November 2018
Advancing research to maximize the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness
 of the American grape industries.

One last load of grapes arrives at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

"No rest for the weary" is an expression that seems especially apt for agriculture. Sure, the endurance athletes among you (including me, once) may beg to differ. But farming-especially now, as harvest for the grape and wine industry is complete-is an industry where the work is never done, the moment to savor what you've accomplished is fleeting, and the time to start again is now.
In This Issue
In many ways, research is the same.
The NGRA Board of Directors meets three times a year. Our most recent Board meeting, at beautiful J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines (above) in Paso Robles, CA, on November 12, was the last one for 2018. But it was the first time that Board members who serve as Regional and Commodity Sector Representatives did a round-robin download about the top-of-mind concerns in their respective areas. Growers in the rain-soaked East must manage too much water while their colleagues in the dry-and burning-West are seeking laser-focused irrigation solutions. In Ohio, they're combatting herbicide drift while in Oregon, some are pledging to go 100% herbicide-free. And depending on where you are, you're either fighting mildew that's downy or powdery, and winged pests that are spotted or mealy. If you're large, you're seeking whole-vineyard mechanization and if you're small, you'd love to automate as many tasks as possible without breaking the bank. The needs for research are diverse and endlessly nuanced.
And yet, there are always common goals, results that can be built upon, and allies across regions and sectors who recognize that "a rising tide lifts all boats," as another saying goes. Although maritime in spirit, that expression captures the cooperative vibe of the grower community that believes in both the value of the greater good and the power of science to advance the industry.
As harvest concludes and the holidays approach, there's time to relax and reflect. But only a little. Because in farming and in research, there is always more work to be done. And that's just the way we like it.
Donnell Brown

At its 41st World Congress of Vine and Wine earlier this month, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) issued its  annual report on world grape-growing.   The report shows that, in 2017, the world's area under vine rose to 7,534 thousand hectares, global grape production reached 73 million tons and the world consumed roughly 244 million hectolitres of wine. It also estimates that, in 2018, world wine production will rise to 279 million hectolitres. Of note, global grape production (described as "grapes intended for all types of use") has been on an upward trend since 2000 (+9%), despite the decline in vineyard surface area. This change may be explained mainly by a rise in yields, stemming from the continual improvement of viticultural techniques.
It is anticipated that the Farm Bill will be passed before the end of the year. Farm Bill 2018 negotiators announced this week that they reached an "agreement in principle," and are working to finalize the language and costs. Before the sweeping agriculture and nutrition bill can become law, a conference report must be finalized, and Congress must pass the measure in both chambers. If those hurdles aren't cleared by the end of the year, the legislative process will start anew when the next Congress is seated in January. In the meantime, Congress' continuing appropriations are set to expire December 7.
With a newly awarded three-year, $300,000 Multi-State Specialty Crop Block Grant, the  California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance is working with other wine-growing states to use sustainability research, education and promotion to enhance U.S. wine industry competitiveness and to increase adoption of sustainable practices to boost profitability and more. Partner organizations include the California Association of Winegrape GrowersNew York Wine & Grape FoundationOregon Wine BoardWashington Winegrowers and Washington State Wine Commission. Together, they will conduct consumer/trade research to gauge interest and understanding of sustainable winegrowing; training and education for growers, vintners, trade and consumers; and promote sustainably produced U.S. winegrapes and wine to trade and consumers.
The California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) is one of five California organizations joining together to request that, due to the impacts of wildfires, Congress include the state's winegrape growers in a disaster assistance bill proposed to help agricultural producers in the Southeast devastated by this year's hurricanes. Among other provisions, the group's request includes $5.25 million in new funding to support research on smoke exposure and winegrapes.
The American Society of Enology and Viticulture seeks speakers for its 
70th ASEV National Conference,  to be held June 2019 in Napa. ASEV 
is accepting abstracts now through February 15, 2019, for presentations on original research and research updates in all areas of viticulture and enology, independent of publication of a paper and for both ongoing and completed research projects. Submit your abstract.
MSU Extension is accepting applications for the position of Extension Specialist-Viticulture Production Specialist based in Berrien County, MI. The role includes conducting research and extension programming to address grape-growing challenges in western Michigan. Learn more and apply online before December 17, 2018.
If you're a California vineyard or winery and you're knocking it out of the park with your sustainability program, be sure to apply for the 2019 California Green Medal: Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards. The award is presented by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, CAWG, Wine Institute, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma County Winegrowers and Vineyard Team, so the recognition is priceless. Apply by February 6, 2019.


A team from Texas A&M University, led by Dr. Dean McCorkle and including NGRA Board member Dr. Ed Hellman, who is now at Texas Tech, last spring completed a project called "Assessing Viticulture Production Practices for Robotic Technology Development." The timely project, which received funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's prestigious Agriculture and Food Research Initiative ( AFRI) grant program (see  proposal no. 2013-05171 ) studied the economic potential of robotic technology for wine and table grape vineyards, with the goal of generating interest among technology developers and investors to develop new technology.
Investigators assembled two panels of growers from five states ( California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, and New York) to develop a small, medium, and large representative vineyard operation for each state. Then, using key production and financial information, they explored the potential for robotic technology that could be used in vineyard operations in place of hand labor. As they noted, labor requirements and costs for individual production tasks were of particular interest, since an important factor in assessing the feasibility of adopting robotic technology would be its price-tag compared to that of human labor.
In general, they reported, where there is an adequate supply of vineyard labor, growers may have little incentive (or financial ability, depending on their size) to invest in mechanization. But where labor is scarce, the economics of technology R&D may push growers to consider costly robotic options. It was the authors' hope to help manufacturers determine if they can develop the t echnology at prices that make sense. Labor costs and maximum replacement prices per state are shown in the project brochure published by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the longer summary by RE2 Robotics, which partnered with Texas A&M on this work.
The team concluded that, while there is variation from state to state, the tasks that are most in need of mechanization are pruning, shoot thinning, cluster thinning and suckering. A multi-tasking robotic vehicle that could do all the above would be ripe for the picking.
USDA-NIFA issued its request for applications earlier this month for its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). This important grant program will make available an estimated total of $80 million, but only about 20% of applications are funded. A 100% match is required. Pre-proposals are due December 10, 2018.  Learn more and apply online.

