Maher is an expert in the diagnosis and control of infectious diseases of fruit trees and grapevines, specializing in the etiology, molecular characterization, and molecular diagnostics of virus diseases in those crops. He has established an important and highly productive national and international research program, and also serves as an instructor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology.
New Assistant Professor of Viticulture at Fresno State
The Fresno State Department of Viticulture and Enology recently welcomed Dr. Cliff Yu as its newest Assistant Professor of Viticulture. Cliff earned his Ph.D. in horticulture and agronomy at UC Davis and his master’s degree in viticulture and enology at Fresno State. Previously, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Oakville Research Station.
New ARS Vitis Repository Curator in Geneva, NY
In July, Dr. Erin Galarneau started her new appointment as the Vitis Repository Curator at the USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Geneva, NY, which is home to more than 1,400 cold hardy Vitis accessions. Erin comes to the unit from Dr. Andy Walker’s lab at UC Davis, where as a postdoc, she investigated metabolites and plant hormones involved with rootstock-induced resistance to grapevine fanleaf virus. She Erin earned her Ph.D. at UC Davis in collaboration with ARS, studying under Dr. Kendra Baumgartner of the USDA-ARS Crops Pathology and Genetics Research Unit on campus there.
Vote on New York Research Themes
The Research Committee of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, an NGRA member-organization, is working to enhance the quality, focus and transparency of the annual research program funded by the Foundation. To that end, the committee seeks additional review and comment from New York-based grape and wine industry members so it may finalize the proposed research themes and use those themes to solicit and select research proposals for funding in 2022. The proposed research theme areas span viticulture, enology and business management and are listed in full on the survey. Vote by September 30! The Foundation will release the final research themes in late December.
USDA-ARS Seeks a Research Leader in Parlier, CA
Applications are being accepted through September 10, 2021, for the Supervisory Research Plant Pathologist/Entomologist vacancy at the USDA-ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier, CA. The incumbent will serve as a Supervisory Research Plant Pathologist or Entomologist and as Research Leader of the Crop Diseases, Pests and Genetics Research Unit at the Center. See the complete details and apply. 
Intern on a Verjus Project in Texas
The Viticulture and Enology Team at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service seeks a full-time master's student to join the group for a two-year research project on "Verjus: A Natural Method to Improve Wine Acidity and Increase the Profitability of Grape Production in Texas." The main focus of this funded position is enology with an important viticulture component. The intern will study at Texas A&M's main campus in College Station, TX and travel to and perform research in Lubbock, TX, a few times a year. The start date is January 2022. There is no application deadline, but if interested, you’re encouraged to apply asap.
By Krisy Gashler, Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
At Cornell University, a collaboration between a biologist and an engineer is supercharging efforts to develop disease-resistant grape varieties. They're using computer vision, robotics and AI to identify grapevines infected with powdery mildew, the widespread fungal disease that costs grape growers worldwide billions of dollars annually in lost fruit and fungicide applications. The new tech will soon be available to researchers nationwide, and not just for grape research.

The biologist, Lance Cadle-Davidson, an Adjunct Professor at Cornell, also is a Research Plant Pathologist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the Grape Genetics Research Unit, located on Cornell's campus in Geneva, NY. He is a PI on the NGRA-supported, SCRI-funded VitisGen project, which has been working to develop grapevines' resistance to powdery mildew. But his lab's research was bottlenecked by the need to manually assess thousands of grape leaf samples for evidence of infection.

To assess the leaf samples more quickly, in partnership with the Light and Health Research Center, his team developed prototypes of imaging robots that could scan them automatically—a process called high-throughput phenotyping. Their collaboration resulted in a robotic camera they named "BlackBird."

But extracting relevant biological information from these images was still a critical need.

Enter the engineer and computer scientist: Yu Jiang, an Assistant Research Professor at Cornell AgriTech. Yu's research focuses on systems engineering, data analytics and artificial intelligence. As he explains, BlackBird can gather information at a scale of 1.2 micrometers per pixel, equivalent to a regular optical microscope. For each one-centimeter leaf sample being examined, the robot provides 8,000 by 5,000 pixels of information. Extracting useful information from such a large, high-resolution image was the challenge, and his team used AI to solve it.

Yu and his lab applied breakthroughs in deep neural networks developed for computer vision tasks like facial recognition to analyze the images. In addition, they implemented network inferential processes, which help biologists better understand the analysis process and build confidence with AI models. Working together, Lance's team tests and validates what the robots see, enabling Yu's team to teach the robots how to identify biological traits more effectively. They're also working to integrate AI more effectively with scientists in data analysis.

"It has revolutionized our science," Lance says. Not only is the process exponentially faster, he adds, but "we're finding that Yu's AI tools actually do a better job of explaining the genetics of these grapes than we can."

In July, the team was awarded $100,000 from the USDA-ARS to disseminate BlackBird units to other ARS labs that do high-throughput phenotyping work, not only in grapes but in other crops. "We hope to find collaborative labs who can join us in taking advantage of this tool," Yu says. "We see potential applications for this research in plant studies, animal fields or medical purposes."

