August 2022
Timpson green seedless table grapes nearing harvest*
FASTER, BETTER, STRONGER
The last six weeks or so have been a whirlwind of activity for NGRA. We held a Board meeting and strategic planning meeting in Minnesota in July. And this month, we helped to support the 2022 National Viticulture and Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC) in California's San Joaquin Valley. Taken together, July and August have been banner months for NGRA's guiding principles: promoting a culture to encourage industry-driven research, fostering an atmosphere of collaboration, and nurturing a community of people who believe in science as a means of advancing our industry.
 
Why were these events so special? Because of the number of new people at them. While it is always a treat to see colleagues who are steadfast allies for and supporters of NGRA and our research mission, it’s exciting to see that the community is growing!

At our July Board meeting, we added four new members to our Board of Directors:

Chad Vargas, NewGen Vineyard Services (OR)
Northwest Regional Representative

Randy Heinzen, Vineyard Professional Services (CA)
At-Large Representative

Peter Hofherr, St. James Winery (MO)
At-Large Representative

Kim Wagner, Stoutridge Distillery & Winery (NY)
At-Large Representative
 
And we were pleased to add the New York State Wine Grape Growers as a new member-organization earlier this year.

Similarly, at this year’s NVEELC, roughly half of the attendees—members of the extension and outreach community—were coming to the event for the first time. The newcomers were either new to their jobs or attracted by the opportunity to see the wide range of production systems uniquely represented in central California.

The point is, many (if not most) of these people—the industry folks and academics alike—didn’t know one another before. Yet they all share a common bond: a belief in the power of grape research. And now, they’re all on a first-name, call-me-anytime basis with each other.

That’s a big deal! The more people there are talking about and working together on grape science, the faster, better, stronger the solutions to our collective industry challenges will be. And boy is there a lot to talk about and work on....

So, cheers to the new folks and thank you to those of you who’ve been part of the grape research community for years. We’re glad to have you all!
Donnell Brown
President
*ABOUT THE PHOTO:
Esmaeil Nasrollahiazar, Extension Educator at Michigan State University Extension, Northwest Michigan, snapped this photo at this year's NVEELC. It shows the glorious bounty of table grapes just before harvest--an awe-inspiring sight many NVEELC attendees had never seen.

AROUND THE U.S.
CA PD/GWSS Board Funds $3.3M in New Research
The California Department of Food and Agricultures Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (PD/GWSS) Board this month recommended $3.3 million in new funding for 17 research projects investigating PD, grapevine viruses and vectors over the next three years. Additionally, five previously approved multi-year projects were approved for continued funding in the amount of $566,562 for the fiscal year 2022-2023. These projects include modeling Xylella fastidiosa transmission using fluid dynamic simulations, genetic approaches to controlling GWSS, rapid identification tools for monitoring and managing viruses, field testing of transgenic grapevine rootstocks, and investigating the impact of grapevine red blotch virus.
New York's Grapevine Certification Program Is Back
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has revived its Grapevine Certification Program after a 40-year hiatus, and New York-certified vines derived from virus-tested, foundation plantings are now available from three New York nurseries: Amberg Grapevines, Double A Vineyards and Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard. Dr. Marc Fuchs’ virology lab at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY, will provide sample testing—25% of all vines in the mother block each year—to ensure the vines remain clean. Officials say that the revived and improved program has the most stringent testing protocol at the nursery level in North America. Its reintroduction is the latest step in strengthening the National Clean Plant Network.
CAWG Announces Natalie Collins as Interim President
California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Chairman Tom Slater announced late last month that Director of Member Relations Natalie Collins has been appointed as Interim President. She succeeds John Aguirre, who retired after 12 years of service and is a Past Board Chair of NGRA. Tom said, “Natalie has been a part of the CAWG family for many years, and her insight and dedication to the association are well received. The CAWG board of directors looks forward to working with Natalie on all issues and appreciates her contributions toward the future success of our membership.”
Arkansas Grape Breeder Honored for Outreach and Service
Dr. John R. Clark, distinguished professor of horticulture with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, was this month awarded the 2022 Chad Finn Ambassador Award by the American Pomological Society. The award was established in 2020 by the Society in honor of Chad Elliot Finn, a research geneticist and small fruit breeder who worked at the USDA Horticultural Research Crop Unit in Corvallis, OR, from 1993 until his passing in 2019, and who also happened to be a colleague and friend of Dr. Clark’s. It is bestowed on those who have made significant contributions to pomology, especially in outreach and service.
 
