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

The growing season begins, as shown in this image, courtesy of the California Table Grape Commission
In a few days, on April 3, I will celebrate my two-year anniversary with the National Grape Research Alliance. In my time with NGRA, a lot has changed-our name, most apparently. I've changed, too.
As most NGRA stakeholders know, I don't have a science background. My degrees are in psychology and English. I've worked in the wine industry for a dozen years or so, but in marketing or organizational management.
In This Issue
My first intersection with the work I do now was with the great Richie Pisacano, vineyard manager at W ö lffer Estate Vineyard on Long Island, NY. While prepping for a media interview on sustainable viticulture, he explained to me what he'd been doing that day: counting spider mites on a grape leaf, monitoring the number every day to assess the need to spray or not. Natural predators of the mites--other bugs or birds--would likely take care of them, he said, but if not, he'd need to apply insecticide. The patience! The confidence in Mother Nature! (And the readiness with backup!) It would be a great example to give the reporter. And it was the moment I really related to what I now know as applied research-and loved it.
Still, two years ago, I couldn't have explained marker-assisted breeding or variable rate management. I didn't know what Xylella fastidiosa was, and couldn't have used "hyphae" in a sentence. I had never heard of a Geneva Double Curtain, a DOV grapevine, a germplasm repository, Gibberellic acid or a CAP grant. I often say that gaining an understanding of research has been like learning a new language, or watching a movie with subtitles. Suddenly you realize that, somewhere along the line, you began to get it, without knowing. Today, I can even (cautiously) speak the language myself.
I am grateful to have worked with people like Richie and, now, all of you who have helped me to gain a wealth of knowledge--and believed that, with it, I could help you advance the industry. I have a lot more to learn. But given the stature of the U.S. grape and wine industry, and the caliber of American academic institutions for viticulture and enology, it's clear that I have some of the best mentors in the world!
Donnell Brown
Registration closes TODAY for the 2019 National Viticulture & Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC), April 7-10 in Fredericksburg, TX. This year's NVEELC attendees represent 16 states and 30 grapegrowing regions, making this an event one you won't want to miss! Plus, the optional workshop on April 10 on Experimental Winemaking, with guest speaker Dr. Zata Vickers, will round out a complete program spanning viticulture and enology extension. See the complete 2019 agenda and register now !
NGRA travel scholarships for the 2019 National Viticulture & Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC) were generously funded by the California Table Grape Commission, E. & J. Gallo Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines and the Virginia Wine Board. Their contributions will enable a record number of six extension specialists travel to Texas for this unique meeting. Congratulations to:
  • Gabriel Andres Torres-Londono, University of California Cooperative Extension (Tulare and Kings Counties)
  • Beth Burzynski Chang, Virginia Tech
  • Elina Coneva, Auburn University
  • Gill Giese, New Mexico State University
  • Karl Lund, University of California Cooperative Extension (Madera County)
  • Thomas Todaro, Michigan State University
See y'all in Fredericksburg!
The FRAME Network, a national research and extension team working on fungicide resistance in grape powdery mildew, is interested in hearing about how you approach powdery mildew management and fungicide selection. If you are a vineyard owner, manager, consultant, or someone who provides fungicide recommendations for vineyards in the U.S. and would like to help crack the code on PM fungicide resistance, please take their survey!
Congratulations to the winners of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture's (ASEV) 2019 Best Paper Awards! Join the authors as they present their papers at the 70th ASEV National Conference, June 17-20, in Napa . Registration opens next month.
All ASEV Best Paper Award winners can be accessed for free at
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) this month launched a new Pests and Diseases p age on its website. Listing all pest and disease programs the agency manages, the page makes it easy to find critical information on insects, viruses, funguses, etc., of concern. Visit the page at .
The March edition of the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) newsletter has a special focus on grapes. Check it out for nuggets like this: There are more than 80 known graft-transmissible viruses (and virus-like agents) in grapes. The more significant ones, including the grapevine leafroll associated viruses, can greatly reduce yield and negatively affect fruit and wine quality by reducing sugar content, degrading fruit color and increasing fruit juice acidity. The best way to prevent them? Clean plants!
NGRA member the Wine Institute has just published a new book, hitting bookstores this week. Wine Country Table by Janet Fletcher celebrates "California's sustainable harvest" with 50 recipes (complete with wine pairings) that showcase the range of produce-driven and ethnically influenced cooking of California wine country. In the name of gustatory research, get more details.
There are three top-notch opportunities in the next few weeks to get a direct download of research results from important projects in process now:

