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

Signs of hope
If you know NGRA Board member Vicky Scharlau, who leads Washington Winegrowers, you know she "calls a spade a spade." So, when she posts her "new favorite quote" on social media, you listen. What she shared was this: "Now is the time to understand more, so that we can fear less," by Marie Curie. Certainly, as epidemiologists and virologists race to understand COVID-19, and develop treatments and a vaccine, Madame Curie's words perfectly capture this moment in science. But it got me to thinking...
In This Issue
In addition to being the first person to win two Nobel Prizes (the first in Physics, the second in Chemistry), Marie Curie  discovered (and ultimately died from exposure to) radioactivity, and she championed the development of X-rays for surgery. In fact, during World War I, she helped to equip ambulances with portable X-ray machines and often drove them to the front line herself. Those devices came to be known as "Little Curies."
There are parallels in Madame Curie's work to our research. Today, in viticulture, we seek to use and improve technologies (sensors, many of which are portable) to extend or deepen our view into vine and soil health, pest and disease issues, and quality, yield and other production metrics. This research (and other ongoing studies) are vital to the advancement of the grape and wine industry, and " proof" as Marie Curie also famously said, "that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it." To those outside the grape and wine industry, our work may not be deemed essential. To us, it is critical.
And so we cheer the scientists who made sure to "bring the bench home," as one article below quips, and endeavored to retool their workplans--and workplaces--to keep their research alive under shelter-in-place orders. We appreciate the administrators working with state and local officials to understand when and how faculty and students can return to campus, and labs can reopen and research can begin again (even if slowed by social-distancing requirements). And we applaud the vineyard and greenhouse workers who showed up to maintain research plots and experimental populations, under mask-and-glove conditions. You have ensured that grape research continues.
You don't have to rush into battle or win a Nobel Prize (or two) to make a difference. But based on the hope, creativity, adaptability and perseverance displayed in the community of people who believe in science as a means to advance our industry, it seems there's a little Curie in all of us. And thankfully, there are the Vicky Scharlaus of the world to help us remember that!
Donnell Brown
The American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) is launching a webinar series on invasive pests, starting next Wednesday, June 3. Up first is Heather Leach , an extension associate with a focus in entomology at Penn State, University Park, discussing the spotted lanternfly. The one -hour webinars are free to ASEV members and $50 per webinar for non-members , and are planned for June, July, October and November. See the schedule and sign up for next week's webinar now.
Also, ASEV is seeking video presentations from student scientists. Normally, students give talks at the organization's national conference in June, and thereby compete for the Best Student Presentation Awards. Since the conference was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year's awards will be video-based. Video submissions are due on June 15. There are cash prizes for the top three winners!
Director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Dr. J. Scott Angle, is leaving the agency, beginning a new role as Vice President for the University of Florida College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in July 2020. An Acting Director based in Washington, D.C., will be appointed.
Dr. Parag Chitnis has been appointed to the position of Associate Director for Programs. Dr. Chitnis has served as the Interim Associate Director for Programs since May 2020, alongside his duties as Deputy Director of the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability. Dr. Chitnis will continue to serve as the acting Associate Director for Operations.
Dr. Scott Bradford has been appointed as Research Leader for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service new Sustainable Agricultural Water Systems (SAWS) Research Unit in Davis, CA, effective May 1. Under Scott's direction, this newly formed unit will work to optimize agricultural water availability and use in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Scott comes to the SAWSRU from the USDA-ARS Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, CA, where he has worked as a Research Soil Scientist since 2000. Read more about Scott (note that this bio has not yet been updated with Scott's new role).
We were very sorry to learn of the passing of Professor Emeritus Dave Smart of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis on April 29. Dr. Smart's research program focused on rootstock root physiology and soil nutrient cycling. He retired from the department last year. We're indebted to Dr. Smart for his countless research contributions.
Hats off to Washington State Wine Commission, an NGRA member-organization, which has allocated more than $1.2 million for viticulture and enology research in fiscal year 2020-21. The research program's goal is to improve the state's overall wine quality by addressing vineyard and winery challenges. Browse the more than 25 projects (up nearly 15% from last year) the Commission is funding.
A posthumous gift by San Joaquin Valley native Donald Emil Gumz will be recognized with the naming of the enology building at Fresno State's Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology in his honor. The Donald E. Gumz Enology Building houses the to-be-renovated research winery. A portion of the gift also will support the university's Center for Irrigation Technology.
The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) has extended the Vineyard Development and Expansion Program, with applications accepted through December 31. Managed by the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, VA, the program provides growers throughout TRRC's 34-county footprint incentives to expand their vineyard acreage. Through a cost-share program with awards of up to $3,000 per acre, IALR will continue to work with Virginia Cooperative Extension, TRRC and the Virginia Vineyards Association to increase vineyard acreage and address the shortage of Virginia-grown grapes.  See complete details.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a final rule updating and modernizing its biotechnology regulations under the Plant Protection Act. The Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule will bring USDA's plant biotechnology regulations into the 21st century by removing duplicative and antiquated processes in order to facilitate the development and availability of these technologies through a transparent, consistent, science-based, and risk-proportionate regulatory system. This new rule will help provide America's farmers (and scientists) access to these critical tools to help increase agricultural productivity and sustainability, improve the nutritional value and quality of crops, combat pests and diseases, and enhance food safety.
This is "the first significant update to our plant biotechnology regulations in more than three decades,"  said Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The USDA's previous regulations focused on whether a plant pest was used in the development of a plant using genetic engineering and required a lengthy deregulation process for those plants that did not pose increased pest risk. After 30 years of experience, USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulatory scientists know that simply using a plant pest in the development of a plant does not necessarily cause the plant to pose a risk to plant health. Thus, the final rule puts in place a more efficient process to identify plants that would be subject to regulation, focusing on the properties of the plant rather than on its method of production. 
APHIS will evaluate plants developed using genetic engineering for plant pest risk under a new process called a regulatory status review, regulating only those that plausibly pose an increased plant pest risk. This updated process aligns with the President's Executive Order for Modernizing Biotechnology and the  Coordinated Framework for Biotechnology, and will ensure the regulations keep pace with the latest science and technological advances, reduce regulatory burdens for developers of plants developed using genetic engineering that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks, and ensure that agency resources are better focused on the prevention of plant pest risk. 
See the complete overview of the SECURE Rule, including effective dates for each of its provisions and a description of the implementation process.  
This report is based on the USDA press release issued May 14. See the original release.
Act fast for the following grant programs.