Dr. Clark has given nearly 700 formal presentations throughout his career and regularly hosts industry groups at the experiment station’s Fruit Research Station in Clarksville, AR. He composes guitar tunes to accompany many of the universitys new fruit cultivar releases and has starred in about 30 YouTube videos describing Arkansas fruit breeding innovations, including several grape varieties. He also is a recurring columnist for American Fruit Grower/Growing Produce and has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed and popular press articles and 12 book chapters, many co-authored with the late Dr. Finn.
 
The award was presented to Dr. Clark at the American Society for Horticultural Science annual conference in Chicago. It is just the second time it has been given. 
New Director Named for Virginia Tech Research and Extension Center
Kevin Rice is the new director of the Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center, effective August 10, 2022. Succeeding Dr. Tony Wolf, whose tenure officially ended this month, Dr. Rice most recently served as an assistant professor of entomology in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri. He previously served as a postdoctoral researcher at the USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station, as a postdoctoral scholar in Penn State University’s Department of Entomology, and as an extension agent at the University of Arizona. Located in Winchester, VA, the Center serves Virginia’s commercial fruit and value-added horticultural food crops industries through research, educational programs, development of sustainable production systems and technologies, and increased public knowledge of horticultural opportunities and benefits.
University of Missouri Hires New Enology Extension Specialist
The University of Missouri’s Grape and Wine Institute has not had an enology extension specialist for a number of years, but that position has now been filled. Dr. Stephan Sommer, who was Director of the Viticulture and Enology Research Center at California State University, Fresno since January 2019, officially joined the faculty of the Institute on August 1, 2022. In his new role, Dr. Sommer plans to conduct workshops and seminars for students and members of the grape and wine industry and to develop a service laboratory for wineries where they can send in samples and get immediate feedback and advice. In addition, he will be working closely with the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, an NGRA member-organization, which has a collaborative alliance with the Grape and Wine Institute. 
ASEV Merges Publications, Moves to Online, Open Access
The American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) has announced major changes to its publications, the American Journal of Enology & Viticulture (AJEV) and Catalyst: Discovery into Practice. Effective January 2023, it will consolidate Catalyst into AJEV. And furthering the hybrid open-access model the organization adopted in 2021, ASEV also will enable published authors to retroactively apply open access publishing to their articles in AJEV and/or Catalyst.

Catalyst was formed in 2016 to offer practical research with immediate application for the industry. The larger, more scholarly Journal has been published since 1950. The merged publication will be available online only (with a print-on-demand option) and in a continuous format, no longer tied to individual issues. Instead, article numbers will be assigned, shortening the window from article submission to publicationand impact to industry.
Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research Moves to Open Access
The Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) has announced a new publishing partnership with Hindawi. Under the partnership, the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research (AJGWR) will transition to a fully continuous, online only, open access format, while maintaining the AJGWR’s high quality as the flagship publication of the Society. Open access became effective on July 20, 2022. ASVO President Brooke Howell said the move to fully open access “would increase the visibility and impact of quality research and promote the adoption of new technologies and ideas for practitioners benefiting both researchers and members.”
Science Helps Fight Fraud
NGRA member-organizations the Wine Institute and WineAmerica and their partners, including ETS Laboratories, are spearheading an effort to ensure a bottle of wine’s varietal legitimacy, help combat fraud and counterfeits, and importantly, to protect its integrity. This initiative, called the U.S. wine authenticity project, will use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to verify a wine’s origin and variety and create an American wine variety database that will serve as a set of technical criteria for the global regulatory community to determine authenticity. The success of the USDA-funded project will depend on large databases of authentic wine sample analyses to be valid, so the team is seeking submissions from wineries across the country. Contact WineAmerica’s Michael Kaiser to learn more about this important work and how you can participate.
RESEARCH FOCUS
WHAT ARE GRAPE VARIETAL INNOVATIONS WORTH
Julian Alston of UC Davis Paints the Picture
At the Global Grape Summit, held this month in Bakersfield, CA, Dr. Julian Alston, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Director of the Center for Wine Economics within the Robert Mondavi Institute at the University of California, Davis, gave a presentation titled, “What Are Grape Varietal Innovations Worth?” He previewed the research he’d share in his remarks, conducted as part of the NGRA-supported VitisGen projects, in a Q&A with PerishablePundit.com. Read on for an excerpt and click to read the full-length piece.

The SCRI-funded VitisGen2 project officially concludes this month. Following the first VitisGen project, which was funded by SCRI in 2011, this 10+ years of large-scale research has been looking at breeding methods for improving plant varieties, particularly for resistance to powdery mildew.

