April 2022
Chardonnay vines at Monterey Pacific's Greenfield, CA, ranch*
Who doesn't love a happy ending...especially when, at the beginning of the story, things are going all wrong?

One of my favorite such stories involves cheese. Years ago, when I lived on Long Island, NY, I was tasting with cheesemaker Art Ludlow at his family’s artisanal Mecox Bay Dairy in Bridgehampton. As I gushed over the delicious, unusual morsel in my mouth, Art explained it was the product of a “happy accident.” A wheel of cheese being aged as a cheddar was accidentally inoculated with the Penicillium mold that makes blue cheese. In such a small production setting (in the Hamptons, no less), a whole, unsaleable wheel would be a big loss. So rather than throwing it away, they waited to see what would happen. The resulting blue-veined hard cheese turned out to be a bestseller.

At the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Demo Day held this month in the Salinas Valley (see Research Focus below), Steve McIntyre of Monterey Pacific added another of these stories to my collection. Three years ago, when his team was scheduled to plant the high-wire chardonnay vineyard we visited as part of the event, they found themselves slammed by projects and suddenly out of time. “We were in hurry-up mode,” he said. Rather than rush the new vines into the ground, they had the nursery hold them till the following year. Of course, that would add cost at the nursery, but it would save costs in the vineyard—and even better, ensure that when the vines were planted, they could do the job right. Eight months later, after they’d had time to prep the site and source the stakes and special wire-lifting attachment they put atop each one, they were ready to plant. They could even sort and, if needed, test the vines, now 40 inches tall (atop a 24-inch graft union)—a nice headstart on the 50-inch trellis they’d be trained on. In the ground, these vines (shown above) produced higher tonnage, faster than others planted 50 yards away the previous year (the year these vines were supposed to go in). The mistake was so successful, it has become Monterey Pacific’s preferred planting M.O.

The New York Times’ Eric Asimov wrote this month of the wines Berkeley’s Donkey & Goat Winery made in 2021 after wildfires made their planned production impossible. Some of its most expensive grapes went into California-appellated wines as fruit from across regionsand vintageswere combined to make up for shortfalls. Although the results are wines “even the producer’s most ardent fans would not recognize,” Eric writes, general manager and winemaker Tracey Rogers Brandt expresses a deep appreciation for their new climate-driven creative wines.” She says: “During harvest I thought I was going to lose my business. I didn’t know if I could pay my people. And I love these wines.”

Even my role with NGRA, which I started five years ago this month, was born from what at first felt like a wrong turn. When I moved from New York to California to take a job with the visitor’s bureau in the beautiful Temecula Valley, I realized quickly it was less focused on wine than tourism—an important component of the industry but far removed from the viticulture and enology aspects I care most about. A friend happened to receive and share with me a job posting for NGRA (then NGWI) and the rest is history. I got to be a part of a hidden-gem wine region, learned a lot, made invaluable connections and value the experience I had in Temecula. And I realize now that if I hadn’t taken that misplaced step, I wouldn’t have found this job that I love. And I might never have discovered my passion for science.
The thing is, happy accidents take time to unfoldtheyre only apparent after youve made the best of a less-than-ideal situation. So, to everyone facing the unintended consequences of circumstances gone awry, remember that there may yet be some beautiful outcome. In the wise words of John Lennon: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end!”
These happy accident high-wire, mechanized chardonnay vines set a new planting standard for Monterey Pacific.
Photo credit: Jenny Devine.