November 26, 2018 | University of Georgia
This article about the growth of Georgia Wines includes terrific examples of the value of extension. Awesome shoutout to Dr. Cain Hickey, the first University of Georgia Cooperative Extension viticulturist, who "partners with vineyards across the state to run trials in their vineyards and testing new pruning, canopy management and trellising techniques to see their effect on not just the yield but also the grapes' composition and wine quality potential."

November 25, 2018 | Forbes
New research shows that small to medium-sized wineries that apply sustainability practices to set themselves apart are often rewarded financially, and their success can create a competitive race for "the best," which often creates more profitability.

November 23, 2018 | New York Times
A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies last week presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the US. It predicts that, unless significant steps are taken, the American economy could shrink 10% by 2100 due to effects like record wildfires in California, crop failures in the Midwest and crumbling infrastructure in the South. Click to see the three main solutions the report's authors propose.
November 16, 2018 | FiveThirtyEight
Fires aren't rare in California, and no one thing causes them. But the fires this season have grown to be big and destructive because a confluence of environmental changes, several related to climate change, have created favorable fire conditions, exacerbated the blazes and made them more costly.

November 15, 2018 | Good Fruit Grower
The Michigan State University "Vineyard of the Future" study shows that new training systems, mechanization and grafted vines can all boost profits for Concord growers by either cutting costs or increasing productivity.

November 15, 2018 | The Drinks Business
France is adapting its Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) regulations, adding a new category of permitted grape varieties: grape varieties for climate and environmental adaptation. The addition will allow French AOCs to grow disease-resistant varieties or varieties not previously grown in the AOC under certain conditions, taking into account climate change. Incorporating the grapes into the category will be tightly controlled and limited.
November 7, 2018 | Wine Enthusiast
"The U.S. is home to a preponderance of the world's indigenous grapes species and yet, only a few producers vinify choice heritage vines into quality wine," writes Wine Enthusiast's Lauren Mowery. She includes shout-outs to producers like Vox Vineyards in Missouri, Hudson-Chatham Winery in New York and La garagista farm & winery in Vermont, who are focusing on heritage grapes.
October 31, 2018 | Growing Produce
The spotted lanternfly has reached Maryland. A single adult male was found near the border of Pennsylvania and Delaware. The report makes Maryland the latest state where the invasive has spread: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

October 30, 2018 | Good Fruit Grower
"I love mechanization. It's fun because you have to think outside the box," says Richard Hoff of Mercer Ranches Inc., who has learned to almost completely mechanize the company's vineyard operations because skilled labor is so hard to find in Washington State Wine's Horse Heaven Hills. "But we're not doing this because it's a genius way to save money. It's a very intense program."

October 28, 2018 | Growing Produce
The biggest challenge in viticulture technology is how to use the data collected via sensors, drones and other systems. The SCRI-funded, NGRA-supported Efficient Vineyard project is addressing this issue. PI Dr. Terry Bates of Cornell University says, "(Our) goal is to use new and available technology to spatially measure vineyard soil, canopy, and crop characteristics so growers can apply their viticulture knowledge appropriately across a vineyard block to achieve their production goals."
26 New Grape Varieties Identified in Bio Bio
October 25, 2018 | Decanter
Viñas Inéditas-Terroir Sonoro winemaker Juan José Ledesma has been researching unidentified vines in Bío Bío since 2011. Over the last year, he's ID'ed 120 varieties growing there, 26 of which are not recorded anywhere else in the world. "We've found varieties that are naturally well adapted to climate change and different soil salinities, and have probably survived over 300 years as dry-farmed varieties," Ledesma says. "We believe the genetic diversity found here is a base for sustainable viticulture for the future."
October 24, 2018 | IEEE Spectrum
With the rise of computer vision (such as the sensors in use and under development for viticulture tasks), a camera doesn't have to look like a camera anymore. Based on research at the The University of Utah, it might not even need a lens. A camera just needs to match incoming data to a statistical model to report what something looks like. If it can do this cheaply and at low power, it could change beyond our recognition, even as it becomes more essential.

Find these stories and more, published as we find them, 

December 11, 2018
Lodi, CA
January 28, 2019
NGRA First-of-Year Board Meeting & Annual Meeting of the Members
Sacramento, CA
January 29-31, 2019
Sacramento, CA
February 11-14, 2019
Includes Research Poster Session February 12
Kennewick, WA
February 12-13, 2019
Por tland, OR

February 21, 2019
California Table Grape Seminar
Visalia, CA

February 21-22, 2019
Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research Annual Conference
Northwest Washington, TBD
February 27-March 1, 2019
Henrietta, NY
Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.