The team also was awarded a two-year, $150,000 grant from the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture Research Innovation Fund to begin upgrading the BlackBird to see beyond the red-green-blue color spectrum and into infrared. Plant diseases like powdery mildew can show up in the infrared light spectrum before symptoms are visible to the naked eye. If researchers can develop tools to help farmers detect disease early, it would enable them to target treatments, like fungicide sprays, before infection spreads, meaning less fungicide, lower costs and fewer lost crops.

This article was excerpted/adapted from the original article, "Facial Recognition AI Helps Save Multibillion Dollar Grape Crop," published in the Cornell Chronicle on August 12, 2021.
Speak at the California Small Farm Conference
The 34th-annual California Small Farm Conference, February 27 to March 3, 2022, seeks proposals for the hybrid conference, featuring four days of webinars, videos and online forums, followed by a day of in-person gatherings hosted in California agricultural communities. Whether you’re a new farmer, an ag educator or a local food activist, you’re invited to submit a workshop proposal for next year’s conference by October 1, 2021.
Become a Peer Review Panelist
USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) seeks qualified individuals to serve on peer review panels for grant applications. NIFA convenes peer review panels comprised of research, education, extension and other subject matter experts to review competitive grant proposals. Panelist duties include reviewing proposals, drafting and submitting individual scores and written reviews, and attending and participating in a panel meeting. NIFA needs your service to ensure its peer review panels have the required expertise, while remaining inclusive, representative and diverse. Interested? Learn more.
Funding Opportunities
Sharpen your pencils! These grant programs have upcoming deadlines.
NSF CISE Research Initiation Initiative
With its Research Initiation Initiative, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) seeks to award grants intended to support research independence among early-career academicians who lack access to adequate organizational or other resources. Applicants for this program may not yet have received any other federal grants as a PI. This program is specifically geared to providing essential resources to enable early-career PIs to launch their research careers. Apply by September 20, 2021.

NCR-SARE Programs
Two grant programs of the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education are now accepting applications:

  • The Research and Education Grant program supports sustainable agriculture innovators with competitive research and education grants of up to $250,000. The agency anticipates that roughly $3.5 million will be available, with individual grants not to exceed $250,000 total for projects lasting up to three years. The deadline is October 7, 2021.
  • The Partnership Grant program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Individual grants are limited to $40,000. A total of approximately $720,000 is available for this program. The deadline is October 21, 2021.

USDA-NIFA Farm of the Future
The Farm of the Future program seeks to establish an agricultural test bed for precision agriculture, smart automation, data connectivity and transfer, and to demonstrate best practices in climate-smart agriculture, forestry and animal production systems that enhance sustainability and farm profitability. The test bed will evaluate digital and smart technologies to provide accessible, data-driven solutions that support resilient agricultural and value-added practices. Applications are due October 15, 2021.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
This Graduate Research Fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students pursuing full-time, research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The program provides three years of support over a five-year fellowship period. NSF specifically encourages women, persons who are members of groups historically underrepresented in STEM, persons with disabilities, veterans and undergraduate seniors to apply. The deadline is October 19, 2021.
August 23, 2021 | National Geographic
A new study finds that smoke from wildfires could be making it harder for clouds to drop rain and alleviate drought, creating a "very scary" feedback loop.

August 18, 2021 | The New York Times
The Biden administration is banning chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used pesticides, because it's been linked to brain damage in children. Accordingly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will publish a regulation to block its use; it will take effect in six months.

August 18, 2021 | W42ST
The spotted lanternfly has landed in New York City.

August 17, 2021 | KCUR, National Public Radio in Kansas City
Love French and Napa wine? You can thank two Missourians. Charles Valentine Riley, the state's first entomologist, and George Husmann, a winemaker from Hermann, MO, helped stop the "Great French Wine Blight" (phylloxera). And Husmann, known as the father of commercial grape growing in MO, later helped found the Napa Valley wine region.

August 16, 2021 | WSU Insider
This wildfire season, Washington State University scientists are using air quality sensors in vineyards throughout the state to collect smoke density data to better predict where to expect wildfire smoke and how much smoke it takes to affect fruit quality.

August 13, 2021 | Wine Australia
Wine Australia is trialing technology from AirborneLogic to advance precision viticulture. The company uses UAV-based infrared and hyperspectral imagery to render precision vineyard maps and vine health assessment via an online portal that allows growers to compare canopy variability.

August 13, 2021 | Wine Australia
A just-completed study led by the University of Adelaide's Vinay Pagay sheds new light on optimizing irrigation scheduling. Significantly, he says, the research provides quantitative estimates of grapevine water use throughout the growing season based on both direct and indirect measurements for the first time.

August 12, 2021 | Western Farm Press
There's more than one way to dry a grape...and a bunch of ways to improve conditions for ripening and drying grapes into raisins. UC Davis' Matt Fidelibus explains how vineyard nutrition, irrigation, sanitation and more can impact raisin production.

