April 2019
Advancing research to maximize the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness
 of the American grape industries.

April brought the 2019 National Viticulture & Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC) and two demonstrations of variable-rate shoot-thinning from the Efficient Vineyard project in California. Both are examples of how NGRA works to support outreach and extension: NVEELC helps to improve and enrich the function of extension, outreach and education and strengthen the connection among the people who serve in these important roles. And the demos illustrate the invaluable technology transfer that can occur when research results are communicated to the industry. We were thrilled to be a part of both events.
In This Issue
On April 7-10, NVEELC 2019 gathered 40 extension and outreach specialists from 16 states and 30 grape-growing regions in Fredericksburg, the heart of the Texas Hill Country. Hailing from New York to New Mexico and many states in between and beyond, attendees represented a terrific mix of viticulture and enology professionals-some who are newer to their roles and other seasoned veterans who have been attending and guiding NVEELC from the beginning-all learning from one another. Read more about NVEELC 2019 and see a selection of photos here.
NVEELC 2019 was co-hosted by Ed Hellman (Texas Tech University) and Justin Schreiner (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension). It was made possible by these event and travel scholarship sponsors: California Table Grape Commission, E. & J. Gallo Winery, High Plains Winegrowers Association, Inland Desert Nursery, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, National Grape Research Alliance, Novavine, Scott Laboratories, Texas Hill Country Wineries, Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association and Virginia Wine Board.
A few days earlier, in Soledad, CA, the SCRI-funded Efficient Vineyard project kicked off its first-ever demonstration in California (see image above). On April 5, Principal Investigator Dr. Terry Bates of Cornell University put into action the spatial-data-driven variable-rate vineyard management techniques and technology he and his team developed, here focused on shoot thinning. A second demo of variable-rate shoot-thinning took place on April 23, at an E. & J. Gallo ranch in the Borden Hills AVA near Lodi. Altogether, about 100 people attended these events.
Terry worked with the viticulture team at both vineyards to compose maps of vineyard vigor (NDVI) for each site and calibrate the maps against manual shoot counts. He then generated predicted spatial shoot count maps and used that data to complete prescription maps for the mechanized shoot thinner to follow automatically.  Watch this video from the Scheid demo to see how it worked. And scroll down to a report from Terry on how Efficient Vineyard is making sense of sensors.
Both NVEELC and the Efficient Vineyard demos were fantastic events, representing years of effort and investment. NVEELC 2019 was the 16th annual event the community has put on, each in a unique location with new and renewed relationships among colleagues. And Efficient Vineyard began as an NGRA-funded pilot project 10 years ago. It's gratifying to see the effort and ingenuity paying off. We're proud to have had a role in both!
Donnell Brown
*Photo courtesy of the Efficient Vineyard team
On May 23 and 24, a delegation of NGRA Board members will travel to Washington, D.C., to visit with administrators of federal agencies that impact grape research, including the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the National Science Foundation. Items on the agenda include NIFA's pending move, the new ARS Water Research Unit in California and recent appropriations for a new Grape Genetics Research Unit lab, and general questions (particularly for FFAR and NSF) about how NGRA can work more closely with these agencies to advance research for the grape and wine industries. The Delegation to DC is an NGRA-member benefit and immediately follows the Winegrape Growers National Policy Conference. (See Upcoming Events below.)
As reported in our March newsletter, the new Farm Bill 2018 reinstated the 1:1 matching funding requirement for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), a primary source of grant funds for grape research. A last-minute insertion by Congress, the requirement has become a thorny issue. But since it was signed into law with the bill in December, it will now require a legislative fix, likely in 2020. The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA), of which NGRA is a member, is working toward a resolution. Fellow SCFBA member, the American Society for Horticultural Science, gives a good summary in its March/April policy update : "While undoubtedly a benefit having additional SCRI funding for fiscal years 2019 through 2023, 1:1 matching could severely hamper opportunities for many potential research projects. Not just SCRI, but AFRI, SARE and other competitive grant programs. This may be the only major glitch in a bill that otherwise continues successful provisions from the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bill reauthorization measures."
New technologies, such as inexpensive sensors, digital imaging, geographical information systems and precision machinery are converging to make precision viticulture possible. A new two-day program and vineyard tour this July, named for Nelson Shaulis, a pioneer of the principles of vine physiology that form the basis of modern viticulture, will focus on the tools, concepts and platforms for putting it all together to manage vineyards.
Entitled "Digital Viticulture: New Tools for Precision Management," this year's Shaulis Symposium will be held as part of the annual American Society for Viticulture and Enology-Eastern Section (ASEV-ES) conference at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY, July 16-18. The ASEV-ES conference, featuring presentations on enology and viticulture from students and researchers of the Eastern Section, will take place on Tuesday, July 16. A vineyard tour and demonstrations will be held on Wednesday, July 17, and will include variable-rate shoot thinning, mechanical crop estimation, yield monitors, sensors for measuring soil and canopy characteristics, UAV and tractor-mounted imaging systems, and tools for canopy management. The Shaulis Symposium on July 18 will focus on applying viticultural principles to address within-vineyard variability.
Registration options for each day are available. Conference, vineyard tour and symposium information is available at
Winners of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance Green Medal Awards represent leadership among the state's  wineries and vineyards committed to sustainability. The awards are presented by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, California Association of Winegrape Growers, Wine Institute, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma County Winegrowers and the Vineyard Team.  The 2019 award recipients are: Silver Oak Cellars, Scheid Family Wines, Smith Family Wines and Domaine Carneros. Click to learn which award each earned and why!
Extension specialists from the University of Georgia, North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech collaborated to make a 3' x 4' picture- and information-intensive winegrape vineyard management poster to help guide southeastern growers in their management practices throughout the growing season. Introduced in January 2019, the poster is printed on high-quality waterproof paper, suitable for hanging in vineyard shops and sheds. It highlights important cultural and insect and disease management practices based on phenological (vine growth) stage. It is now being translated into Spanish. Check out this handy resource here.

