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

The River Fire, August 2020*
It's the end of October. Daylight is waning, the temperature is descending and Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday. (Not to mention the presidential election two days later.) Change is upon us.
But these normal cycles of life seem not so normal anymore.
In This Issue
If you read grape and wine industry media regularly, you'll notice a growing drumbeat of coverage on climate change. Stories appear weekly, if not daily, with increasingly dire headlines. For example, just this week, these items dropped into my inbox:
  • On October 23, The Guardian wrote, "Can California's top wine region survive the era of megafire?" Karen Ross, the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who was formerly president of NGRA member-organization, the California Association of Winegrape Growers, is quoted saying the effects of the climate crisis have descended on the region sooner than anticipated. "'We have always talked about these kinds of impacts as the future--but the future is now,' she says, adding that growers are relying on research and science to navigate new obstacles."
  • On the same day, the Washington Post published a story titled, "Climate change has affected 2020 wine harvests around the globe. Growers are concerned." The Post story quotes NGRA Board member Emily Pelton, a director at the Virginia Wine Board and winemaker at Veritas Vineyards and Winery: "'It's been a strange year for growing grapes. We've had everything from frost to drought to cold to heat,' she says, with rapid weather changes challenging vine and vintner. 'We've had a lot of things thrown at us this year. It's a unique vintage for us.'"
  • There's also an invitation for the UC Davis "Savor" lecture series where, on November 10, scientist Dr. Beth Forrestel, an NGRA Research Committee member, will join a wine writer and winemaker to discuss "California's Vanishing Chardonnay." Citing "the need to diversify to newly developed, more resilient varieties," the event description says, "Climate change is making it increasingly difficult to grow grape varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, which some experts fear may eventually go extinct."
Whether you believe in climate change or agree with scientists' assessments of the causes of the increasing extremes of heat, cold, drought, flood, wildfire, and the related changes in insect migrations and the diseases they vector, it's clear that where and how grapes are grown is changing. The growing season starts earlier, ends later. Frosts come sooner, are more intense. Heatwaves linger. This year more than ever, it's farming, gone haywire. In fact, those who do subscribe to the idea of a warming world might identify with the words of reporter Dave McIntyre, who wrote the Post story referenced above: "It's as though 2020 was the year climate change decided we weren't listening, and it needed to throw a massive hissy fit to get our attention."
In a year of unpredictability, the disruption of the natural ebb and flow of things seems especially distressing. How ever the rest of the year unfolds (table grape growers will be harvesting through December!), most would agree it will be a relief to put the 2020 growing season behind us. The good news is, every year brings another chance to do it all again, hopefully better...and with fewer of the extra challenges 2020 brought with it.
Donnell Brown

Photo courtesy of NGRA Board member Jason Smith of Valley Farm Management,
taken near his home in Monterey County, CA, on August 23, 2020.
Richard (Rich) Smith, founder of Valley Farm Management, Paraiso Vineyards and Smith Family Wines in California's Monterey wine region (and father of Jason Smith, who snapped the photo above), was first and foremost a family man, and also a successful grape grower and winery owner, and respected colleague. Through his significant and selfless contributions of time, energy and funds to organizations that advance the American grape and wine industry, he came to be known as a highly effective, collegial and tireless leader. He passed away in December 2015. Three of the organizations Rich helped to shape--the National Grape Research Alliance, WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America--collaborated to create the Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award to honor his spirit and legacy. It recognizes people who demonstrate similar qualities and make a similarly positive impact on the industry. Nominations for the 2021 award are being accepted through close of business TODAY, October 30, 2020. Click to nominate a leader.
The American Society for Enology and Viticulture annually recognizes excellence in extension through its ASEV Extension Distinction AwardIs there an extension specialist in viticulture or enology who has had positive impact on your business or region? Consider nominating him or her! Nominations are due TOMORROW, November 1, 2020.
Debuted in July 2020, our spreadsheet of grape research across the U.S. continues to grow. Intended to provide a comprehensive snapshot into the ways scientists are working to improve viticulture in America, it newly features grape research at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), listed by location and project, including research agreements with academic institutions. (See the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet for the ARS info.) The spreadsheet is updated ongoingly, so be sure to check back often. Download the most up-to-date version now! 
The 2021 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, to be delivered digitally January 26-29, 2021, will open for registration next week, on November 3, 2020.