April 4, 2019

Lodi Mealybug & Virus Outreach Meeting
Cabral Ag Center, Stockton, CA
Learn real-world management tips from the Lodi Grapevine Virus Research Focus Group and special guests Prof. Gerhard Pietersen (South Africa), Dr. Marc Fuchs (Cornell University), Dr. Kent Daane (UCCE), and Dr. James Stamp (viticulture consultant). Attendees will have time to interact with virus testing labs, nurseries, USDA Tree Assistance Program and mealybug biocontrol companies. Hosted by the Lodi Winegrape Commission with support from the American Vineyard Foundation and the CDFA PD/GWSS Board.
Get details and email the Lodi Winegrape Commission to register.

April 17, 2019
Washington Advancements in Viticulture and Enology (WAVEx) - Smoke Exposure
WSU Tri-Cities, Richland, WA
Washington State Wine has funded research led by Washington State University's Dr. Tom Collins, one of the foremost smoke exposure scientists, since 2016. He has studied the timing and role of fuel source in exposure, and has been working to develop analytical methods to accurately predict the potential smoke effects in wines and identify winemaking practices to mitigate it. Here, Dr. Collins will review the current state of smoke taint knowledge and share the outcome of his first three years of study. The seminar will include a tasting of wines made from his smoke exposure and mitigation trials.
Learn more and register.

April 2019 (Dates TBD)
Efficient Vineyard Demos: Variable-Rate Shoot Thinning

Borden Hills Ranch, (near) Galt, CA, hosted by E. & J. Gallo Winery and the Lodi Winegrape Commission
Scheid Vineyards, Monterey, CA

Dr. Terry Bates leads the NGRA-supported, SCRI-funded Efficient Vineyard project that is concluding this year. Join him for one of two upcoming demonstrations in April as he puts into action the variable rate techniques and technology he and his team have developed. Dr. Bates will compose a map of vineyard vigor (NDVI) and calibrate the map against manual shoot counts, generate a predicted spatial shoot count map and use that data to complete a prescription map that the mechanized shoot thinner will follow automatically. Dates will be dictated by canopy growth in these vineyard sites, and will be communicated asap. Stay tuned!


