October 2021
The relative moisture levels of grapes on their way to becoming raisins*
Yesterday, the USDA issued a press release, announcing the appointment of 14 people from across the agricultural landscape to the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board. All 14 were selected and appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Six members were re-appointed, and eight are new.
I am one of the eight.
The NAREEE Advisory Board provides feedback to the Secretary on USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area, and to land-grant colleges and universities on food and agricultural research, education, extension and economics priorities and policies. In addition, I'll serve an advisor to the Specialty Crop Committee, which carries out the work of the Board as it relates to grapes and other specialty crops.
In the press release, Secretary Vilsack referred to the NAREEE Board's role as "pivotal" in shaping the science priorities needed to address the tough challenges ahead. No pressure!
But seriously, I'll need your help. I want to know what vineyard issues keep you up at night, how our specialty crop can help slow the advance of climate change, what blue-sky innovations you dream about that could change the game for our industry and maybe even for agriculture at large. Let me know what hurdles impede your research; how our needs for scientific study can better align with funding opportunities; how industry, academia and government can work together in new and innovative ways.
Of course, I’ve always needed your insight to help NGRA fulfill its research mission. But now, with the potential to help shape agricultural research, education and economics at the highest level, we can make an even bigger impact.
So, don't be a stranger. If you have ideas or questions or concerns or, shamelessly, congratulations, I'm all ears.
Donnell Brown
SunMaid’s Steve Vasquez, an NGRA Board member, snapped this photo on September 25, 2021. He writes, "Here are three levels of moisture as grapes dry into raisins: Left cluster = 100% moisture, just picked; middle = 50%, called "frog bellies"; right = 12%, dry raisins ready for processing." Steve adds that these are Fiesta raisin grapes that were grown on an overhead trellis system and dried on the vine.

NGRA Seeks Proposals for Strategic Planning
Are you a strategic planning professional with expertise in agriculture or, even better, viticulture? Or do you know someone who is? If so, please consider our request for proposals for strategic planning services. We seek to develop a bold, thoughtful and dynamic new strategic plan with a horizon of at least five years (some goals may require a longer timeframe) that will enable us to confidently and uniquely meet and even anticipate industry research needs, and that will be rigorously renewed every five years to come. Get more details and view the complete RFP. All proposals are due by November 8, 2021.
ICYMI: 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!
NIFA Director Aims for a 'Modern Approach to Ag'
This month, the “Around Farm Progress” podcast featured Dr. Carrie Castille, who in January 2021, began her six-year term as director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). In the interview, she talks about the agencys “modern approach to agriculture,” referencing its priority to develop national programmatic leadership in the areas of AI, workforce development, climate-smart agriculture, robotics and more, and support land-grant universities in delivering these innovations. She draws a comparison to the data inputs that go into the decision-support systems farmers use to her work guiding the agency in delivering value: “Data can be used to make better decisions, not only on the production level, but also for us,” she says. “The more data that I have in terms of what the research priorities are, the better I can focus (NIFA) programs to make sure that we have an impact.” Listen here.
Smoke Exposure Research Wins SCRI Support
Congratulations to Oregon State University’s Elizabeth Tomasino, principal investigator (PI) of the project, “Assessment and Management of Risk Associated with Wildfire Smoke Exposure of Grapes in the Vineyard,” which has been awarded a four-year, $7.65 million grant from the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). Elizabeth, Co-PIs Anita Oberholster (UC Davis) and Tom Collins (Washington State University), and a team of collaborators and industry cooperators and advisors will work to help the grape and wine industry better prepare for and respond to smoke exposure events. The objectives of this timely project include producing tools with which to predict and mitigate smoke risk to grape and wine quality, including establishing sensory thresholds for exposure, creating grape coatings to reduce or prevent smoke uptake, and developing predictive models for risk. 
$10M Grant Targets SW Groundwater and Irrigated Ag Sustainability, Creates Ag Water Center of Excellence
Researchers from UC Davis have been awarded a five-year, $10 million Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant by USDA-NIFA to find ways to sustain irrigated agriculture while improving groundwater quantity and quality in the Southwest under a changing climate. PI Isaya Kisekka of UC Davis is leading a team of more than two dozen climate, plant and soil scientists; hydrologists; engineers; economists, educators and extension specialists from institutions in California, Arizona and New Mexico. They will develop climate change adaptation management strategies that ensure sustainability of groundwater and irrigated agriculture. Project objectives include development of management practices to improve soil health, develop alternative water supplies across California’s Central Valley, central Arizona and the lower Rio Grande basin in New Mexico, and reduce water demand so the region can continue to produce various agriculture commodities, including grapes.