By Dr. Terry Bates, Cornell AgriTech, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University
The end goal for the SCRI Efficient Vineyard (EV) project is to achieve "spatial-data-driven variable-rate vineyard crop-load management." It is a mouthful of a statement! Basically, it means that we gather spatial data from sensors, translate it into information, calibrate it against desired outcomes and layer all of that into a prescription map of the vineyard that reveals its non-uniformity. We enable those maps to "talk" to the mechanized tractor-based tools you use so that they automatically adjust in response to the non-uniformity of the site. Thus, we can manage that vineyard such that it produces the quality and/or quantity of fruit desired, consistently, across the whole vineyard, mechanically. In short, we are putting sensors to work.
What is this technology good for? No two vineyards are the same, and no two vineyard
managers are the same. This project has worked in wine, table and juice grape vineyards, in different growing regions and with varying vineyard economic goals. It has been interesting to see how different vineyard managers approach precision viticulture technology. Because there is no "one size fits all" solution, we oriented the EV project to a measure-model-manage approach. That means, what you measure spatially, such as soil, canopy or crop characteristics; what level of complexity you can or want to achieve with your spatial data modeling (e.g., block by block, row by row, or vine by vine); and what attribute(s) you choose to manage in the vineyard, either manually or mechanically, is at your discretion.
Making sense of sensors. Nature is inherently heterogeneous. But most growers are trying to produce uniform vine growth and fruit quality  despite the variation. Spatial sensor data allow us to define that natural variation and manage against it.
The EV project uses electronic, reflectance, image and physical sensors to measure various aspects of vineyard soil, canopy, crop or juice quality. The catch is that all of these sensors operate as an indirect or relative indicator and not a direct measure of vineyard attributes, such as yield or vine size. Sensor calibration to your vineyard attribute of choice-cluster weight, berry color, you name it-is critical to translating sensor signals into viticulture information. The EV project routinely uses spatial-data-directed sampling over random vineyard sampling to ensure the translation tracks with your intentions. From there, we integrate the data to form a management plan.
All validated spatial vineyard data are processed in a way that allows for both visual and mathematical comparison. "In this vineyard, are there relationships between the soil pattern, water availability, canopy growth, yield, and juice soluble solids? Which relationships are strongest? Why does section X not follow the same relationship? Should we consider managing that section differently (a.k.a., differential or variable rate management)?"
Armed with this data, we create digital prescription maps to manage for the variation. Commercially available precision agriculture hardware/software is used to read the prescription shapefiles (a popular file format for geospatial data) and control the mechanized tractor-mounted implements through variable-rate hydraulic flow. What does this look like in the field? The vineyard employee simply drives the tractor while the technology applies the variable rate management automatically. The outcome is a very efficient vineyard.
The SCRI-funded Efficient Vineyard project concludes this fall, so the big question is, have we succeeded on our end goal, to achieve spatial-data-driven variable-rate vineyard crop-load management? Absolutely. We have used both variable rate mechanical shoot thinning and fruit thinning to improve spatial vineyard balance in project vineyard plots. Doing so has required multiple sensor technologies, new sampling strategies, spatial data processing, vineyard management integration, precision agriculture hardware and software, and variable-rate capable vineyard equipment. In true research fashion, the future of vineyard management has been duct-taped together, both literally and figuratively, from commercially available hardware, new prototype sensors, multiple software and freeware platforms, and modified mechanized vineyard equipment. The remaining challenge will be to develop this technology for practical commercial application. Hopefully, more to come on that!
The Efficient Vineyard project has had many accomplishments along the way. Read more about the team's milestones and how the technology can be used to identify instances where it wouldn't be worthwhile. (Yes, you read that right!)

Grants for Extension Tech
The New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) Competitive Grants Program provides funding for a cooperative agreement that contributes to "Enhancing Electronic Extension (E3)," a national web-based information and education delivery system. E3 engages land-grant institutions and the Cooperative Extension Service to provide objective, scientific information to the public that answers questions and guides decisions. By creating web-based access to high-quality, non-duplicative, research-based information, E3 can help better serve the needs of the public seeking real-time information. Applications for this USDA-NIFA program are due June 6, 2019. Get complete details here.