A new technology called  rhAmpSeq™ is allowing grape geneticists and breeders to rapidly find and validate up to 2,000 core grape genome markers. Developed by 
Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT)  and commercialized this month, rhAmpSeq allows researchers to mix and amplify DNA from up to 4,000 individual samples and simultaneously sequence up to 2,000 markers in each sample. It promises to dramatically reduce the cost of DNA sequencing across the 19 grape chromosomes and offers a detailed map of the entire genome for each individual sample in one batch.
It's a huge advance in gene sequencing technology. And it wouldn't have been possible without VitisGen.
The  VitisGen2 project , a multi-institutional research collaboration funded by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) and supported by NGRA, played a key role in adapting the rhAmpSeq process to plant breeding platforms. VitisGen2 was asked to pilot the rhAmpSeq technology because it is built on the AmpSeq technology developed during the first VitisGen project.
As co-PI Dr. Lance Cadle-Davidson explained, working with IDT in the pilot phase, the VG2 team achieved three key improvements  to the new technology and to project deliverables:
  • They improved marker design after sequencing seven new genomes, drastically improving the data output of DNA analysis across diverse breeding lines.
  • Single nucleotide polymorphisms (or SNPs, pronounced "snips") represent a difference in a single DNA building block, called a nucleotide. While SNPs were the original focus of rhAmpSeq at IDT, SNP transferability--the ability to convey traits of interest--among grape breeding lines is poor, only 2%. VG2 introduced an approach combining multiple SNPs in each marker, producing markers that are more informative than SNPs and have greater than 90% transferability.
  • The rhAmpSeq marker chemistry itself, which improves the specificity of AmpSeq, was found to enable more markers to be multiplexed in a single assay--from 400 markers with AmpSeq to 2,000 with rhAmpSeq. 
Co-PI Dr. Bruce Reisch said, "As early testers of IDT's rhAmpSeq system, we were really pleased to see how we were able to rapidly accelerate the  VitisGen2 program by using a nearly 2,000 marker rhAmpSeq panel to analyze 19 Vitis linkage groups. The core marker set was useful across six unrelated populations representing the diversity of the genus, and the workflow was very easy to use and allowed high-throughput processing. It will allow us to greatly accelerate and broaden our efforts in producing highly useful genetic markers for grapevine improvement , not only for powdery mildew resistance, but other traits of interest. "
Said Yongming Sun, IDT's bioinformatics senior staff scientist: "Through collaboration with our diverse group of beta testers, including Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, we developed the rhAmpSeq Amplicon Sequencing System, which allows researchers to achieve a high degree of multiplexing capability with thousands of assays in a single tube."
This article was adapted from a longer blog post--with helpful illustrations--by Tim Martinson and Janet Van Zoren. Read the full text.

New Matching Requirements for SCRI
Due to new provisions in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (a.k.a. 2018 Farm Bill), changes were enacted to the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) competitive grants for fiscal year 2019. The changes, which set indirect cost limitations and matching requirements, affect the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), for which applications had already been submitted. All open RFAs were amended to adjust the language, and future RFAs and new competitive awards will reflect these changes as well:
  • Match: Section 7614 of the 2018 Farm Bill removed the matching requirements on NIFA competitive grants imposed under the 2014 Farm Bill, causing programs that existed prior to October 1, 2014, to revert to earlier matching requirements. Now, some programs will have no matching requirement, while others, like SCRI, have require a 100% match. See this table of matching requirements by grant program. 
  • Indirect Costs: Section 7125 of the 2018 Farm Bill modified existing legislation setting limits to the indirect costs that can be recovered via NIFA's competitive grants. Indirect costs are now limited to 30% of the total federal funds provided under the award, including any subgrants. See this table of indirect cost recovery. And consult this guidance for calculation of indirect costs under the new requirements. 
$72M Available in Specialty Crop Block Grants
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds are allocated to states based on a formula that considers specialty crop acreage and production value. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service administers the program at the federal level and issued the request for applications (RFA) earlier this month. The application due date is May 24, 2019. Deadlines may vary by state. Read the RFA.

March 26, 2019 | Good Fruit Grower
USDA-ARS plant pathologist Kendra Baumgartner is on "a campaign to educate growers that yes, you can do something about trunk diseases." Grapevine trunk diseases are relatively new to growers in the Pacific Northwest. But prevention and management are key in any vineyard, though the steps to take--and when you take them--may vary, depending on location. Regional research is under way.  

Deciphering the Walnut Genome

March 26, 2019 |
New research by UC Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service used a hybrid of the English walnut and its wild North American relative to sequence both genomes at once, yielding the highest quality genome sequences ever assembled of any woody perennial, in half the time. The team used long-read DNA sequencing and optical genome mapping to complete the project. The unique approach could hold promise for grapes, as well.