The conference will be a full virtual experience, from the sessions to the trade show exhibits. Agenda highlights include:
  • A comprehensive session on the effects (and risks) of wildfire smoke on grape and wine quality with a panel of experts, including Tom Collins (Washington State University), Anita Oberholster (UC Davis) and others, sharing the latest research. (See related Research Focus story below.)
  • The popular State of the Industry session will proceed online, with speakers Danny Brager (Brager Beverage Alcohol Consulting), Jeff Bitter (Allied Grape Growers, an NGRA member-organization) and Glenn Proctor (The Ciatti Company) with moderator Mike Veseth (The Wine Economist). 
Additionally, hundreds of exhibitors will showcase their products and services via the virtual platform. There is no fee to visit the virtual trade show, but registration is required.
On October 2, 2020, NGRA member-organization Cakebread Cellars' co-founder Dolores Cakebread passed away peacefully at the age of 90. She and co-founder Jack Cakebread celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this year. They started the business in 1973. Dolores is credited with a legacy of warm hospitality at the winery, including the gracious garden on property, as well as three cookbooks and a robust collection of recipes and wine pairings from the Cakebread kitchen. She was an icon of the industry and will be remembered.
Secretary Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced this month that Craig Hanes has been selected as the new Pierce's Disease Control Program Branch Chief - Statewide Coordinator.
A $100,330 gift from the Paul Lauzier Charitable Foundation will help enable greater hands-on student learning at Washington State University's Wine Science Center in Richland. Till now, the Center has lacked a dedicated laboratory teaching space, so undergraduate labs must be taught in research spaces, limiting class sizes, new lab courses and hands-on student projects. With this gift, the teaching lab will expand capacity, adding space and scientific instruments for future graduates to practice analytical techniques in chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and plant physiology.
At the end of September, the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)  announced it had awarded 12 grants totaling more than $7 million to initiate research on big data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and predictive technologies. The grants are part of NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools (FACT) program. The projects include deep learning for soil moisture forecasting (Auburn University), high-precision ET estimation and farm-level decision-making (Colorado State University), field-based high-throughput phenotyping (University of Georgia) and more. See the complete list.
A $6.2 million multi-partner funding commitment will allow Brock University's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) to support the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN-RCCV) to fast-track the certification of grapevine planting material as virus-free. The program, called CLEan plAnt extractioN SEquencing Diagnostics, or CLEANSED, is a jointly funded initiative between Brock, CFIA and others. Brock University Senior Scientist Sudarsana Poojari will lead the academic team.
Are you a grower, consultant, intern or winemaker working in California or Washington? Consider taking a survey on grapevine virus management! Researchers are interested in hearing what your opinions are on the effectiveness of different management recommendations, and where you go to get more information. Your input will help scientists understand how recommendations can best help you. Click to participate!

By Drs. Elizabeth Tomasino (Oregon State University), Anita Oberholster (UC Davis) and Tom Collins (Washington State University)

In recent years, the grape and wine industry* in the western United States has been impacted by repeated wildfires, resulting in smoke-exposed fruit--a phenomenon of concern for winegrape growers in particular. Grapes that have been impacted by wildfire smoke can result in wines with off aromas and flavors that have come to be known as smoke taint. But growers and producers may not know they have a problem till they've expended the cost and effort of harvest and production, bottling and aging.

*Editor's note: Although wildfire smoke can also impact raisin production, by possibly delaying drying, juice and table grapes seem relatively unaffected by such exposure. It also should be noted that the term, "taint," is generally associated only with wine production.

Winegrape growing regions in California, Oregon and Washington State have been impacted by smoke in at least five of the past 10 vintages. But the impact on grapes and resulting wine quality can be difficult to predict. Although, in general, vineyards closest to fires are at higher risk, atmospheric conditions can have a significant impact. 