April 24, 2019 | Decanter
Research on master sommeliers' brains indicate that
studying the olfactory characteristics in wine--and therefore having excellent sensory recall--is good for your brain. Somms with longer careers had thicker, healthier tissue in the entorhinal cortex, a.k.a the brain's memory hub. Such a muscular brain could help stave off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
April 16, 2019 | Growing Produce
New research from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences shows that the spotted lanternfly is not a strong or frequent flier and thus can't travel long distances by air. When is it motivated to cast itself into the wind (its method of flight)? When it's hungry.
April 15, 2019 | The New Yorker
This thoughtful article focuses on the prospect of robotically harvesting strawberries--one of the most delicate specialty crops. But it also covers broader issues of mechanization, such as STEM skills education for the children of farm workers. "If the future of farming is automation, farmers will not only need the machines, they will also require a new class of skilled farm workers who can debug them when something goes wrong." The UC Davis Smart Farm Initiative, which explores how future farmers might employ emerging technologies, gets a great shout-out too.
April 15, 2019 | UCNAR
"We have proven beyond a doubt that an older vineyard can be converted to mechanization," said Kaan Kurtural, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. "There is no loss in yield during conversion, and post-conversion yield is better and fruit quality is equivalent to or better than hand-managed vines." And the cost savings? Enviable. Click to read more about the results of this three-year study.
April 14, 2019 | Kyodo News
Japanese table grape growers have discovered how to imprint images on grape skins. Transparent stickers applied to the berries prior to coloring block off the sunlight and leave whitish marks on the skin. The "message-bearing" grapes are expected to be commercially available this fall in Japan.
April 11, 2019 | Wine Business International
Global outbreaks have been reported of a new, deadly drug-resistant fungal infection related to the fungus Candida Auris, now on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's list of "urgent threats." Some scientists say it may be linked to agricultural fungicides, some of which are used in viticulture. Can they be replaced?
April 10, 2019 | Western Farm Press
Scientists at Oregon State University and Washington State University have projects aimed at various aspects of vineyard mechanization, including assessing vine performance in hand vs. machine harvesting, tools for crop estimation and precision shoot thinning, and economic data to help determine growers determine the feasibility and profitability of adopting new technologies.
April 1, 2019 | Science Daily
No cure has yet been found for citrus greening, but researchers at Point Loma Nazarene University and UC Riverside have identified a fungal compound that may inhibit growth of its causative bacteria. It's the result of work on Pierce's disease in grapevines--and could help with both diseases.
March 27, 2019 | News Life Sciences
An "art" exhibit hosted by the hosted by the Czech Republic's National Wine Centre gives wine lovers new perspective on viticulture and enology.

March 26, 2019  | PLOS ONE
New research holds promise for a biocontrol for the esca disease complex, for which no treatment has yet been found. A team of scientists in Italy found that inoculation with Epicoccum (specifically E. layuense E24), a genus of fungus found in the soil and wood of grapevines, showed a considerable decrease (up to 82%) in symptomatology caused by esca-associated pathogens.
March 12, 2019 | KQED
Scientists at Oregon State University are investigating a new tactic in the war on the brown marmorated stink bug: the samurai wasp. In the bugs' native Asia, this parasitic wasp wipes out up to 90% of the stink bug population by colonizing their eggs. OSU researchers are hoping to release a critical mass of the wasps in the state this summer to see if this biocontrol takes off.
March 1, 2019 | G3 Journal
The Cantu Lab at UC Davis successfully  used single molecule-real time sequencing  to sequence full-length cDNA (Iso-Seq) to reconstruct the transcriptome of Cabernet Sauvignon berries during berry ripening. With results similar to those obtained after mapping on a complete genome reference, this work shows that Iso-Seq can circumvent the necessity of a genome reference--and its associated costs and computational weight.
March 2019 | American Vineyard
Conventional grape breeding can take thousands of seedlings and 6 years or more to produce a single new variety--a far longer and more tedious process than for commodity crops. Marker-assisted breeding can greatly accelerate the process for grape, as amply demonstrated by the VitisGen2 team, which has ID'ed more than 70 markers for disease resistance and fruit quality traits. It's big news for all grapes, but may help wine grape breeders most of all. Why? Click to this explanation to find out!
Find these stories and more, published as we find them, on the NGRA Facebook page.

May 20-22, 2019
Washington, D.C.
May 23-24, 2019
NGRA Delegation to D.C.
Washington, D.C.
June 6-7, 2019
U.S. Sustainable Winegrowing Summit West
Sonoma County, CA
June 17-20, 2019
Napa, CA
June 23-28, 2019
Thessaloniki, Greece
June 25, 2019
Sonoma, CA
July 10, 2019
Washington Wine Commission's WAVEx 
Woodinville, WA
July 7-12, 2019
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
July 19, 2019
NGRA Mid-Year Board Meeting
Geneva, NY
Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.