Crops of the Future
Through its Crops of the Future Collaborative, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is providing research funding to develop transformative tools and technologies that allow scientists to rapidly introduce new traits into multiple crop species (e.g., projects may not be specific to a single crop, like grapes). Crops species covered under this funding opportunity are those that are well-suited for sustainable agriculture, valuable for human nutrition and considered an under-appreciated crop that has not benefited from rapid breeding methods. The deadline for applications is July 8. See the complete request for proposals.
Plant Biotic Interactions Program
The Plant Biotic Interactions (PBI) program supports research on processes that mediate beneficial and antagonistic interactions between plants and their viral, bacterial, oomycete, fungal, plant, and invertebrate symbionts, pathogens and pests. This joint National Science Foundation (NSF) - USDA-NIFA program supports projects focused on current and emerging model and non-model systems and agriculturally relevant plants. For more information, read the PBI funding opportunity. Proposals are accepted anytime.
Equipment Grant Program
The Equipment Grant Program (EGP) serves to increase access to shared-use special purpose equipment/instruments for fundamental and applied research for use in the food and agricultural sciences programs at institutions of higher education, including State Cooperative Extension Systems. The program seeks to strengthen the quality and expand the scope of fundamental and applied research at eligible institutions, by providing them with opportunities to acquire one major piece of equipment/instruments that support their research, training, and extension goals and may be too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NIFA grant programs. Deadline is June 23. Learn more.