In addition, UC Davis will establish the Agricultural Water Center of Excellence as part of the grant. This unique Center of Excellence will also have capacity to support agricultural water research, education and extension activities at collaborating institutions with potential impact at local, state, national and international levels.
FFAR Grant Expands Gene Editing Communications
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $189,794 grant to the Alliance for Science at the Boyce Thompson Institute to effectively communicate the advances in gene editing to improve sustainable agriculture. The Alliance provided matching funds for a total $760,271 investment to develop and implement a communications plan to elevate the work of FFAR beneficiaries, like the RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) project, which is optimizing crop productivity by enhancing photosynthetic processes. The Alliance also is conducting several training courses, including one session to familiarize U.S. journalists with current gene editing research and introduce them to leading scientists in the field, and another to engage young people in science communication and inspire them to pursue careers in plant biotechnology.
New Viticulture Extension Specialist at Purdue
Miranda Purcell recently joined the Purdue Wine Grape Team as its viticulture extension specialist, replacing Bruce Bordelon, who served on the team for more than three decades.
She joins Enology Extension Specialist Jill Blume and Winegrape Marketing Extension Specialist Katie Barnett in supporting the Indiana wine and grape industry.
FFAR Seeks Two Leaders
As announced in July, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) Executive Director Sally Rockey is retiring at the end of 2021. FFAR is now recruiting candidates for her successor. See the comprehensive (seven pages!) job description for this important position. FFAR also seeks an AgMission Program Director, a visionary new role mobilizing farmers, ranchers, scientists, data providers, stakeholders and funders to develop and implement climate-smart solutions at scales and rates previously unimagined. Both positions are based in Washington, D.C.
Now Hiring: UC Cooperative Extension Advisors
The University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is hiring eight more UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisors. They (and the counties they serve) are:

  • Central Sierra local food systems advisor; Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and El Dorado Counties
  • Vertebrate pest management advisor; Napa, Lake and Solano Counties
  • Specialty crops advisor; Sonoma, Marin and Napa Counties
  • Viticulture advisor; San Joaquin, Sacramento and Stanislaus Counties
  • Integrated pest management advisor; San Diego County
  • 4-H youth development advisor; Placer and Nevada Counties
  • Environmental Horticulture Advisor; Los Angeles County
  • Fire Advisor; San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties
Including those listed above, UC ANR has released 28 UCCE positions for recruitment over the past three months and more will be announced in November, staged to avoid overwhelming the university’s Human Resources team. In 2022, 70 more UCCE specialists and advisors will be hired to help Californians better address issues including climate change, wildfires, food security and pest management. To apply, visit https://ucanr.edu/About/Jobs/ and search for the positions by title.
MSU Seeks Research Technologist/Lab Manager
Looking for an opportunity to do important work in grapes, hops, strawberries and other novel crops in Michigan? Check out this job at Michigan State University, providing technical support in small fruit and hop pathology research field plots and laboratory experiments, collecting data, summarizing results, conducting statistical analysis of data, interacting with industry partners and mentoring other laboratory personnel. Applications are due by November 2, 2021. Learn more and apply.
By Dr. Patty Skinkis, Oregon State University
The NGRA-initiated High-Resolution Vineyard Nutrient Management project, led by Washington State University’s Markus Keller, received second-year SCRI funding this fall. Organized to develop both sensor-based tools to measure in-field grapevine nutrient status and regional nutrition guidelines, the research will help growers to manage vineyard nutrition using precision viticulture.

But first, the team set out to benchmark how the industry is—or isn’t—managing vineyard nutrition today. A survey was conducted in Spring 2021 to give the team an overview of current practices, gauge the appetite for new technologies, and guide future research.
The survey was completed by 322 people, representing 25 states, nearly 176,000 acres and all four grape sectors (juice, raisin, table and wine grapes). The majority of respondents were grape growers (88%), including vineyard owners, managers or viticulturists. The remainder of respondents were consultants (7.5%) and vineyard management companies (4.5%). Their responses may surprise you!
Nutrient Management Plans
The majority of respondents nationwide (88%) did not have nutrient management plans for their vineyards. Maryland had the highest percentage of respondents with nutrient management plans (86%), followed by Idaho (33%) and California (24%). The majority of farm nutrient management plans (71%) were primarily developed for regulatory compliance (e.g., Natural Resource Conservation Service [NRCS] or Soil and Water Conservation Districts [SWCD]). Only 17% indicated that a farming certification required them to have nutrient management plans and even fewer (12.5%) indicated that it was required by their company. For growers with nutrient management plans, 63% developed their own plans, 26% used a crop consultant, and 11.4% used public resources, such as NRCS, to draft that plan.
Nutrient Testing
The majority of respondents (57%) determined nutrient status using both tissue and soil testing rather than soil or tissue testing alone.

