March 2021
Grapevine bud*
As I sat down to write this month’s column, out of interest, I looked back at what I wrote in March 2020, when the global pandemic was declared. With the plucky title, “Better Luck Next Time,” I concluded my remarks with, “All I can hope is, when I write this column a month from now, the world will have changed again--this time for the better.” One YEAR later, that short runway for normalcy seems laughable.

As we pass the anniversary of the pandemic, there are signs of hope. As vaccinations become more widespread, work-wise, we allow ourselves to dream of in-person meetings, lunches and dinners with colleagues, conferences and trade shows, and tastings. But alas, we’re not quite there. Although June once seemed like a reasonable timeframe to host a gathering, we find we must pivot to virtual with our ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Symposium (see story below). It’ll still be great! It’ll just be online.

We’ve learned that much of what we traveled to attend could be accomplished by phone or Zoom. Even proceedings as weighty and important as the relevance reviews for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which I had the honor of leading this month, proceeded digitally. We’ve achieved a lot in our safe, separate spaces. But there’s a certain magic in meeting. I look forward to getting some of that magic back, and rebuilding those personal, in-person connections that made our industry seem both small and large in just the right ways.

One year on, the world certainly has changed. Has it changed for the better? In some ways, maybe. Better luck next year? Let’s hope!
Donnell Brown
Alanna Burhans, Biological Science Technician in the Crop Diseases, Pests and Genetics Research program at the USDA-ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center
in Parlier, CA, snapped this photo on March 19, 2021. It's a bud on a
wine (Rubired) x table grape cross developed at the Center.

ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Symposium to be Virtual; Registration Opens Soon!
Although things seem to be more hopeful, as with most events, the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Symposium we’re planning with the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV), will now be virtual. The one-day, day-long conference proceedings will be held on Monday, June 21, 2021, in advance of the ASEV National Conference. As previously announced, the event will focus on research developments in the precision management aspects of pests and diseases, crop estimation and decision support systems, and vine management, and will offer grower best practices in applying precision techniques. It will feature 22 speakers from around the world, including keynote presentations by Rob Bramley of CSIRO, who is widely considered the father of precision vit, and Nick Dokoozlian of E, & J. Gallo Winery, the largest family-owned winery in the world. Look for a retooled virtual agenda and event registration coming soon!
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack Outlines Priorities
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was confirmed on February 23, 2021. This month, in his first address to an ag group, he outlined priorities for U.S. agriculture, including new, fairer trade markets; pesticide regulation; rural broadband for precision agriculture; and “climate-smart practices.” On the latter, he detailed incentives for carbon sequestration and climate concepts embraced in a new Farm Bill (in 2023). Climate policies, he said, could generate new income for farmers and “embrace things that will have positive impact on soil health and water quality.”
Biden Seeks to Elevate Science to Cabinet-Level
In a move that signals the importance of science to the new administration, President Joe Biden announced that he seeks to make the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy a Cabinet-level agency. To head the office, Biden nominated Eric Lander, a mathematician and geneticist who helped map the human genome and founded the Broad Institute, a Boston-based biomedical research center famous for work on the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9. His confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.
WA Reveals Research Impact and Sustainability Timeline
This month, at Washington Winegrowers’ virtual WineVit® wine convention and tradeshow, the Washington State Wine Commission announced its Research Program Five-Year Impact Report, showing the state is well on its way to creating a world-class research program. The report highlights key research program milestones achieved since 2015, including the opening of the WSU Wine Science Center (the Washington wine industry will contribute $9.4 million for construction), sustainably funding more than $1 million in research projects since 2017 and creation of the industry’s own research grant program. Past industry-funded research has helped growers and winemakers improve wine quality, reduce pesticide inputs by 80% and save $35 million annually, conserve up to 50% irrigation water through deficit irrigation strategies and make informed frost and cold protection decisions from a cold-hardiness model. The report also spotlights the strong research partnership with WSU and the important role WSU played in Washington’s growth as a world-class wine region.
Also at WineVit, the Washington wine industry revealed its timeline for its sustainability certification program. Collaborating industry groups--Washington Winegrowers, Washington Wine Industry Foundation, Washington State Wine Commission and Washington Wine Institute--have targeted January 2022 to roll out the certification program, which would require verification assessments. The group plans to recruit growers for a pilot program in June, finalize a brand and label in July and launch the pilot program with the 2021 harvest.
UC Merced Tackles Ag Labor
A new project funded through the University of California’s prestigious Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives Awards will address agricultural labor, including for viticulture. UC Merced Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor Tom Harmon, director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, leads the $3.1 million, four-year Labor and Automation in California Agriculture (LACA) team, an interdisciplinary group comprising UCs Merced, Berkeley, Davis and Riverside, as well as UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
By partnering with farmers, workers, environmentalists and agriculturalists, LACA aims to create a new model for agricultural technology that is farmer- and worker-friendly while enhancing productivity and environmental sustainability. “It won’t take away jobs, but it will require new skill sets, such as data analysis and working alongside automation, which will open up new and equitable career paths,” Harmon explained.
The project has four research thrusts: AgTech, developing novel stationary and robotic systems; The Environment, creating new sustainability tools and functions; Labor, examining the future of farm work, barriers to technology adoption and the California farm-labor markets; and Underlying and Emerging Issues, strategically addressing key policy and legal issues, agroeconomic, and social issues that LACA must consider while creating a new AgTech-Labor model. A 12-acre vineyard will be part of the new 40-acre smart farm on the UC Merced campus.
Fred Franzia Departs AVF Board
This month, the American Vineyard Foundation (AVF), an NGRA member-organization, honored Fred T. Franzia, CEO of the Bronco Wine Company and a founding member of the AVF in 1979, for his significant contributions to grape and wine research. Fred has served continuously on AVF’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors since its establishment, and was a major force shaping its success. “It has been a privilege to serve over many years with a strictly volunteer group of independent growers and winery members to voluntarily raise money (without government intervention) to fund both viticulture and enology research projects,” Franzia said. “There have been many great board members over the years, such as Justin Meyer, Robert Gallo and Jerry Lohr, among others, that have been great contributors to building the American Vineyard Foundation to what we are today. It is time for the next generation of leaders to continue the legacy.” John Allbaugh, Bronco’s Director of Winemaking and Wine Production Operations, will succeed him on the Board.
Wine Business Monthly’s Curtis Phillips Passed Away
Curtis Phillips, Senior Technical Editor for Wine Business Monthly, passed away March 19, 2021, from complications of a stroke. He helped guide and oversee Wine Business Monthly and its content for 20 years. A winemaker with a passion for off-beat varieties, Phillips “was the wine industry’s Andy Rooney, a likeable curmudgeon with a passion for research and academia who wrote authoritative articles on winemaking, wine chemistry, research and equipment,” according to the obituary the magazine published. “The goal of winemaking is to produce a wine that is at least as good as the grapes from which it was made,” he once wrote. Phillips’ winemaking columns are searchable via WBM’s online archives.
New Zealand's Wine Research Center Seeks CEO
Bragato Research Institute (BRI), the first national research center for viticulture and enology in New Zealand, wholly owned by New Zealand Winegrowers, aims to deliver world-leading and innovative research outcomes for every stage of the value chain, from grape to glass. BRI’s Board of Directors is now seeking a high-caliber Chief Executive who has a strong track record of business growth, supported by commercial understanding and a passion for science, research and development. BRI is based in Blenheim, in the Marlborough region--the heart of the New Zealand wine industry. Learn more and apply by April 5.
USDA-ARS Launches Site for Science-Minded Students
USDA-ARS has launched a new science-education website for students and educators, called AgLab. Geared toward K-12 students with an interest in food and science, AgLab offers content to promote a greater understanding of how agricultural research helps meet the world’s growing food, fiber, feed and fuel needs while also safeguarding our environment and natural resources. Students considering career fields in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) may find inspiration in AgLab's "20 for 30," profiling young researchers on the rise at ARS, starting with Jaqueline Serrano, an entomologist at the Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research Unit in Wapato, WA. And students in need of science project ideas can find instruction-based experiments right here.
Sustainability and Technology Study
You are invited to participate in an Agriculture and Artificial Intelligence Study funded by USDA-NIFA/NSF to determine processes and technology to increase agricultural, economic and environmental sustainability. This study seeks to understand public views of government policies on current sustainability issues, including agriculture and technology. The survey will close when the research team reaches its targeted number of responses, so click to participate as soon as possible. If you have questions about this project, contact PI David Ebert, University of Oklahoma.
Dish About Your Vineyard Nutrition
A multi-institutional research team involved in the NGRA-supported HiRes Vineyard Nutrient Management Project seeks to understand current vineyard practices and the technologies that may be used for improving nutrient management practices. They invite all commercial grape growers, consultants, and vineyard management companies from the wine, table, raisin, and juice grape industries across the US to complete a survey. The survey will gather input on what, how, and why nutrient practices are used in vineyards. Make sure your state and grape sector are represented--participate today! If you have any questions about the survey or the research, contact Patty Skinkis, Oregon State University, or Markus Keller, Washington State University.