For the Economics team on the project, our job was to estimate the economic value of specific varietal traits—such as agronomic and fruit quality traits—to individual consumers, and try to estimate the total market-wide value and distribution of benefits from new varieties among market participants. That second part of the analysis depends a lot on the timing and the rate of adoption and hence the scale of production of the new variety. These aspects depend in turn on the cost of the technology to growers, in terms of royalties or license fees, as well as what consumers are willing to pay for those varieties, if they will accept them, and how much it costs to grow them. So, that was our project: to look at aspects of these traits and what they’re worth to individual growers, to consumers and society at large.

In VitisGen, we looked at benefits from varieties of wine, table and raisin grapes resistant to diseases like Pierce’s disease and powdery mildew. We learned that these innovations would be very valuable to growers and consumers. These are very expensive diseases, and in fact, some resistant varieties have since been developed and released, bearing out what we learned there.

In VitisGen2, we focused on table grapes. One part, which is not yet finished, is to look backwards at the landscape of variety innovation and value for table grapes in California. The other part, which is essentially complete, is a forward-looking prospective analysis asking what consumers would be willing to pay for specific product attributes, and how will they value new technologies.

We have observed very large opposition to genetically engineered (GE) crops and livestock, especially in Europe, since GE crops were first introduced in the mid-1990s. As a result, GE varieties have been used only for a very small number of crops grown in a relatively small number of countries. This method of varietal innovation has been generally stifled. Gene editing is much more recent, and there’s some concern that it might face similar barriers. So, it’s timely to investigate the economics of gene editing, especially in crops like table grapes.

The objective of our study was to estimate consumers’ willingness to pay for particular types of attributes in table grapes and how that varies according to the breeding method: conventional breeding vs. gene editing. We can’t observe these new varieties, let alone consumer valuations of them, because they haven’t been made yet and are not in the marketplace, so it’s hypothetical work. But we’ve made good progress and have submitted a couple of papers on our findings to academic journals.

In one paper, titled “Consumer Acceptance of New Plant-Breeding Technologies: An Application to the Use of Gene Editing in Fresh Table Grapes,” we share the results of a study estimating consumers’ willingness to pay for specific product (quality) and process (agronomic) attributes of table grapes, including taste, texture, external appearance, expected number of chemical applications and the breeding technology used to develop the plant. Regarding varietal traits, on average respondents were willing to pay the highest price premiums for improvements in taste and texture, followed by external appearance, then expected number of chemical applications. Regarding breeding methods, on average respondents were willing to pay a small premium for table grapes developed using conventional breeding rather than gene editing (e.g., CRISPR). The group of consumers most likely to reject gene editing considers both genetic engineering and gene editing to be morally unacceptable and/or producing foods that are unsafe to eat.

Another submitted paper, “Consumers’ Willingness to Accept Gene-Edited Fruit, An Application to Quality Traits for Fresh Table Grapes,” examines consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for select quality attributes of green table grapes. Data was collected using an online survey that included a discrete “choice” experiment, where one group of respondents considered (hypothetical) table grapes developed using gene editing and the other considered table grapes developed using conventional breeding. The highest WTP value across attributes was for sweetness, followed by crispness, uniform skin color, flavor and size. But interestingly, the rank order of the WTP values for these attributes was the same for both breeding technologies. We found no differences in the attribute-specific WTP values for grapes between the two breeding technologies. Our estimates indicated a slight discount in overall WTP for table grapes produced using CRISPR compared with conventional breeding, but this discount was neither economically nor statistically significant.

In the paper’s conclusion, the analyses suggest that consumers generally fall into four groups of knowledge level about genetic engineering and gene editing. The variation in self-reported knowledge about breeding methods is directly related to the perception that grapes developed using gene editing are safe, natural and ethical to eat—or not. Respondents reporting that they are well-informed about genetic engineering and gene editing are also more likely to have positive attitudes towards these breeding methods.

We have many dimensions on which to value varietal innovation. If we have a variety that’s disease-resistant, that makes it possible to grow using organic methods, then you can have low cost and something for which the consumer is very willing to pay a premium. On the other hand, consumers may discount a new variety or choose not to buy it at all if they think it was produced with a technology that is new or unfamiliar, like gene editing.