Tissue testing. The majority of respondents (60%) test vine nutrient status annually and 23% test every two to three years. Just under half (47%) only test petioles, and 10% test only leaf blades. Whereas 22% of respondents test both leaf and petiole samples separately (two different tests), 19% of respondents collect composite leaf samples where whole leaves (blade + petiole) are tested.

Tissue test timing was split between bloom and véraison, with 44% of respondents sampling at both bloom and véraison. Most (62%) sample vineyards at a rate of <5 acres per sample. However, 31% of respondents sample 5 to 20 acres per sample. Area represented in a tissue sample was not related to total farm size; growers with larger vineyards did not necessarily sample larger areas.

Soil testing. The majority of respondents test vineyards soils regularly. Most (43%) test soils every two to three years, but 20% test annually and 24% test at intervals greater than three years. The remaining respondents test vineyards only when problems arise (10%) or when required by regulation (2%).

Fertilizer Application
The regular sampling of vine tissues and soil has the potential to help producers understand when and how to fertilize, as 75% of respondents indicated that they apply fertilizers annually. Respondents apply both foliar (66.5%) and soil-applied (74.3%) fertilizers, representing macronutrients (Nitrogen [N], Phosphorous [P], and Potassium [K]) at 61% and micronutrients at 55%. The nutrients of greatest concern for respondents are N, K and Boron (B). As expected, there were differences in macro- and micronutrient concerns by state, with NY and TX having greater concern for N than the other states. K was the most concerning nutrient in CA and NY, B was the most concerning nutrient in OR, and N was the most concerning in WA.
Deciding how much fertilizer to apply can be challenging. Only 29% of respondents indicated that they determine their own fertilizer rates. Just over half of respondents (50.6%) rely on recommendations from crop consultants, vineyard management companies or Extension agents. A few (14%) use recommendations from testing labs. The rest (6.4%) use visual cues, observations, experience or routine to guide which fertilizers and rates to use. The majority of respondents (65.3%) apply fertilizers differently across vineyard blocks, whether by soil characteristics, or crop quality or production goals.
Importance of Vineyard Nutrition Management
Although 73% of respondents agreed that nutrient management was very or extremely important to achieve yield or quality targets, the majority indicated that nutrient management costs comprise only 5-10% of their total vineyard management budget. The majority (64%) believed there would be yield losses with improper nutrient management. But most (68%) believed it wouldn’t impact the unit price paid for their fruit.
Technology Use
Only a small fraction of the respondents (17%) use technology (most commonly, remote and proximal sensing) to assist in vineyard nutrient management. Why such low adoption? Respondents reported that technologies are either not necessary or too costly, or they don’t know how to use them. This means that nutrient management tools developed for growers need to be easy to use and cost-effective. However, input on new tools should also come from crop advisors, consultants and vineyard management companies who are making most fertilizer and application rate recommendations.
Patty Skinkis is a Professor and Viticulture Extension Specialist at Oregon State University. As a collaborator on the HiRes Vineyard Nutrition project, she organized and analyzed this survey. This article was excerpted from her original summary, "Nutrient Management Survey Helps Research Team Understand Current Industry Practices," published in October 2021 on the HiRes Vineyard Nutrition project website. Download the original.