(A zip file will download.)
Donnell Brown

Apply for the NGRA Fellowship
Are you or someone you know a promising grape scientist? Apply for our new NGRA Fellowship! Designed to further the work of an aspiring Ph.D. student in grape-related science supporting the NGRA research priorities, the NGRA Fellowship is a competitive award of $30,000 per year for three years, conferred on one doctoral student in 2022. In addition to the monetary contribution for student tuition and/or fees, the award includes mentorship, field tours and networking with our Board of Directors throughout the three-year term. It is our hope that, by providing support in the early stages of a promising grape scientist’s career, we’ll spark a relationship that will last a lifetime. Applications are due June 3, 2022. Winner will be notified the week of July 18, 2022. Learn more and apply.
Register for NVEELC 2022
The next National Viticulture and Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC) is scheduled for August 14-17, 2022, in California's San Joaquin Valley—the largest, most diverse viticulture production area in the U.S. Organized and hosted by UC Cooperative Extension with support from NGRA and sponsored by the California Table Grape Commission, E. & J. Gallo Winery and Sun-Maid Growers of California, NVEELC 2022 is timed later this year to offer an extraordinary opportunity to tour raisin, table grape and wine vineyards, and postharvest and production facilities—including Gallo’s Livingston Winery—at the start of harvest. Join with other extension and outreach specialists for professional development, best-practice sharing, research and regional reports, collaboration and dialogue on the unique challenges in V&E extension in America. Registration opened last month and the event is already 50% full! Get your ticket!
USDA Releases a New Strategic Plan
This spring, the USDA released a new FY 2022-2026 strategic plan. It features five cross-cutting priorities: addressing climate change via climate-smart agriculture, forestry and renewable energy; advancing racial justice, equity, and opportunity; creating more and better markets for producers and consumers at home and abroad; tackling food and nutrition security while maintaining a safe food supply; and making USDA a great place to work. And in addition to updated mission, vision and core value statements, it puts forth six strategic goals for the next five years.
Leadership Changes at USDA-NIFA
This month, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Director Carrie Castille announced her departure from the post, transitioning to a new role as Senior Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice President of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. On April 11, Dionne Toombs became Acting NIFA Director. Later this spring, Parag Chitnis, NIFA’s Associate Director of Programs, also will depart to become Vice President of Research and Economic Development at the University of Wyoming. NIFA Program Leader Brent Elrod will step in as Acting Associate Director of Programs upon Parag’s departure.
USDA-ARS Scientist Recognized for Spray Tech Innovation
Heping Zhu of the USDA-ARS Application Technology Research Unit in Wooster, OH, was recognized this month as one of the agencys four 2022 Area Senior Research Scientists of the Year for inventing intelligent spray technology to protect diverse horticultural crops and ecosystems. A key advantage of Heping’s innovation is the ability to retrofit existing sprayer systems with a kit that uses LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensing on the front of the sprayer unit or tractor to scan the canopy and direct spray nozzles to target only vegetation, not voids. Last year, Trinchero Family Estates (TFE) conducted trials of the smart guided sprayer control technology in Lodi-area vineyards. TFE was one of the first California vineyards to use the system and hosted the first grower field demonstration last May in conjunction with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Heping’s technology is now used in commercial ag applications nationwide, including the John Deere variable-rate sprayer demoed at the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Demo Day. (See Research Focus below.)
NSF Launches a New Directorate
Last month, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a new directorate—its first in more than 30 years—for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP), led by inaugural NSF Assistant for TIP Director Erwin Gianchandani. Targeted to further the development and commercial viability of new innovations, TIP will launch a set of integrated initiatives to advance critical and emerging technologies; accelerate the translation of research results from the lab to market and society; and cultivate new education pathways leading to a diverse and skilled future technical workforce comprising researchers, practitioners, technicians and entrepreneurs. Much of NSF’s existing innovation and translation portfolio will transition to the TIP Directorate, including the NSF Innovation Corps and America's Seed Fund powered by NSF programs.
FFAR Names New Executive Director
Saharah Moon Chapotin will be the new Executive Director for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), starting in August 2022. She is currently Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden and has more than 15 years’ experience in federal leadership, using science to inform policy and advancing agriculture research.
Comings and Goings at Cornell
Earlier this year, Cornell Senior Extension Associate and New York Statewide Viticulture Extension Specialist Tim Martinson retired after 25 years at the university. Having served as extension viticulturist for the Finger Lakes Grape Program from 1997 to 2007, then serving at the state level from 2007 to 2022, Tim’s accomplishments were many. He laid the groundwork for development of the VineBalance New York Guide to Sustainable Vineyard Practices workbook, the state’s sustainability standard today. He also led the Northern Grapes Project, which provided a critical knowledge base for cold-hardy cultivars and opened our eyes to the power of webinars as an extension tool. Read more about Tim’s contributions to grape research and extension in this tribute by his colleague and successor in the Finger Lakes, Hans Walter-Peterson.
Jason Londo, formerly Research Geneticist with the USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Unit, in Geneva, NY, has transitioned to Cornell, where he’s now Associate Professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science. His work will focus on fruit crop physiology (still grapes, but now apples, too) and climate adaptation.
Oklahoma State Seeks an Extension Pro
Oklahoma State University is hiring a Grape and Wine Assistant Extension Specialist, an 11-month, non-tenure track position. Review of applications will begin on May 31, 2022. Learn more and apply.
PD/GWSS Board Approves Funding for Research Projects
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Pierce’s Disease (PD)/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS) Board this month approved $1.9 million in new funding for 16 research projects for fiscal year 2022-23, and a total of $2.7 million in new funding over the next three years for research to address Pierce’s Disease and grapevine viruses and vectors. PD projects range from breeding and non-transgenic gene editing for PD-resistance, deepening understanding of PD transmission and symptom progression, and developing biopesticides for PD management. And the virus research projects focus on grapevine red blotch virus (GRBV) and leafroll viruses.