While much discussion and some research has occurred, grape growers and winemakers (and we scientists) who wish to prevent this problem are faced with more questions than answers. Most of the published research has been conducted in Australia and is not directly applicable to West Coast fires. The relative impact of smoke from nearby vs. more distant fires, the chemical composition (e.g., based on combustion sources) of the smoke, the effects on individual grape varieties and the marker compounds best-suited to measure smoke impact on berry chemistry or sensory properties in finished wine are not well understood.
Plus, significant misinformation regarding grape smoke exposure remains, such as...
  • Ripe/overripe (or pre-veraison) grapes are not sensitive to smoke exposure,
  • Washing grapes before processing will remove smoke aroma compounds from berry skins,
  • Adding enzymes during winemaking will release bound smoke aroma compounds, and
  • Bound smoke aroma compounds do not contribute to smoke taint.
None of these myths are true, yet all of them persist.

Our team of researchers from UC Davis, Oregon State University and Washington State University were awarded a USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) planning grant in 2019 to hold industry stakeholder need identification meetings (done pre-pandemic, in early 2020) to determine gaps in current knowledge and to develop a robust research program to address them. Not surprisingly, among the many priorities stakeholders shared, the three research outcomes they'd find most valuable were:
  • The specific smoke exposure marker compounds and their sensory threshold levels in various varietals. This knowledge would contribute to strong contracts that protect the sustainability of the grape and wine industry.
  • How to remove smoke exposure marker compounds without further impacting the quality of wine.
  • Standardized, reliable and affordable testing methods to determine smoke exposure risk to grapes and wine.
Accordingly, the research team is busy working on a full project pre-proposal to submit for SCRI funding (and other sources, as the knowledge gap exceeds a single project and/or funding source) this year, seeking to develop answers to these and other burning (sorry) questions. See the complete list of research objectives here.
We have been blown away by the interest in and support for this work, including from the National Grape Research Alliance and many of its West Coast members. It is our sincere hope to make significant headway in providing solutions to the grape and wine industry in an era of intense wildfires.
This article was adapted from a white paper entitled, "Successful Management and Mitigation of Smoke-Exposed Grapes: A Needs Assessment of the Pacific Coast Grape and Wine Industry," this scientific team compiled based on stakeholder input. Read the complete paper here.
Join the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the very first NSF Virtual Grants Conference to be held free of charge the weeks of November 16 and November 30, 2020. Designed for faculty, researchers and administrators, the event enables NSF staff to provide up-to-date information about the proposal and award process and specific funding opportunities, and to answer attendees' questions. Get details and sign up. 
These grant programs have upcoming deadlines.

Northeast SARE: Farmer Grant Program
Northeast SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) is accepting applications for its Farmer Grant Program. These unique grants fund farmers' efforts to explore new concepts in sustainable agriculture on production, marketing, labor, farm succession, social capital and other areas through experiments, surveys, prototypes, on-farm demonstrations or other research and education. Up to $15,000 is available per project. Applications are due November 17, 2020. 
Learn more.

Michigan's Project GREEN
Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) is a cooperative effort by plant-based commodities and businesses with AgBioResearch, Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). Proposals are being accepted now through January 11, 2021. Get details and apply.

If you're a scientist planning to apply for these or other grant programs, you can request a letter of support (if needed) from NGRA on our website.

USDA Lure Attracts Live Asian Giant Hornets, Helps Lead to Nest Discovery
October 29, 2020 | USDA Agricultural Research Service
Last Saturday, the Washington State Department of Agriculture located a nest of Asian giant (or "murder") hornets. It was the first nest to be found after nearly a year of individual sightings of the venomous insect. A scent lure designed by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists played a key role.

