October 2019
Advancing research to maximize the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness
 of the American grape industries.

A wildfire burning in Oklahoma in April 2018, captured by the Sentinel-2 satellite, 500 miles above.
Photo credit: European Space Agency.
T he National Grape Research Alliance is based in Sacramento, California, two hours from Sonoma County, where the Kincade Fire has been burning since October 23. At this writing, the fire has scorched nearly 77,000 acres-- an area more than twice the size of San Francisco, according to The New York Times. Gusty winds and kindling-dry conditions trigger "red flag" warnings daily, and the local electric provider, Pacific Gas and Electric, is routinely implementing blackouts throughout the state in an effort to prevent further fires.
In This Issue
It's unreal.

Thankfully,  92% of Sonoma's crop had been harvested when the blaze br oke out, as Sonoma County Winegrowers reports, and the fire is largely in rural, less populous areas. The Wine Institute, an NGRA member-organization, notes that  vineyards serve as firebreaks  in wildfires, due to their high moisture content, helping to save structures and homes. But other good news is in short supply.

Headlines and news articles are calling the situation in California a hellish "new normal." Experts warn that, with climate change, we will see increasing incidence and severity of wildfires here in the West, as well as hurricanes in the Southeast, freeze events in the Northeast and Midwest, and other  billion-dollar weather disasters, as cataloged by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

What is to be done? NGRA can help to ensure more research is focused on meeting climate change head-on by spurring research focused not only on natural resources and the environment--an existing priority area--but also built into projects in genetics and grapevine improvement and integrated production systems, and strongly supported by extension and outreach. But science is a long game. Solutions are possible, but research takes time.

In the meantime, our hearts are with our colleagues and friends in Sonoma County and other affected areas. Let us not forget, this is anything but normal.
Donnell Brown
T he  NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop is less than two weeks away. Still on the fence? Here are some great reasons to attend: Continuing education units (CEUs) are now available for Pest Control Advisers and Certified Crop Advisers. And you can meet any of the 30 speakers one-on-one at lunch or during the post-event reception. The day-long agenda spans sensors from space to the soil, delves into sensor technologies for vine water status, irrigation management, and pests and diseases, and includes a discussion of the data technologies that help translate sensor outputs to management decisions . An industry panel of early-adopters will close out the day, reporting on their successes (and failures) with sensors, reflecting on what they've learned and dishing about the high-tech tools they dream about. Grab one of the few remaining tickets and join us on Wednesday, November 13, in Sacramento! (Note: Tickets will not be sold at the door.)
The late Richard (Rich) Smith of Paraiso Vineyards and Smith Family Wines was first and foremost a family man, and also a successful grape grower, vintner and respected colleague. Before his passing in 2015, thanks to 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. Three of those organizations--the National Grape Research Alliance, WineAmerica and the Winegrape Growers of America--together with the Smith Family collaborate to annually bestow the Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award on a leader who demonstrates similar qualities and makes a similarly positive impact on the industry as the award's namesake did. Past recipients include John Martini (Anthony Road Wine Co., 2017), Pete Downs (Family Winemakers of California, 2018) and Jerry Lohr (J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, 2019). Click to the  award criteria and simple nomination form  to make your nomination(s) by November 8.   The Smith Family will present the 2020 award at the WGA Leadership Luncheon at the Unified Symposium on Wednesday, February 5, 2020, in Sacramento.
Foundation Plant Services reported this month that the incidence of grapevine red blotch virus at its Russell Ranch Vineyard rose from .1% in 2017 to 7.1% this year. As a result, FPS is placing orders for foundation material from the vineyard on hold. FPS aggressively managed against the spread. But as FPS Director and NGRA Board member Deborah Golino notes in her open letter to stakeholders, it's not known if there are vectors other than the three-cornered alfalfa hopper involved in the virus' transmission. Clearly, more research is needed. Grapevine material planted in the FPS Classic Foundation Vineyard will continue to be available for distribution.
Texas A&M AgriLife hosted a grand opening of its new Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology building on October 25. It will house the department's capabilities and facilities to advance the understanding of interactions between plants and their microbiome. The space will be home to the Molecular Biology of Plant Defense Responses Research Lab, Molecular Epidemiological Modeling of Plant Pathogen Spread Lab, Fungal Development Biology Research Lab, environmentally controlled Plant-Microbe Growth Chamber and Greenhouse. Research programs will focus on plant pathogenicity, plant signaling, plant-microbe interactions, synthetic biology and biofuels, and plant biotechnology.
Cheers to the Washington State Wine Commission on establishing a new research grant program! It seeks to encourage scientists, regardless of location, to focus on research issues important to Washington's wine industry and to collaborate with scientists at Washington State University. The program opens for applications December 1.
The USDA has  selected an office site for the  500-plus  Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture jobs it is relocating: a building in downtown Kansas City, on the Missouri side of the state line.  An official announcement could come as soon as next week. The first wave of employees was to relocate from Washington, DC, on October 1, though most either deferred the decision or declined to move.
On Capitol Hill, there is still conflict around the move. Thirty-two Democratic lawmakers signed a letter asking House and Senate appropriators to withhold FY 2020 funds for the move. The House did not include funding for it in its spending bill, but the Senate did. Now, Republicans are arguing that other USDA agencies should leave DC to be closer to their stakeholders, too.
Meanwhile, NIFA is hiring. The agency is recruiting to fill many vacancies, including the position of Deputy Director for the Office of Grants and Financial Management, other division director positions and more. Opportunities are posted on NIFA's Career Opportunities web page .