The PD/GWSS Board also is exploring engagement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an audit to investigate current knowledge and efforts and provide future directions in research to address grapevine viruses, whether the focus of the study should be on GRBV and/or grapevine leafroll virus-3. The study would be similar to one done early in the formation of the Board that helped to focus its PD/GWSS efforts.
Weigh in on SLF Survey
Concerned about Spotted Lanternfly (SLF)? Help to quantify the threat! Penn State is surveying the grape and wine industry on SLF's impacts on yield loss, management costs, potential business reputation loss and industry outlook. Even if your vineyard or winery has not (yet) been impacted, please participate. The survey will close on May 20, 2022. 
By Donnell Brown
Under crisp, wind-swept blue skies on April 13, 2022, 150 people boarded three buses for a day-long tour of precision viticulture applications in California’s Salinas Valley. The sold-out event—the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Demo Day—offered insight into what’s possible today in precision grape-growing and what’s just around the corner. Here’s a snapshot of what we learned and saw at each stop.

Scheid Family Wines: Craig Winn and Jovany Cruz began the day focusing on data. Early in Scheid’s drive toward precision management, Craig explained, it became quickly apparent that data connectivity across vineyards was critical. Now, with that connectivity in place, Scheid uses in-field, real-time data from irrigation systems (Tule Technologies), sensors affixed to biocontrol drones (BioBest Solutions) and other technology solutions, all linked via HeavyConnect data hub, in a model of precision viticulture principles.

Monterey Pacific: Steve McIntyre was joined by MPI team members Doug Beck, Jeff Lehar and Daryl Salm to discuss and demo the tools they use to assess soil composition (Veris organic carbon and EC [electrical conductivity] sensor), add amendments accordingly (proprietary MPI-built GPS-guided winged ripper and compost injector), and deal, precisely, with weeds (WeedIt) and other unwanteds (GUSS [Global Unmanned Spray System]). Doug also discussed the benefits of biochar and showed samples of the “black gold.” And as described above, Steve explained the planting philosophy for MPI’s high-wire mechanized vineyards.

Valley Farm Management: Over lunch, Jason Smith discussed how VFM applies the concepts of precision management to its overall operations, spanning the continuum “From Field to Workforce” (the title of his talk), including labor management and timekeeping apps, and payroll and supply systems. VFM also hosted three in-field demonstrations in its premium chardonnay vineyard. The smart machines shown included an autonomous cart from Burro, self-driving/driver-assist grape harvester from New Holland and variable-rate sprayer from John Deere. (See related USDA-ARS award story above.)

Tanimura & Antle: Because T&A is one of the country’s largest row-crop operations, precision, mechanized solutions are key to its farming operations. At T&A headquarters, Demo Day attendees saw two AI-enabled mechanized implements from Stout Industrial Technology: the Stout Smart Cultivator and Smart Sprayer. Deployed in the specialty crops T&A grows (think lettuce and other leafy greens), they help reduce input costs for labor, sprays, etc. But the real magic is in the AI with which they can enable a precision program. As Stout’s Brent Shedd explained, the technology onboard can go beyond the simple green vs. brown analysis most smart sprayers use to zap weeds to identify the weeds it sees, or diagnose disease or nutritional deficits, and deliver management recommendations. These tools aren’t available for grape…yet. But the promise of what’s possible (and a glass of wine from participating Demo Day producers) was the perfect way to end the day.

A lot of people contributed a lot of time, attention and expertise to make the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Demo Day a success. In addition to the speakers named above, huge thanks go to:

  • Dan Howard and Jen Smalley, American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV), our partner in the event
  • NGRA and ASEV Board member Keith Striegler, E. & J. Gallo Winery
  • Natalie Collins and Jenny Devine, California Association of Winegrape Growers
  • Danielle Long, Valley Farm Management
  • Brian Antle, Tanimura & Antle

And finally, we’re grateful to USDA-NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative whose conference grant made it possible to keep the ticket price low. If you were there, thank YOU for being a part of it!