Apply for an OIV Award
The OIV Award, bestowed by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), recognizes works of reference in 12 categories, including viticulture and enology, new category “sustainable vitiviniculture,” and others. In addition to academic papers and journal articles, books and interactive digital tools are eligible for consideration, as well. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2022.
Attend USDA Stakeholder Meeting on Regulating GE Plants
Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS), part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), will hold its annual Stakeholder Meeting virtually on November 18, 2021. Topics will include the agency’s revised biotech regulations and electronic permitting system, a review of fiscal year 2021, and discussion of FY 2022 priorities to protect plant health through the regulation of organisms developed using genetic engineering. Register to attend.
Funding Opportunities
Sharpen your pencils! These grant programs have upcoming deadlines.
The state agriculture agencies in Arizona, California, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin are now accepting applications from entities that are the lead on projects with multiple state partners for the 2021 Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP). With awards ranging from $250,000 to $1 million per project, a total of nearly $10 million is available for these grants. All SCMP proposals must include at least two partners (referred to as "multi-state partners"), who must be located in two different states to qualify for the program. Applications are due November 4, 2021.

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) invites farmers and growers in the region to submit proposals to to explore new concepts in sustainable agriculture through experiments, surveys, prototypes, on-farm demonstrations, or other research and education techniques. Proposals are due on November 16, 2021. Funded projects, capped at $30,000, will be announced in late February 2022.

The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) supports transformative research and education projects that develop new knowledge in all aspects of computing, communications, information science and engineering, and cyberinfrastructure across these core programs:

  • The Division of Computing and Communication Foundations (CCF) - the foundations of computing and communication.
  • The Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS) - novel or enhanced computing and networking, including using new technologies or new ways to apply existing technologies, with a focus on systems.
  • The Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS) - the inter-related roles of people, computers and information.
  • The Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) - advanced cyberinfrastructure that leads to systems capable of transforming science and engineering research.

Proposals for small projects (up to $600,000; CCF, CNS and IIS) may be submitted anytime. Submissions for medium projects (up to $1.2 million; CCF, CNS and IIS) and OAC Core Projects (up to $600,000) are due by December 22, 2021.
October 20, 2021 │ California Table Grape Commission
In this fun and informative video, Maha Afifi and Franka Gabler of the California Table Grape Commission share the science behind how table grapes mature. One interesting tidbit: Cooler nights speed up color development.

October 19, 2021 │ New York Post
The world’s largest collection of historical grapevines will be frozen in a $12.1M cooler, built by the French National Institute for Research into Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE) to protect the most cherished winegrape varieties against their loss to climate change. The collection could be revived should contemporary, conventional grapes be permanently altered or made extinct by rising temperatures in decades to come.

October 18, 2021 │ NPR
Scientists and private companies are using satellite images to estimate the amount of water used by agricultural crops. This "water surveillance" takes evapotranspiration into account, and enables farmers (and now regulators) to monitor how much water is consumed, field by field.

October 15, 2021 │ The Washington Post
Looking for a good article to define carbon farming? Here, wine writer Dave McIntyre explains that "the idea is to capture more carbon from the atmosphere than you release into it." He says it's also known as carbon sequestration or regenerative farming, though he admits some may beg to differ.
October 14, 2021 │ Good Fruit Grower
At the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Symposium last June, keynotes from CSIRO's Rob Bramley and E. & J. Gallo's Nick Dokoozlian diverged. “The basic premise underpinning precision agriculture is that land is variable,” Bramley said. But from there, the pair presented two different visions for putting precision into practice.

October 14, 2021 │ Crosscut
The effects of climate changerising temps, water availability, wildfiresare being felt in Washington, from the varieties grown and suitability of growing regions to the expression of the grapes and saleability of the resulting wine. “If you’re in agribusiness and you grow the same way as you did 20 years ago,” Greg Jones, climatologist and vintner is quoted, “you won’t be in business.”
October 14, 2021 │ Penn State News
Scientists at Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences have developed a novel lighting system to improve computer vision and robotics. Its "over-current driven” LED lights produce a powerful flash that fires multiple times a second, creating daytime imaging anytime and eliminating motion blur.
October 5, 2021 │ WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources
This article focuses on timothy hay in WA’s Columbia River Basin, but offers a look at the concept of water leases, concluding that split-season leases could help to reallocate scarce water resources.

October 5, 2021 │ The Drinks Business
The Kraft Heinz Company is launching a mustard-seed-infused Grey Poupon “La Moutarde Vin” Napa Valley Viognier 2020. It’s available for $30 at GreyPouponWine.com, and comes with an 8-ounce jar of Dijon mustard. It's produced at The Wine Foundry in Napa Valley.

October 4, 2021 │ UC Davis
Collaborative research from UC Davis and the University of Bordeaux reveals that, over the last 60 years, as temperatures exceeded optimal levels for quality, grapes produced better wines. But higher temps can harm grape composition, including color, taste and aroma. The degradation of these quality-related compounds and the observed plateaus of wine quality ratings noted in the study suggests there can be too much of a good thing.