Disappearing Crop Statistics
USDA-NASS Stats Leave Out All But Two Grape States
By Tim Martinson, Senior Extension Associate - Cornell AgriTech, and
Sam Filler, Executive Director - New York Wine and Grape Foundation

How big was the 2020 grape crop in New York? How much did the spring frost lower yields in 2020 in the Finger Lakes? How many acres of Concord or Riesling are in production? How has this changed over the past five years?
These questions, once easily resolved by reference to survey information collected by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), can no longer be answered. NASS stopped collecting annual grape production statistics for New York and other states in 2018, and discontinued the five-year detailed “Vineyard and Orchard Acreage Survey” in 2011.
The USDA’s Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2019 summary lists only acreage and tonnage produced in California (860,000 acres; 7.1M tons) and Washington state (75,000 acres, 466,000 tons). Statistics from nine states (listed below) also were dropped. Similarly, the latest version of the agency’s Agricultural Statistics Annual Bulletin for each of the omitted states lists grape acreage for 2015, 2016, and 2017, but for 2018 and 2019, the report indicates that estimates were discontinued: see Michigan, Missouri*, New York, North Carolina*, Ohio*, Oregon, Pennsylvania*, Texas and Virginia (includes only cash receipts, not acreage). (*In these states' reports, grapes are not mentioned at all.) For New York, Concord and Niagara juice grapes were discontinued, too.
Why Annual Production Statistics Were Cut
NASS statisticians review the crop statistics program every five years. The most recent program review signaled a change in emphasis from covering all significant crop production to only including those states that account for the majority of production: “For each crop, both production and total value of production were reviewed. Totals were arrayed from largest to smallest. States that account for the largest proportion of the total were identified for inclusion in the annual estimating program. This allows us to provide the most useful data to the agricultural sector in the most efficient means possible given the limited available resources.”
This seems to mean that the goal was to cover only the states accounting for 90% of annual production. In grapes, that threshold was met by including only California and Washington. Yet in apples, this process resulted in the inclusion of Virginia, with 3% of the apple acreage, and 10,000 acres in production--less than one-third of the acreage in grapes in New York.

The discontinuation of annual production statistics for any state’s (or sector’s) grapes has several consequences, but to continue with the New York example:

  • With only California and Washington represented, there is no coverage of grape production in any emerging state, nor in other prominent states with increasing production, such as Oregon.
  • 33,000 acres of grapes in New York have been deemed less worthy of inclusion in national statistics than 10,000 acres of apples in Virginia.
  • Exclusion of New York grapes means that about half of the U.S. Concord and Niagara juice grape production is not represented in national stats.
  • Within New York, grapes are the second largest fruit and vegetable crop by acreage and value, with annual production valued at $69M in 2017. Yet annual production statistics are still in place for New York crops with comparable or lower acreage and value, including snap beans (31,000 acres, $38M), sweet corn (28,000 acres, $40M), potatoes (14,000 acres, $47M) and tart cherries (1,600 acres, $0.7M).
  • The five-year Census of Agriculture, last compiled in 2017, is the only remaining statistical summary of farms and acreage by county in New York and other states. The data includes only acreage by county--no breakdown by variety or region and no estimates of production.

The Need for Current and Updated Information
The Census of Agriculture alone cannot provide states with the information they need, including annual production, and which grape varieties are planted where, and how those varieties are changing year by year. And the Census of Agriculture provides no insight on the relative breakdown between the juice and wine grape sectors. The industry needs both annual production estimates and periodic acreage breakdowns by variety to capture dynamic industry changes.
Funding constraints and changing governmental policies have driven the reduction in survey data collection and staffing at the federal level. Detailed acreage and production surveys that once were supported by federal, state and industry partnerships have disappeared. It is time to look for ways to reinstate these important surveys. Accurate and unbiased estimates of varietal composition and production are needed to document and plan for the grape and wine industry’s future.
This article was excerpted from the original published in the March 2021 edition of Appellation Cornell. Read the complete version. See also Tim’s related story: How Vineyard Acreage and Varieties in New York Have Changed Since the Mid-1950’s.