See a selection of Demo Day photos here. (A zip file will download.) Larger, high-res versions of all images are available. Photo credit: Jenny Devine.
Funding Opportunities
Sharpen your pencils! These research funding programs have upcoming deadlines.
Through this new program, USDA will finance partnerships to support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities via a set of pilot projects lasting one to five years. Two funding pools are available, now with extended deadlines:

  • First Funding Pool: Proposals from $5 million to $100 million, including large-scale pilot projects that emphasize the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and include direct, meaningful benefits to a representative cross-section of production agriculture, including small and/or historically underserved producers. Deadline is May 6, 2022.
  • Second Funding Pool: Proposals from $250,000 to $4,999,999 are limited to particularly innovative pilot projects that place an emphasis on enrollment of small and/or underserved producers, and/or monitoring, reporting and verification activities developed at minority-serving institutions. Deadline is June 10, 2022.
The Foundational and Applied Science Program of USDA-NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) 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 are May 12, 2022, through November 17, 2022, depending on the program area.
April 22, 2022 │ Wine Spectator
In this Q&A, climatologist and vintner Gregory Jones talks about how climate change is impacting the world’s grape growing regions and individual vineyards, including adaptations in varieties and how they’re grown. “Everybody went from sprawl to VSP. (But) as the climate warmed, we’ve found that those tight VSP canopy structures were probably not the right thing to do,” he said, as now there’s a need for a larger canopy to protect the fruit.

April 21, 2022 │ Popular Science
Scientists have been alarmed by the rate of subsidence in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley. In the Tulare Basin, as groundwater is depleted, land is sinking at a rate of about a foot a year. NASA’s Grace satellites can measure how much water mass there is under the Earth’s surface, giving farmers a more accurate picture of water resources beyond just groundwater.

April 19, 2022 │ Drought.gov
Fundamentally, drought is a shortage of water driven by an imbalance between supply and demand. Today, that equation is changing. Low precipitation (i.e., supply) has historically been the main driver of drought. But because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water, the demand side may have a greater influence going forward.

April 18, 2022 │ Wine Business Monthly
Scientists at UC Davis have developed a smoke impact sensory assessment rating scale of 0 (not affected) to 8 (very high impact) to characterize taint. The scale applies to smoke-related attributes detected on the palate (not on the nose), defined as “smoky, ashy, campfire, tar-like attributes observed in the mouth.” An estimated 25% of people lack the saliva chemistry that reacts with smoke compounds and cannot detect smoke taint.

April 18, 2022 │ Modern Farmer
This article isn’t about grapes in particular but raises key points about how ag-tech may change farming in general. One interesting callout: “For a younger generation, one that prizes a work-life balance, knowing that there are ways to monitor or automate farming functions could make the business more appealing.”

April 15, 2022 │ Good Fruit Grower
The fact that Concord vines (widely planted in Washington) are tolerant to phylloxera and belief that sandy soils like those in the state's growing regions were not conducive to it masked the threat of the pest. New tools help growers get a more realistic picture.

April 14, 2022 │ Western Farm Press
“Holistic viticulturist” Kelley Mulville uses sheep to replace some previously mechanized vineyard work: “We trained things a bit higher than the normal vineyard,” he explains, using grazing sheep as floor management. Weeds processed “through the animal’s fermenting system get put back on the ground, thus increasing the nutrient cycling of the soil.” Even sheep’s saliva may help reduce disease incidence in vines, he adds.

April 8, 2022 │ Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Texas is experiencing its worst drought since 2011. Then, 95% of the state was in drought. Now, 85% of the state reports drought conditions, with 41% in extreme or exceptional drought. Conditions are expected to worsen in West Texas, where most of the state’s commercial grape production is.

April 7, 2022 │ The Vineyard Team
In this podcast, Cornell’s Terry Bates discusses the NGRA-initiated Efficient Vineyard project, including the new myEV online open-source tool to measure, model and manage vineyards using spatial data. He also talks about a newly funded project focused on robotic pruning, led by Carnegie Mellon. The team is using similar imaging technology developed in the Efficient Vineyard project to now ID canes and buds and make cuts based on prescribed pruning rules. Till now, using data has been about managing zones, Terry says, but “this is going to get us back to real precision viticulture on a vine-by-vine basis.”

April 6, 2022 │ National Science Foundation
A team of scientists led by UC Santa Barbara is redefining drought. Using “ensemble” modeling, they forecasted rainfall and soil moisture into the future, finding that many regions will enter permanent dry or wet conditions in the coming decades. “We have to change the way we think about climate as what used to be extreme becomes the new normal,” said NSF’s Eric DeWeaver.