May 21, 2020 | Vineyard Team
"The silhouette of a falcon in the air triggers instinctual fear" in pest birds, like sparrows and starlings, that can decimate a vineyard at veraison, says master falconer Jake Messinger in this podcast from the Vineyard Team. "There just isn't anything that works better than using falcons for deterring birds."
May 19, 2020 | KQED
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dr. Rodrigo Krugner has been studying the vibrations sharpshooters use to mate. Now, he's developed an electromagnetic shaker that simulates their signals and disrupts mating. "I thought, 'I'm going to be the dominant female out there. That way I can just shut up all the real ones on the vine,'" Krugner said. "And sure enough, that's what happened." The males ignored the real female sharpshooters on the grapevine and ended up not mating at all.
May 18, 2020 | Growing Produce
Now retired, Dr. David Ramming developed varieties of table grapes that are grown around the world and account for 50% of Grapes From California. In his keynote address at the International Table Grape Symposium in February, he noted, "Breeding is still a 'numbers game.'" Breeders must have clear objectives, act decisively and focus only on selections that are better than existing varieties, he said.
May 13, 2020 | The Scientist
If you're a scientist running experiments on your kitchen table, you'll find a lot to relate to in these tales of colleagues keeping research going as they're working from home.
May 13, 2020 | Wine Business Monthly
Michael David Winery is supporting research that affects us all: developing tests to measure antibodies of people who've recovered from COVID-19. Sales of the winery's Going Viral Merlot will help fund this work by UC Santa Cruz professor Rebecca DuBois, daughter of Michael David co-founder Michael Phillips.
May 10, 2020 | BioRxiv
Dr. Dan Chitwood of Michigan State University has paired Galet-inspired and Procrustean methods to advance modern ampelography. In this newly published paper, he uses wine and table grape leaves (more than 9,500 of them!) to develop the system, demonstrating how it can increase accuracy in predicting variety and can be used within a predictive statistical framework.
May 8, 2020 | Wine Business Monthly
At the web-based Vineyard Economics Symposium mechanization was a hot topic. Beyond harvest, the percentage of management tasks that are mechanized per California region varies widely. But for the "no-touch vineyard" at the UC Davis Oakville Research Station, the savings can be as high as 86%, said Dr. Kaan Kurtural, and the break-even point just 18 months. Another speaker, Greg Gonzalez of Scheid Vineyards, noted that time savings isn't a driver. "Grapes take the same amount of time to manage regardless of the mode of management," he said. "But we are using fewer people (and) those people are getting more hours." In this way, Scheid has more vineyard tasks performed by staff workers, and fewer by outside resources they compete for.
May 6, 2020 | Science
Many universities are looking ahead to reopening labs, but reduced occupancy, inconsistent regulations, limited access to supervisors, time and samples lost, and more may make it difficult to restart research.
May 6, 2020 | Growing Produce
Led by Dr. Ali Pourreza, researchers at the Digital Agriculture Laboratory at UC Davis are using drones for remote sensing for nutrient status in table grapes, and creating an automated web-based aerial image processing and analytics pipeline to convert the raw image data into actionable information. The goal is to provide an online tool growers can use themselves for precision farming. "Looking at all those pictures takes a lot of time. Computers can do it many times faster," Dr. Pourreza says. "We will make those models available on our website. Growers will be able to access them, which will allow them to make sense of their own data."
May 4, 2020 | Good Fruit Grower
"The mother of all Cabernet trials" is underway in the Red Hills-Lake County AVA in California, encompassing 100 clone/rootstock combinations, covering 3.5 acres, and 3,600 vines and data points. The goal is to identify genetic variations such as drought tolerance that will enable more effective and sustainable water use while also producing high-quality fruit and wine. The trial is hosted by Beckstoffer Vineyards.
May 2, 2020 | The New York Times
American honeybees are under threat from the Asian Giant Hornet, now with two sightings in Washington State and others in British Columbia and on Vancouver Island. The miles of wooded landscapes and mild, wet climate there are ideal for the hornet's spread. Its venomous sting is uncommonly deep (piercing even beekeepers' suits and underlying clothes), painful and sometimes fatal.
May 1, 2020 | Spirited Magazine
Moving from row crops that are managed by the acre to vineyards that are managed per vine, sensors and data management technology are growing on grape growers. (Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory, Cornell AgriTech, National Grape Research Alliance and several technology providers are mentioned.)
April 29, 2020 | Wine Business Monthly
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service is partnering with UC Davis, Oregon State University and Washington State University on a collaborative $2 million effort on grape smoke exposure research. The states' grower groups -- California Association of Winegrape Growers, Oregon Wine and Washington Winegrowers -- collaborated to realize the appropriations for this much-needed research.
April 28, 2020 | Scientific American
CRISPR revolutionized gene editing. Here, one of its founders, Dr. Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley, talks about what's next for the technology. One advance, she says, is to develop ways of using programmable enzymes, not to cut DNA, but to trigger a chemical change to it, reducing the chance the cell will make an undesired change.
April 22, 2020 | Western Farm Press
It's not only what you spray, but how you spray it! Or as UC Agriculture & Natural Resources puts it, "Success of a selected product doesn't depend strictly on its active ingredient or even its mode of action, its efficacy is affected by when-and how-it's applied." Sprayer maintenance and calibration, the pH of the water mixed with your pesticide, and more can make a difference.
Find these stories and more, published as we find them, on the NGRA Facebook page.
June 2-4, 2020
Washington DC

Joint conference of ASEV and ASEV-Eastern Section
Portland, OR
Friday, June 19, 2020
NGRA Mid-Year Board Meeting 
Via Zoom
July 9, 2020
Via Zoom
July 12-17, 2020
International Cool Climate Wine Symposium 2020  - POSTPONED TO 2021
Ontario, Canada

August 27, 2020 (Could be postponed to April 2021)

August 27, 2020
Paso Robles, CA

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.