USDA to Host Virtual Data Users’ Meeting to Gather Public Input on Statistical Programs
USDA-NASS will hold its biannual Data Users’ Meeting virtually April 14 and 15 from noon to 3 p.m. Eastern. The Data Users’ Meeting is held to share recent and pending statistical program changes with the public, and to solicit input on these and other programs important to agriculture. A NASS Modernization breakout session is scheduled for Day 2. The meeting is free and open to the public. Get complete details and register.
Call for Abstracts: ISGPB2021
The International Symposium on Grapevine Physiology and Biotechnology has issued its call for abstracts. The symposium is being organized under the auspices of the International Society of Horticultural Science (ISHS) from Stellenbosch, South Africa, but will be held fully virtual from October 31 to November 5, 2021. The online format will include live sessions for plenary and other lectures and moderated discussions, as well as pre-recorded lectures and virtual poster sessions, all focusing on the latest trends in grapevine physiology and biotechnology research, under the theme of “Grapevine Interactions.” Abstracts are due June 30, 2021.
Funding Opportunities
Sharpen your pencils! These grant programs have upcoming deadlines.
Specialty Crop Block Grants
The Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program is made available by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and administered by State Departments of Agriculture. If you’ve ever wished you could have an overview of all deadlines by state, you’re in luck. NGRA is now monitoring these dates and posting them ongoingly to our spreadsheet of SCBG deadlines. Download it now! (Hint: 13 states have block grant deadlines in April.)
Mid-scale Research Infrastructure-1 
NSF-supported science and engineering research increasingly relies on cutting-edge infrastructure. With its Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program and Major Multi-user Facilities (Major Facilities) projects, NSF supports infrastructure projects at the lower and higher ends of infrastructure scales across science and engineering research disciplines. The Mid-scale Research Infrastructure Big Idea is intended to provide NSF with an agile, Foundation-wide process to fund experimental research capabilities in the mid-scale range between the MRI and Major Facilities thresholds. Deadline is April 23, 2021; by invitation only. Learn more and apply.

March 24, 2021 | Create
A chemical and pharmaceutical engineer at the University of Adelaide hopes to develop an inexpensive handheld device to test for smoke taint in grapes and wine. It works by shining a beam of white light through grape juice or wine, then measuring shifts in the light spectrum that can indicate the presence of smoke taint molecules.

March 24, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
The Japanese beetle may be well-known to Eastern grape growers, but an infestation in the Yakima Valley has the Washington State Department of Agriculture raising the alarm.

March 22, 2021 | NPR
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upgraded its Global Forecast System. The new computer model better predicts where, when and how intense storms will occur. It will improve the accuracy of weather apps, websites and TV weather reports that rely on the federal system.

March 18, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
Data-driven farming isn’t just for large operations with the latest technology. A new, free online mapping tool developed by the Efficient Vineyard team enables growers who are "spatially curious" to dip a toe into variable rate vineyard management.

March 18, 2021 | UCANR
Biopesticides contain plant extracts, microorganisms, microbial metabolites, organic molecules, minerals or other natural materials that can kill pests. Check out this guide from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Surendra Dara to learn more about what they are and how they work.

March 15, 2021 | Nature
In a pandemic-related poll in October of 1,122 US faculty members, almost 70% reported feeling stressed in 2020 (more than double those in 2019); more than two-thirds felt fatigued (vs. less than one-third in 2019) and 35% felt angry (vs. 12% said in 2019). These are all signs of burnout.

March 11, 2021 | California Ag Network
In this interview with California Ag Network, Fresno State's Luca Brillante gives three "sure bets" to increase color in red wine grapes in California's arid conditions.

March 11, 2021 | Wine Business Monthly
At the virtual BEV NY conference, a bicoastal panel of wine chemists from Cornell University and the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis discussed cold stabilization...and the relative nature of "stability."

March 10, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
Western Growers, the Washington State Tree Fruit Association and other commodity groups last month launched a new the Global Harvest Automation Initiative to foster the development of automation building blocks that can then be customized by commodity needs, e.g., plug-and-play robotic arms and vision systems, to reduce the need for each specialty crop to start from scratch.

March 4, 2021 | The New York Times
There is plenty of research on the health benefits of wine (and grapes), but now a growing number of medical and public health groups are warning people to drink with caution, noting that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of cancer.