October 4, 2021 │ Morning Ag Clips
Here are three good reasons to care about cover crops: they help reduce soil compaction (and make more sense financially than tillage), improve cycling for carbon and other nutrients, and enhance water infiltration.

October 2, 2021 │ Horticulturae
Research has been scant on how raisin varieties perform on the overhead dry-on-vine (DOV) trellis system. Here, a three-year experiment compared yield and raisin quality of DOVine, Fiesta, Selma Pete and Thompson Seedless. Fiesta had highest productivity, but Selma Pete ripened earliest (important for drying time) and had high quality.

September 30, 2021 │ Wine Industry Network
This Wine Industry Network roundup of vineyard tech "dives into the modern vineyard where satellites, AI and robotics all work toward more sustainable viticulture."

September 28, 2021 │ InfoWine
A team from University of Milan analyzed the DNA of a Georgian V. vinifera cultivar, Mgaloblishvili, that's resistant to downy mildew, identifying three resistance loci and, for the first time ever in grapevine, a susceptibility gene. They also IDed the mildew's pathogenicity genes that trigger the plant immune system. The findings hold promise not only for breeding but also for target-specific fungicides.

September 28, 2021 │ UConn Today
A University of Connecticut professor is creating a novel filtration device using functional biopolymer hydrogel beads to remove chemical and biological pollutants from wastewater so it can safely be used for agricultural irrigation. Chitosan, the base material, is a biopolymer derived from crustaceans. Its naturally occurring antimicrobial properties make it a perfect candidate for water treatment devices.

September 28, 2021 │ Prairie Farmer
According to a survey by satellite services provider Inmarsat, the use of internet-connected agricultural tools has grown. Among ag respondents, 80% say they've fully deployed at least one IoT project, and the remaining 20% plan to deploy some form in the next two years. IOT is "any technology that connect(s) some form of data from field to platformanything from autosteer to precision farming to a weather or motion sensor,” says a company rep. “The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of IoT.”

September 27, 2021 │ Morning Ag Clips
For the next three years, collaborators from Cornell University, Oregon State University and UC Davis will test the performance, safety, and economic and environmental sustainability of electric weed control in organic grape (and apple and hemp) production.

September 21, 2021 │ Good Fruit Grower
Two vineyards in New Hampshire (one at the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station) are showing that, if growers plant the right cold-hardy varieties, seedless table grapes can not only survive, but thrive there.
September 20, 2021 │ Reading Eagle
Scientists, state agencies and grape growers in Pennsylvania are seeing fewer lanternflies. Good news? If nothing else, it's a good mystery.

July 9, 2021 │ Science Friday
In this live interview, Penn State's Julie Urban explains how, although the spotted lanternfly is native to tropical regions, it overwinters in egg form, so can survive the harsh temperatures of the northeastern U.S., where it's spreading.

June 23, 2021 │ UCCE San Joaquin Valley Trees and Vines
Sudden Vine Collapse seems to be a complex of infection involving leafroll-associated viruses and vitiviruses, and related grapevine trunk disease on Freedom rootstock. Work is ongoing.

Find these stories and more, published daily, on NGRA's Facebook and Twitter feeds.
October 18-November 30, 2021
Central Coast, CA, and virtual sessions

October 31-November 5, 2021
Virtual event

November 5, 2021
Cloverdale, CA

November 8, 2021
Geneva, OH

November 9, 2021
Turlock, CA

November 9-10, 2021
Dripping Springs, TX

November 10, 2021
Davis, CA, and livestream webinar

November 12, 2021
Yountville, CA

November 12, 2021
Fresno, CA

November 15, 2021
Geneva, OH

November 17, 2021
Lodi, CA

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

November 18-19, 2021
Grandview, WA

November 30-December 2, 2021
Montpellier, France

December 2, 2021
Santa Rosa, CA

December 3, 2021
College Station, TX

December 8, 2021
Davis, CA

December 13-15, 2021
Corvallis, OR

December 14 – 15, 2021
Virtual event

January 8-12, 2022
San Diego, CA

January 18-19, 2022
Glendale, AZ

January 24, 2022
NGRA Annual Meeting of the Members and First-of-Year Board Meeting
Sacramento, CA

January 25-27, 2022
Sacramento, CA

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.

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