March 19, 2019 | Capital Press
The National Science Foundation's Higher Education Research and Development Survey is just out, showing that Washington State University received more USDA R&D funding than any other university for the second year in a row. Nationwide, 375 universities received $1.2 billion. Of that, WSU researchers received $50.9 million in the 2017 federal fiscal year, the latest period for which complete figures are available. Not all went to grape research, but it's still impressive!
March 19, 2019 | The Spokesman-Review
Washington may soon have a "license" to raise money for viticulture and enology research! Cheers to the state's House of Representatives, which passed a bill yesterday to create a wine-themed license plate. If approved by the Senate, purchases of the plate would help the Washington State Wine Commission and benefit the wine science facility at WSU Tri-Cities.
March 15, 2019 | Food Ingredients First
Welch's Global Ingredients Group collaborated with Cornell University and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation to develop proprietary technology to neutralize the aroma and flavor of its signature Concord grape juice for use as a high-quality, cost-effective blender for wine. The innovation follows the company's first foray into the wine industry with the launch of a neutral Niagara grape juice last summer.
March 14, 2019 | Entomology Today
Some wasps are parasitoids of the spotted wing drosophila--they lay their eggs in the fruit fly's eggs and pupae, and act as biological control for the pest. Problem is, they may be susceptible to many of the same insecticides. New research from Brazil explores which insecticides have lower toxicity to parasitoids, so that treating for fruit flies doesn't mean killing off their natural enemies, too.
March 6, 2019 | Science Daily
If you like the strong grapey aroma of wines made from  Vitis labruscana grapes like Catawba, shown here, caused by the compound methyl anthranilate, new research from Penn State indicates you probably grew up with grape-flavored foods like grape jelly.
March 5, 2019 | Morning Ag Clips
A new monitoring method developed at Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment allows scientists to identify the onset of drought sooner, allowing conservation or remediation measures to be put in place sooner to help limit the damage. The team created a website, called Drought Eye, where the latest thermal stress data is free and publicly available.
March 2, 2019 | Linfield College
In his monthly weather and climate report, Dr. Gregory Jones of Oregon's Linfield College notes the dramatic flip last month from mild winter weather to a top five coldest February in many parts of the western US. But regardless of how cold it has been, he adds, the forecast from now till May continue the odds that temperatures will trend warmer than average for the West.
February 28, 2019 | Wine Business
Familia Torres and Jackson Family Wines are creating a working group of wineries worldwide to reduce CO2 emissions, called the International Wineries for Climate Action. The goal is to galvanize action within the global wine community to mitigate and reverse the impacts of climate change by decarbonizing the industry via a shared commitment of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2045.

February 25, 2019 | Science
A team of scientists at The University of Toledo used an 1867 hypothesis from Charles Darwin to find that grape phylloxera hijack a grapevine's reproductive programs to create a leaf gall, from which the insect can mimic a flower and thereby divert the nutrients on which it thrives. The findings could influence breeding programs and perhaps thwart phylloxera at last!
February 18, 2019 | Wired
The phenomenon was first documented in a YouTube video in 2011: microwaved grapes burst into flame while being nuked. But no one knew why. Now the mystery has been solved! (Note: If you value your microwave, do not try this at home!)
February 14, 2019 | Quartz
An experimental vineyard at the Hochschule Geisenheim University has traveled 30 years into the future. Researchers there are pumping carbon dioxide into the vineyard to see how grapes will grow in 2050. "They're simulating the future to find all the ways that climate change is about to endanger one of the world's most economically and culturally important crops," explains reporter Michael Tabb. The results so far are surprising.

February 1, 2019 | PD-GWSS Board
Dr. Andy Walker AT UC Davis gives an update on the high-percentage-vinifera Pierce's Disease-resistant grapevines his lab has developed, the newest of which are 10 years old now. Five of the selections have been evaluated not only for PD but for wine quality, as well. They've gone through testing at Foundation Plant Services and will be ready for sale in spring 2020.
Find these stories and more, published as we find them, on the NGRA Facebook page.

April 3, 2019
April 4, 2019
Stockton, CA
April 17, 2019
Richland, WA
May 20-22, 2019
Washington, D.C.

May 23-24, 2019
NGRA Delegation to D.C.
Washington, D.C.

June 6-7, 2019
U.S. Sustainable Winegrowing Summit West
Sonoma County, CA
June 17-20, 2019
Napa, CA
June 23-28, 2019
Thessaloniki, Greece
June 25, 2019
Sonoma, CA
Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.