March 2, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
What do the European grapevine moth and oriental fruit fly have in common? They're both invasive fruit pests that were eradicated. Eradication is a high bar--and not often successful. Now, invasive-species experts are mining these examples for help with current concerns.

March 2, 2021 | Wine Business Monthly
From February 9 to 17, Texas experienced its deepest freeze since 1989. According to reports from the Texas A&M Viticulture & Enology team, all grapegrowing regions were impacted. But the extent of the damage will vary by region, variety and vineyard.

March 1, 2021 | Lodi Winegrowers
Viticulturist Stan Grant reminds growers, "Developmental milestones are of central importance to efficient and profitable vineyard management, primarily because they serve as a calendar for the effective timing of certain operations and input applications."

March 1, 2021 | IFT
It's official: Cheese and wine are good for you. A UK study shows that "cheese provided the greatest protection against age-related cognitive problems, even late into life, while daily alcohol consumption, particularly red wine, corresponded to improved cognitive function."

February 24, 2021| UCCE San Joaquin valley Trees and Vines
Trunk diseases aren't naturally attracted to places like California's Coachella Valley, but vineyard management practices created perfect conditions to incubate infections. A long-term study by local UC Agriculture and Natural Resources extension agents found that better management and the application of fungicide to pruning wounds cut infections in half, creating a cost benefit of $85,000 per acre over the lifespan of one vineyard.

February 24, 2021 | The Drinks Business
A New Jersey centenarian says gin-soaked raisins helped her best Covid-19.

February 22, 2021 | Wine Industry Insight
Genetics studies of taste reception and perception find that no two people taste the same thing the same way--not even "identical" twins. In fact, in one study, investigators genotyped 189 people and found that none had the same odor receptor pattern. Add to that, these genes have a very high rate of variation/mutation.

February 22, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
Hyperspectral imaging can be used to detect plant diseases before the human eye can spot them. Cornell’s Katie Gold is using the technology to study grape pathogens in New York state and beyond.

February 18, 2021 | Capital Press
Oregon State University soil scientist James Cassidy, with cover crop consultant Steve Groff, explains how cover crops improve vineyard soil health and even yield: "For every 1% increase in organic matter, soil can store up to 25K more gallons of water per acre."

January 19, 2021 | Pinduoduo
A robotic pesticide sprayer developed by scientists at Japan's Hokkaido University with Toyota Tsusho are being trialed in the vines at Hokkaido Wine, the project’s collaborator. The motor and battery are from the Toyota Prius!

November 2020 | Appellation Cornell
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) form beneficial symbiotic relationships with grapevine roots, enhancing nutrient uptake. Several commercial inoculants are available to stimulate AMF growth, and Justine Vanden Heuvel's lab at Cornell tested five of them. See how they fared.

October 20, 2020 | McKinsey & Company
According to a survey by McKinsey & Company, most ag companies have invested in digital farming, but less than 40% report positive returns. Why? Results suggest it may be due to lack of adequate preparation to implement these solutions.

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

April 7, 2021
Fresno State 2021 Viticulture Enology 199 Spring Seminar Webinar Series 
Will Drayton, Treasury Wine Estates

April 7-8, 2021
Virtual event

April 8, 2021
Washington Advancements in Viticulture and Enology (WAVE) Webinar Series
Manoj Karkee, Washington State University

April 14, 2021
Eastern Viticulture and Enology Forum Webinar Series
Clark Smith, WineSmith Consulting

April 14, 2021
Fresno State 2021 Viticulture Enology 199 Spring Seminar Webinar Series
Cornelis (Kees) van Leeuwen, Bordeaux Sciences Agro

April 19-21, 2021
Virtual event

April 21, 2021
Fresno State 2021 Viticulture Enology 199 Spring Seminar Webinar Series
Lauren Barrett, Enartis

April 28, 2021
Eastern Viticulture and Enology Forum Webinar Series
Mengjun Hu, University of Maryland and Tim Miles, Michigan State University

April 28, 2021
Fresno State 2021 Viticulture Enology 199 Spring Seminar Webinar Series
Russ Smithyman, NGRA Board Chairman

May 4-6, 2021
Virtual event

May 5, 2021
Fresno State 2021 Viticulture Enology 199 Spring Seminar Webinar Series
Glenn Proctor, Ciatti Company

May 13, 2021
Davis, CA

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.
P.O. Box 161707
Sacramento, CA 95816-1707
(916) 446-3900