August 12, 2021 | National Science Foundation
A newly published study analyzed the rate at which plant specimens could be reliably photographed, digitized and databased to assess the cost of bringing herbaria collections online. PI Joey Shaw of the University of Tennessee noted that, previously, no robust framework for this work existed.

August 11, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
A dozen ag tech companies have joined in a "big tent" effort led by Western Growers to use common platforms to accelerate development of automated harvest solutions for specialty crops. Called the Global Harvest Automation Initiative, it helps overcome "the challenge automation companies run into," the CEO of Burro, a participant, describes as "this absurd risk of these complicated endeavors and these small markets that are unattractive to investors."

August 10, 2021 | The Drinks Business
A group of German scientists is using mid-infrared spectroscopy (vs. the more common near-infrared band) for the rapid, non-destructive assessment of grape quality, then applying AI to "allow raw materials to be characterized and digitalized simultaneously."

August 9, 2021 | The New York Times
Eating colorful fruits (like grapes) and veggies may help stave off dementia. The results of a long-term, large-scale study finds that flavonoids, the compounds that impart color, may help curb cognitive decline. Plant foods that are rich in flavonoids "are the foods you should be eating for brain health," said one researcher.

August 6, 2021 | Union-Bulletin
Extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest is taking a toll on vineyards. In the Walla Walla AVA, fruit is significantly smaller than normal, cutting some vineyards' tonnage in half, and grapes have higher sugars and lower acids than normal. "If there's a silver lining, it’s that the wine they produce may be proportionately more flavorful," said Joel Perez of Walla Walla Community College.

August 4, 2021 | University of Minnesota Extension Fruit and Vegetable News
University of Minnesota Extension reports a blanket of "unhealthy concentrations of wildfire smoke" from fires burning in the northern parts of the state and Canada. Here, they discuss impacts including diffuse solar radiation, increased ozone and possible plant stress.

August 3, 2021 | The New York Times
A new study says these five countries are the best places to be if climate change brings societal collapse. The selection criteria for these "nodes of persisting complexity" do not include grape and wine production, but in several of the top picks, you’d be able to get a good glass of wine. (Read the journal article here.)

August 2021 | AgEcon Search
A new study shows that consumers' willingness to pay for conventionally bred table grapes vs. those developed using gene editing increases as their knowledge about gene editing increases. "Consumers appear to be more accepting of food developed using gene editing," the authors write.

July 28, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
There are plenty of wineries in metro Detroit, but vineyards are scarce. And vineyards growing non-vinifera winegrapes are even scarcer. NGRA member Youngblood Vineyard growsand makes beautiful wines fromcold-hardy varieties from University of Minnesota. Despite killing spring freezes as in 2020 and 2021, Jessica Youngblood, who serves on NGRA's Board of Directors, has great faith in cold-hardy varieties and their role in the future of Michigan wine.

July 26, 2021 | SevenFifty Daily
Fukuoka-inspired viticulture, named for the late Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, "makes biodynamic and organic farming seem interventionist—conventional, even." A grapegrower in Willamette Valley, Tai-Ran Niew, farms five acres of chardonnay this way. "I use sun, air, and rainwater," he says. In five or six years, he hopes to make an estate wine. But with so few adopting this approach with winegrowing, "there’s simply no data to bank on."

July 14, 2021 | WSU Weeders of the West
An Oregon State University study explored the efficacy of six mechanical under-vine cultivators. "No single piece of equipment will control all weed species or be compatible with all vineyard layouts," says PI Marcelo Moretti. Across all the implements tested, soil water content (in Oregon's silt clay soil) was the best predictor of success.

June 28, 2021 | The Guardian
Can an autonomous tractor or weeding robot simultaneously improve your soil health? Draught horses can. (And there's research to prove it.)

June 4, 2021 | Modern Farmer
In Texas, cotton is often grown close to vineyards. There, in the High Plains AVA, 57 grape growers have filed suit against Bayer-Monsanto and BASF saying they "saw their highly productive vineyards wither and, in some cases, die as a result of the dicamba-resistant seed system's use on over 2 million surrounding acres of cotton." Some cite a 90% reduction in yield due to dicamba drift.

May 17, 2021 | Minnesota Arboretum Magazine
Grapevines are a highly preferred host plant for Japanese beetles, but scientists at the University of Minnesota find that the pest doesn't feed on all vines equally. Might there be some genes at play that confer resistance?

April 1, 2021 | Cornell Chronicle
A Cornell-led study shows that the productivity of global farming is down 21% due to climate change. Putting that in context, PI Ariel Ortiz-Bobea says, "Climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years."

Find these stories and more, published daily, on NGRA's Facebook and Twitter feeds.
September 7, 2021
Virtual event

September 7, 2021
Lodi, CA

October 18-November 30, 2021
Central Coast, CA, and virtual sessions

October 31-November 5, 2021
Virtual event

November 9-10, 2021
Dripping Springs, TX

November 10, 2021
Davis, CA, and livestream webinar

November 18, 2021
NGRA End-of-Year Board Meeting
Via Zoom

November 30-December 2, 2021
Montpellier, France

December 3, 2021
College Station, TX

December 13-15, 2021
Corvallis, OR

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.

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