The value of a new variety depends on many things, but crucially it depends on the rate and extent of adoption by producers, which turns on market acceptance. And that’s some big motivation for this research.
Award Nominations
As the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) highest honor, this award annually recognizes an outstanding early career researcher in any field of science or engineering the agency supports. Named for NSF’s first director, the prize includes a grant of $1,000,000 to use over a five-year period for scientific research or advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, social or other sciences at the institution of the recipient’s choice. Nominations will be accepted through September 16, 2022.

The NAS Prize was established in 2017 by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The $100,000 award recognizes a mid-career scientist (defined as up to 20 years since completion of Ph.D.) at a U.S. institution who has made an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of a species that’s fundamentally important to agriculture or food production. Nominations are due by October 3, 2022.
Funding Opportunities
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. It provides three years of support over a five-year fellowship period for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements. The deadline to apply is October 17-21, 2022, depending on the student’s area of study.

With matching funds from an international consortium of companies, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) is making research grants available in three priority areas this year: conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems in transitioning to a nature-positive grape and wine value chain, sustainable management and adaptation to climate change, and living and healthy soils in viticulture. The deadline to apply is November 6, 2022.

The Foundational and Applied Science Program of USDA-NIFAs Agriculture and Food Research Initiative supports fundamental and applied research in six priority areas: plant health and production, and plant products; animal health and production, and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; bioenergy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities. Deadlines run through November 17, 2022, depending on the program area.
IN THE NEWS
August 25, 2022 | Wine Business Monthly
After more than 20 years of evaluation, the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center will this year release its sixth cold-hardy winegrape variety, to be officially named Clarion. Formerly known as MN 1220, Clarion is a white winegrape that has tested well in Zone 5 climates like Iowa and Wisconsin. Virus-free stock is available for establishing mother blocks and a limited number of vines will be for sale to vineyards in 2023.

August 23, 2022 | Morning Ag Clips
This month, at a UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County demo at Ojai Vineyard of the Pierce’s disease grapevines developed by UC Davis, growers tasted wines made from the new varieties and heard about winemaker Adam Tolmach’s experience growing them. Grape breeder Dr. Andy Walker explained the breeding process—how it works…and why it takes so long.

August 21, 2022 | The New York Times
Civilians have enthusiastically responded to calls to stamp out the spotted lanternfly, with campers having lanternfly hunts, parks hosting squishathons and one IT guy developing an app to track kills. But an emerging group of conscientious objectors is appalled. And despite multi-year pro-squash campaigns, the bugs’ numbers have grown.

August 12, 2022 | Growing Produce
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development this month confirmed its first detection of spotted lanternfly: a small population in two counties. A statement from the agency’s Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division Director says, “We are in the assessment stage of response, but it is important to note that typical pest management techniques have not proven effective for eliminating the pest in other states.”

August 11, 2022 | Good Fruit Grower
The Washington State Grape Society and Washington State University hosted a field day this month focusing on spray technology. There, WSU grad students shared their findings on improved application techniques for traditional chemistries and alternative spray approaches that would eliminate residues.

August 11, 2022 | The Hill
It’s difficult to capture the scale of the drought facing the western U.S., the worst the region has seen in 1,200 years, says The Hill. They provide seven stats to help illustrate its severity, including this startling projection: The drought has a 75% chance of lasting through 2030.

August 8, 2022 | California Water Research
According to the Cal Poly Irrigation Training and Research Center, almonds in California’s western San Joaquin Valley need about 45 inches of water in a dry year, 55 with cover crops. Grapevines with cover crops require about 45, as well. In this very dry region, all but 7 to 8 inches (the area’s total annual rainfall) must come from irrigation.

August 5, 2022 | New York Wine & Grape Foundation
Jennifer Phillips Russo, Viticulture Extension Specialist for the Cornell Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, won the New York Wine & Grape Foundation’s Unity Award this year. Her applied research helps her region’s wine and juice grape growers understand vine balance, improve the accuracy (within 7%!) of crop estimation and, in new work, identify and apply new floor management strategies to balance soil health, vine capacity and economic sustainability.

August 2, 2022 | California Ag Network
After more than a decade, trials of new rootstocks for Scarlet Royal and Autumn King table grapes are now bearing fruit. As UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Dr. Ashraf El-kereamy explains in this video, they show promising resistance to nematodes and lower uptake of both sodium chloride—a useful trait in sites with saline soils and salty irrigation water—and nitrogen—a nutrient that promotes larger, more management-intensive canopies.