One year ago, NGRA's Integrated Production Systems research committee was meeting to discuss the need for research around the development and deployment of high-tech tools for vineyard management. Sensors--for anything from crop estimation to vine water status and stress detection to pest and disease detection--were top-of-mind. The more we talked, the more we realized how little we knew. What sensor technologies are out there? What sensors are being developed and for what applications? What sensors are working well in adjacent areas (e.g., in other perennial crops) that could perhaps be adapted to grape? Wouldn't it be great if there were an event that would give us the answers we seek?
On Wednesday, November 13, together with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, we'll bring that event to life: the NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop.
We've been highlighting some of the speakers and their sensor perspectives on the NGRA Facebook page,  including the snapshots below. Meet these experts and nearly 25 more at the Sensor Workshop!  See the complete agenda and reserve your spot now!


Martha Anderson and William Kustas, USDA-ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory (HRSL)

Bill and Martha are fine-tuning computer models for precision irrigation targeted to helping vineyards save water by determining exactly how much water is needed in specific areas and exactly when it should be applied. The models tap into data collected by satellites sensing things like soil and vine moisture levels and rates of water use or evapotranspiration (ET). This work is at the heart of the ARS-led Grape Remote Sensing Atmospheric Profile and Evapotranspiration Experiment or GRAPEX for short, which promises to save water across more than a million acres of vineyards in California alone.

Sensor Workshop Topics: "GRAPEX: An Interdisciplinary Project for Developing Irrigation Scheduling Tools" (Bill) and "Mapping Daily Vineyard Evapotranspiration" (Martha)


Terry Bates, Cornell University and Cornell AgriTech

Last spring, at two vineyards in California, Terry demonstrated variable-rate shoot thinning. It's one of the capabilities enabled by the intersection of sensor technology and data applications, developed in the Efficient Vineyard SCRI project, which concluded this year. "You can use a lot of ways to gather the data about the soil, vines or grapes," he said. "In this block, we canopy-scanned the vineyard and have two years of harvest data, and used that information to program the shoot thinner."

Sensor Workshop Topic: "Sensor Technology and Precision Vineyard Management"


Kaitlin Gold, Cornell University and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab

Katie is conducting postdoctoral research at NASA, using the latest hardware and software for remote imaging with future application to digital agriculture and grape production. Her special interest lies in sensor-driven detection of grapevine disease ecology and epidemiology--an area where research is sorely needed.