April 5, 2022 │ Wine Business Monthly
This essay by viticulturist Loni Lyttle lays out the history, methods and challenges of developing disease-resistant grape varieties. She writes: “There are two ways to utilize the resistance present in American varieties: you can cross the two and create inter-specific hybrids…or you can go in, grab the resistant genes and plop them into the V. vinifera genome. This latter option would probably give us vines that were much more similar to the clones we all know and love with a fraction of the fungicides being needed. The market just isn’t ready to accept this approach.”

April 1, 2022 │ Canadian Grapevine Certification Network
A deep freeze in January in Nova Scotia prompted two Canadian scientists to compile historical trends of winter minimum temperatures and review the impacts of pruning methods as means of mitigating the damage. Yields bounced back nicely in year 2 of the pruning study, with no strong differences between treatments. And of note: The region’s growing season has increased by roughly 40 days, and the number of growing degree days from April 1 to October 31 has increased by 27%. But, as the researchers note, “Regardless of the length of the growing season or the amount of heat the vineyard receives, it only requires one night of lethal cold temperatures to wipe out a grape crop in a given year.”

April 2022 │ Vine to Wine
The first-year results are in for the NGRA-initiated, SCRI-funded HiRes Vineyard Nutrition project. This update focuses on vineyard trials and nutrition analysis in OR, and precision viticulture sensing in WA. With collaborators across the U.S., the project seeks to develop better monitoring tools and protocols for more precise vineyard nutrient management and tools for more rapid evaluation of nutrient levels in vines than is currently possible with tissue tests.

April 2022 │ Vine to Wine
This spring, regions across the U.S. were hit with late frosts. This article from the Oregon Wine Research Institute offers insights, including the fact that “type of frost matters.” Radiation frost occurs under clear skies and calm winds when heat previously absorbed by the vineyard is lost as radiant energy, dropping temps at ground level and warming the air above the vineyard in an inversion. Advection frosts involve no inversion, occurring when a cold air mass replaces warm air, dropping and holding temps below freezing. Advection frosts are hardest to fight.

March 31, 2022 │ Good Fruit Grower
Grape growers report that, when it comes to winter pruning, a mix of mechanization and hand-labor helps to balance time-intensive, often dangerous work with the trained eye of a human. Here, viticulturists from Coyote Canyon and Precept Wine share their experience, and WSU’s Jim Harbertson shares the science.

March 21, 2022 │ Wine Business Monthly
At the UC Davis Grapevine Red Blotch Disease Symposium last month, UC scientists presented research updates and management recommendations for dealing with the disease, both in the vineyard and winery. Highlights include: Longer hang-time may improve fruit quality from infected vines, but increased irrigation and fruit thinning have little impact. Fruit from infected vines is best processed separately as more than 15% in the must can negatively impact finished wine. A definitive vector continues to be elusive, but infection patterns are consistent with vector spread.

March 21, 2022 │ ABC 7 News
Winemaker and UC Santa Cruz chemistry professor Phil Crews is using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) and quantitative mass spectrometry to test for smoke-derived compounds that serve as biomarkers for taint that may develop in finished wine. “The chromatography does a separation, the mass spectrometry does a visualization,” he explains.

February 22, 2022 │ California Ag Network
Using data from 1979 to 2019, Washington State University climate scientists found that simultaneous heatwaves are seven times more likely now than 40 years ago. On average, there were concurrent large heatwaves on 143 days each year of the 2010s. They also grew hotter and larger: their intensity rose by 17% and their geographic extent increased 46%.

Find these stories and more, published every weekday, on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
May 3, 2022
Virtual event

May 11, 2022
Santa Rosa, CA

May 17-18, 2022
Washington, DC

May 23, 2022
Faster, Cheaper, Better: Adventures and Applications in Grape and Wine Analyses
Davis, CA

June 3, 2022
Virtual event

June 19-22, 2022
San Diego, CA

June 26-29, 2022
Adelaide, Australia

July 3-8, 2022
Bordeaux, France

July 11-12, 2022
NGRA Mid-Year Board Meeting and Strategic Planning Meeting
Bloomington, MN

July 13-15, 2022
Bloomington, MN

July 17-21, 2022
Ontario, Canada

July 20-22, 2022
Cremona, Italy

July 30-August 3, 2022
Chicago, IL

August 14-17, 2022
San Joaquin Valley, CA

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.

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