August 2, 2022 | Western Farm Press
On July 28, the Washington State Department of Agriculture confirmed a Japanese beetle catch found in Richland, more than 35 miles east of the current quarantine zone in Grandview. A few days later, they confirmed a detection in Wapato, 30 miles west of Grandview, meaning detections have expanded over 65 miles in both directions, along the I-82 corridor, a major pathway for much of the state’s agricultural production, and spreading rapidly. Washington grape growers can use this real-time detection map to see how close they are to known Japanese beetle finds: https://bit.ly/3SCu1ph.

August 1, 2022 | Wine Business Monthly
The last day of the ASEV-Eastern Section Annual Conference last month featured an industry workshop on “Resiliency in Grape and Wine Production.” Topics included grape breeding; vineyard management, site selection and herbicide drift; winemaking and marketing of cold-climate varieties; and accessing extension and other viticulture resources.
 
July 28, 2022 | WineNews.it
Hundreds of vineyards in Italy planted with “M” rootstocks resistant to water and heat stress are now showing good results. Their photosynthetic activity is as much as 35% higher than more common rootstocks, translating to lower water use and greater economic and environmental sustainability. The rootstocks were developed by Winegraft, the University of Milan’s start-up founded in 2014 to develop a new generation of rootstocks.
 
July 28, 2022 | Puget Sound Business Journal
Greg Jones, climatologist-turned-vintner at his family’s Abacela winery in Oregon, says winemakers should think about the range of potential varieties outside the mainstream that could do well in a warming climate.

July 27, 2022 | San Francisco Chronicle
As the children of California’s vineyard workers pursue other careers, they’re compounding the labor shortage in vineyards, already impacted by factors like immigration policy and the rising cost of living. One solution, mechanization, is fiercely contested by some winemakers, who are instead trying new ways to attract the next generation of vineyard workers and/or make labor more efficient and less physically demanding, as with small mechanized tools.

July 27, 2022 | The New York Times
Soil-based fungi are an important ally in efforts to tame global warming—particularly mycorrhizal fungi, which clings to plant roots. In a symbiotic relationship, plants (grapevines included) receive nutrients fungi extract from the soil while fungi receive life-giving carbon that plants produce via photosynthesis. As much as 5 billion tons of carbon flow from plants to mycorrhizal fungi annually—carbon that would otherwise stay in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the powerful greenhouse gas.

July 26, 2022 | Cornell Chronicle
From providing farm workers with training in Spanish, to developing predictive modeling tools, to exploring whether dogs can detect egg masses, Cornell researchers and extension staff are working closely with New York state agencies to slow—or stop—the spotted lanternfly’s spread throughout New York.

July 18, 2022 | Fruit & Vegetable
A project led by scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada exploring the soil microbiome and endosphere (the portion of the plant living below the surface) of organically grown grapevines in Nova Scotia provides a valuable reference for a cool climate vineyard. The bacteria and fungi were found to be similar yet unique to other studies, influenced by root type and soil depth. “In the same way that a forest ecosystem may vary completely in the species that make it up as a result of location and climate while still performing the same key functions, the same is likely true for a plant’s microbiome,” writes the project’s PI.

July 5, 2022 | Tellus
Bioproducts engineers at the USDA-ARS Western Regional Research Center are exploring ways to replace single-use, non-biodegradable plastics with corn and plant-based fiber materials like a fiber foam wine shipper. Doing so could help achieve zero-waste agriculture, reduce greenhouse gases and create a circular economy, depending on the products' final destination—composting or recycling facility.

June 21, 2022 | Frontiers in Plant Science
A team led by Penn State analyzed samples of commercial Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced from the parents of a breeding population to assess their aroma profiles, finding hundreds of distinct wine, free and bound volatiles. The study points to the potential of using commercially available samples paired with untargeted analysis to determine phenotypes of interest and thereby choosing potential parents for grapevine breeding.

May 13, 2022 | Progressive Crop Consultant
UC scientists recently identified an obscure wood canker disease on Grenache and Malbec cultivars in Fresno and Sonoma counties. Called Aspergillus vine canker, the fungal disease was first detected in the San Joaquin Valley in 1989, affecting excessively vigorous young Red Globe grapevines. Its suspected causal agent also is associated with sour rot.
Find these stories and more, published every weekday, on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
UPCOMING EVENTS
October 18-20, 2022
Fresno, CA

October 31-November 4, 2022
Ensenada, Mexico

November 2, 2022
NGRA End-of-Year Board Meeting
Fredericksburg, TX

November 2-4, 2022
Dripping Springs, TX

November 8, 2022
Turlock, CA

November 11, 2022
Fresno, CA

November 14-16, 2022
San Luis Obispo, CA
Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.

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