Sensor Workshop Topic: "Hyperspectral Sensors for Disease Management"


Tim Gottwald, USDA-ARS Horticultural Research Lab

Dogs have better scent detection abilities than most laboratory instruments and they can be trained to "alert" (either sit or lay) when they pick up specific scent signatures. Thus, dogs are very accurate sensors! In fact, canines have been shown to detect with greater than 98% accuracy the fungal pathogen that causes laurel wilt disease in avocado, the bacterium that causes citrus canker disease in citrus, and plum pox virus in peach orchards. Tim is a leading scientist in this area.

Sensor Workshop Topic: "Direct Detection of Disease with Dogs


Mac McKee, Utah State University Utah Water Research Lab

In June, Mac retired as director of the Utah Water Research Lab, where his research spanned a wide range of water resources management issues. Most recently, he focused on the development and deployment of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for remote sensing to solve scientific problems. His innovations led to his appointment to the Utah Governor's Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Site Advisory Board, which established the state as a player in UAV technologies.

Sensor Workshop Topic: "UAVs: Opportunities and Challenges"


Forrest Melton, Cal State University Monterey Bay and NASA Ames Research Center

Forrest is one of the foremost experts in using satellite data and ecosystem models to address challenges in managing natural resources--water, in particular. He is the lead scientist on a 10-year, $32 million NASA-funded project using satellite data to improve water management in agriculture, now about halfway in.

Sensor Workshop Topics: "Use of Satellites in Agriculture Management" and "Remote Sensing Tools for Irrigation Management at Scale"


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has advanced tremendously and today promises benefits to many industries, including agriculture. Increased computing power, the availability of large datasets and streaming data, and algorithmic advances in machine learning have made it possible for AI development to create new sectors of the economy and revitalize industries. Continued advancement, enabled by sustained federal investment and channeled toward issues of national importance, holds the potential for further economic impact and quality-of-life improvements. Thus USDA-NIFA is offering up to $5 million in grants for AI projects in these program areas: Trustworthy AI, AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System, AI-Augmented Learning, and AI in Chemistry. Deadline to apply is January 28, 2020. See the complete request for applications.

October 24, 2019 | The Scientist
A cure for thirsty plants? An engineered small molecule called opabactin that targets the receptor for the hormone abscisic acid (ABA), which plants release in stressful conditions, was found to limit water loss in Arabidopsis, tomato and wheat, and it improved wheat's tolerance of drought-like conditions in the lab. It could be a novel strategy for helping plants (so far, monocots and eudicots) cope with drought, but must be evaluated for toxicity and environmental impact before use in field tests.
October 15, 2019 | Good Fruit Grower
Michigan State University and Washington State University are collaborating on an SCRI project, originally focused on apples, but with promise for grapes. It's a solid-set spray delivery system that reduces spray drift and maximizes chemical efficiency using a compressor or hydraulic pump--no tractor needed. "We are as good as airblast in terms of coverage and deposition, but with less drift," said WSU's Rajeev Sinha, a scientist on the project.
October 14, 2019 | The New York Times
The New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov this month launched an insightful four-part piece on climate change. "Grape growers have been noting profound changes in weather patterns since the 1990s. In the short term," he writes in the first installment, "some of these changes have actually benefited certain regions. (But) more disruptions are coming, much faster than anybody expected. The accelerating effects of climate change are forcing the wine industry to take decisive steps to counter or adapt to the shifts." See the five factors he notes as crucial to growing and producing wine.

October 11, 2019 | USDA-ARS
The USDA-ARS on October 7 launched a new Partnerships for Data Innovation program, seeking to mobilize data to revolutionize the way food (including grapes) is grown. Partners include Microsoft, Esri, AgVoice, EarthSense, AgCROS and Ag Data Commons. ARS's Mike Buser leads the program and is speaking at the NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop.