October 26, 2020 | USDA Agricultural Research Service
When it comes to dressing up for Halloween, treehoppers have the most extravagant, bizarre costumes in the insect world. Of the more than 3,000 known species of the sap sucker, 71 of them, including the evil-looking Cyphonia (shown at link), have evolved to look like a stinging, biting predator.
October 23, 2020 | National Science Foundation
The new NSF-funded WIFIRE Firemap features a satellite image map overlaid with terrain and access roads, which firefighters can use in simulations to strategize exactly where to send crews to get ahead of fast-moving blazes in practice for the real thing. It currently shows the location and status of every active wildfire in the U.S. The WIFIRE team is led by Ilkay Altintas, a computer scientist at the UC San Diego in collaboration with the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
October 20, 2020 | Wine Business Monthly
Can ozone effectively minimize--or remove--the effects of smoke exposure in winegrapes? A number of wineries are deploying different treatments, hoping it can.
October 16, 2020 | California Table Grape Commission
Ever wondered how table grape growers know when to harvest green varieties? Here, the California Table Grape Commission's Ross Jones explains the subtle color changes that occur during development and the common use of refractometers to help make picking decisions. (Note: If you've never seen table grapes on the vine, check out this video, filmed on location in the San Joaquin Valley!)
October 15, 2020 | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
According to the NOAA winter forecast, warmer, drier conditions will prevail across the South, and cooler, wetter conditions in the North, thanks in part to La Nina. More than 45% of the U.S. is experiencing drought, and it's not anticipated to improve.
October 15, 2020 | National Science Foundation
Researchers at the University of California San Diego are using a remote sensing radar technology called InSAR to better understand sustainable groundwater use in California's San Joaquin Valley. An interesting finding is, despite reports of high water consumption by fruit and nut crops like grapes and almonds, the crop types with the greatest rates of subsidence and groundwater use are field crops (corn and soy), pasture crops (alfalfa) and truck crops (tomatoes).
October 14, 2020 | Wine Business Monthly
In an online forum, scientists from the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis and E. & J. Gallo Winery shared how genome mapping can be used to further the sustainability of the grape and wine industry and to even improve fruit quality at harvest. Fascinating!
October 12, 2020 | Cornell Chronicle
Cornell University's Terry Bates and Justine Vanden Heuvel play important parts in a new NGRA-supported, SCRI-funded project on nutrition management. Terry will work with Jan van Aardt of the Rochester Institute of Technology to develop new proximal nutrient sensors that can detect deficiencies before they become visible. And Justine will develop a mechanism to combine ground-based sampling and satellite imaging to quantify nutrient deficiencies.
October 9, 2020 | Virginia Tech
Tony Wolf and Mizuho Nita of Virginia Tech are evaluating new grape varieties to better serve the Virginia wine industry. They're seeking selections that have "really nice wine quality" and resistance to common regional diseases, making them "better adapted to the state than some of the standard varieties that are being grown now."  
October 8, 2020 | Good Fruit Grower
Though dead, the invasive spotted lanternfly found recently at an Oregon nursery is an ominous sign for West Coast grape growers. Says one Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist, "Make no mistake about it; it is coming here and probably quicker than you think."

October 6, 2020 | California Table Grape Commission
Grapes are good for your brain! "Eating grapes every day helps preserve metabolic activity in regions of the brain associated with early stage Alzheimer's Disease, where metabolic decline occurs," says dietitian Courtney Romano, health advisor for the California Table Grape Commission. Listen as she explains in this spot from the Radio Health Journal network.

October 6, 2020 | Oregon Wine Research Institute
Join the OWRI at Oregon State University for a series of live webinars on Grapevine Red Blotch Disease. Running through December 15, the series will deliver research findings from Oregon-based studies on virus epidemiology, vector identification and biology, grapevine performance, wine production, fruit and wine composition, and wine sensory results. Seminars are free but registration is required. (See individual seminars listed in Upcoming Events below.)

October 5, 2020 | The Wine Gourd
Ever heard of Rkatsiteli, Sankt Laurent or Kyoho wine grapes? Click to find out where they (and other more familiar varieties) are grown, worldwide.
September 28, 2020 | Wine Australia
Australian scientists have made recent advances to smoke exposure research, including determining how much smoke will cause taint and establishing an early warning remote sensing network to enable taint risk prediction. "We determined that it takes more smoke to cause smoke taint than was originally thought and we are close to setting smoke taint thresholds," said Dr. Ian Porter, who led the work at La Trobe University and Agriculture Victoria, and with the Australian Wine Research Institute.