October 11, 2019 | Wine Australia
Scientists down under, funded in part by Wine Australia, are developing a novel pest airborne surveillance and diagnostic initiative called iMapPESTS to speed up detection and reporting of important pests and diseases within regions. Grape is one of the first ag sectors of focus. Central to the project is a sensor called the Sentinel that detects airborne fungal spores and insects.
October 8, 2019 | Western Farm Press
In this interview about the NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop, columnist Lee Allen quotes Nick Dokoozlian, NGRA's Research Chair: "The playing field has changed over the last five years because of an increased availability and diversity of a variety of sensors and platforms, both proximal and distal," he says. "There's a plethora of sensors available now, but which ones really matter to growers? Which ones can they use to impact their bottom line? And what do we need for the future in order to leverage more and more of the information they collect? We need the ability to gather and translate that data into actionable decisions."
October 8, 2019 | Western Farm Press
Purdue University scientists David Ebert and Christian Butzke have been working with growers in California and Oregon, "looking at factors on how growers can harness technology that allows them to be more efficient in their operations," David says. (He's Purdue's Silicon Valley Professor of Computer Engineering.) "Adapting new technology can give you even truer indicators and an advance warning of something going wrong that you may not have seen before."

October 7, 2019 | Wine Business Monthly
At an October 1 Lodi Winegrape Commission meeting, scientists from UC Davis presented recent research on sudden (or mystery) vine collapse and the results of lab testing of vines from Lodi Winegrowers' vineyards where vine collapse has occurred. The syndrome, they say, may be associated with a combination of virus pathogens including leafroll virus and grapevine vitiviruses. Plus, certain rootstocks, notably Freedom, are more sensitive to these virus combinations and more prone to vine collapse.

October 7, 2019 | Allied Grape Growers
Sound on for this informative video! The Thompson Seedless fresh grapes shown being harvested here are on their way to a dehydrator to become golden raisins. Dehydrators, like this  Allied Grape Growers (AGG) operation is harvesting for in the California's Central Valley purchase on-the-vine grapes and supply their own equipment and labor to harvest and haul the grapes to their local plants. In most years, AGG is the single largest supplier of grapes for the golden raisin market.
October 7, 2019 | Penn State News
A team led by Penn State scientists was awarded a $7.3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to combat the spotted lanternfly. The project taps 37 researchers across the country and includes fundamental research on the pest's biology, ecology and behavior to develop long-term sustainable solutions to its spread.

October 3, 2019 | USDA-ARS
New research from USDA-ARS has produced a map identifying the areas where the spotted lanternfly may take hold. Suitable areas include New England and the mid-Atlantic states, the central United States, and Pacific coastal states, including the Pacific Northwest. Important factors in predicting suitability for the bug? The mean temperature of the driest quarter of the year and the presence of the tree of heaven.
September 26, 2019 | The New York Times
Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of the Wonderful Company, whose brands include JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery and Wonderful Nurseries, announced the second-largest donation ever to an American university: $750 million to the Caltech for environmental study, much of it focused on technological solutions to combat climate change.
September 19, 2019 | Vineyard Team
Tune in to this podcast from the Vineyard Team as Dr. Michelle Moyer of Washington State University gives an update on the Fungicide Resistance Assessment, Mitigation and Extension (FRAME) Network, an SCRI-funded project she leads. She discusses recent results on integrated pest management for powdery mildew, how short-term weather patterns impact farming decisions, why clean plants may have made red blotch virus more detectable, how "farming by Excel" can help control wine quality with water stress, and how labor shortages are increasing growers' reliance on data and technology.

October 12, 2012 | Wine Folly
In this primer on the principal differences between winegrapes and table grapes, sweetness ranks high, but so does size. As the authors put it: "Table grapes are fat and sassy; wine grapes are lean and mean."

  Find these stories and more, published as we find them, on the NGRA Facebook page.

November 12, 2019
Turlock, CA
November 13, 2019
Sacramento, CA
November 14, 2019
NGRA End-of-Year Board Meeting
Sacramento, CA
November 14, 2019
Napa, CA
November 15, 2019
Sonoma, CA
November 19, 2019
Fresno, CA
November 26-28, 2019
Montpelier, France
January 14-16, 2020
Seattle, WA
February 3, 2020
NGRA Annual Meeting of the Members & First-of-Year Board Meeting
Sacramento, CA
February 4-6, 2020
Sacramento, CA
February 11-12, 2020
Portland, OR
February 11-13, 2020
Tulare, CA
February 19, 2020
Prosser, WA

February 20-21, 2020
USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum
Arlington, VA

February 20-22, 2020