September 26, 2020 | Jancis Robinson
If you're passionate about sustainability, take a read through the highlights from entries in this year's Jancis Robinson writing contest. Entrants wrote profiles on "wine producers who really make an effort to be sustainable, describing the measures they take and their overall philosophy." Click to see the list of winners (most in North America) and the wineries they highlighted.

September 25, 2020 | American Society for Horticultural Science
With women representing 44% of small farmers and 58% of them in this Utah-based study choosing Instagram as their social media platform of choice, Instagram seems to be a viable option for diversifying digital extension programming, especially for younger female farmers.
September 24, 2020 | The Famuan
Congrats to Florida A&M University on new patents for two muscadine grape varieties, called Floriana and Florida Onyx. Both varieties are highly productive, have high fruit quality and are resistant to Pierce's Disease. And both have BIG berries--those of Florida Onyx are the size of a golf ball!

September 23, 2020 | Western Farm Press
Mason Earles and his UC Davis engineering colleagues are working to develop technology that merges viticultural data and machine learning to produce information that will improve vineyard health and productivity. The "easily-mountable data collection unit," as Mason describes, underwent trials this growing season. Yield estimation is one application he sees for this tech.

September 23, 2020 | Western Farm Press
A new genetic marker discovery that uses automated sequencing technology will enable breeders worldwide to screen their grapevine collections and find out immediately which vines have the traits they want--regardless of what varieties they are, where they came from or which species their parents were. It's a breakthrough of the VitisGen team led by Bruce Reisch (Cornell University) and Lance Cadle-Davidson (USDA-ARS, Geneva).
September 21, 2020 | PennVet
A promising new pilot program from University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine uses scent detection dogs to identify spotted lanternfly egg masses so they can be destroyed, thereby proactively neutralizing the threat.

September 15, 2020 | National Aeronautics and Space Administration
A new web-based platform called OpenET will soon be putting NASA data in the hands of western farmers and water managers in "a game-changing leap forward for water management." It uses publicly available data and open source models to provide satellite-based information on evapotranspiration in areas as small as a quarter of an acre and at daily, monthly and yearly intervals.
September 11, 2020 | WSU Insider
Washington State University researchers are studying the effects of heat, and developing an electronic, open-source cooling system to protect plants and wine quality. One outcome of this work is new, counterintuitive knowledge: fruit quality is more influenced by temperature than water.
March 12, 2020 | The Academic Wino
RGB imaging technology newly applied to grapes, aptly named IRIS-GRAPE, shows promise for non-destructively determining grape ripeness and ultimately optimum harvest date. Many thanks to The Academic Wino for breaking down the science in the original January 2020 research report.

Find these stories and more, published daily, on NGRA's Facebook and Twitter feeds.

November 3, 2020
Oregon State University Grape Red Blotch Disease Webinar Series
Vaughn Walton

November 4, 2020
Patty Skinkis, Oregon State University

November 6, 2020
Virtual event

November 10, 2020
Virtual event

November 12, 2020
ASEV Invasive Pests Webinar Series
Speaker: Monica Cooper, University of California Cooperative Extension, Napa County

November 13, 2020
Virtual event

Weeks of November 16 and 30, 2020
Virtual event

November 17, 2020
Oregon State University Grape Red Blotch Disease Webinar Series
Patty Skinkis

November 19, 2020
End-of-Year Board Meeting
Via Zoom

November 24, 2020
Oregon State University Grape Red Blotch Disease Webinar Series
Grape Red Blotch Disease Diagnosis and Insect Vectors
Achala KC, Jana Lee and Robert Martin, USDA-ARS, Corvallis

December 1, 2020
Oregon State University Grape Red Blotch Disease Webinar Series
Sam Hoffman

December 2, 2020
Franka Gabler, California Table Grape Commission

December 2, 9 and 16, 2020
Virtual event

December 3, 2020
Washington Advancements in Viticulture and Enology (WAVE) Webinar Series
Jim Harbertson, Washington State University

December 8, 2020
Oregon State University Grape Red Blotch Disease Webinar Series
Michael Qian

December 15, 2020
Oregon State University Grape Red Blotch Disease Webinar Series

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.