July 2022
Minnesota's unique J trunks*
I’m superstitious. Black cats, ladders, dropped dishtowels, the whole nine yards. I realize I probably shouldn’t admit this to an audience of science-minded people, but it’s relevant here—stick with me. Another thing I probably shouldn’t admit is, when we announced our new NGRA Fellowship, we weren’t sure what kind of response we’d get. Privately, I thought maybe we’d receive two or three applications…five tops. So, when we ended up with 13 (!), I was both thrilled and unnerved!

But let me tell you, the 13 Ph.D. students who applied are all rockstars. They’re doing incredible, necessary grape science, each addressing one or more of NGRA’s research priorities in a unique way: remote sensing and mapping; disease, pest and irrigation management; yield estimation; vineyard soil health; genetics and grapevine breeding and more. The applicants spanned the U.S., representing California, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Texas and Washington. And their advisors are a who’s who of scientists working in grape today.

Of those 13 heavy-hitters, I’m pleased to announce that our inaugural NGRA Fellow is Abby Hammermeister. Abby is pursuing her Ph.D. in Biophysics at UC Davis, recently joining the McElrone USDA-ARS Plant Physiology Lab there. A version of her research proposal, “From Leaves to Space: Linking Physiological Responses to Stress with Proximal Sensing Systems,” appears as the Research Focus article below. In her application, Abby explained that, as an undergrad, she discovered the field of biophysics and its applications to plants and that her research “helped me realize that I could apply my quantitative and computational skills to studying plants and sustainable agriculture,” with a specific interest in water management and, lucky for us, grapes.

As the NGRA Fellow, Abby will receive $30,000 per year for up to three years, along with mentorship, field tours and networking with our Board of Directors throughout her 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. Indeed, as her academic advisor, Andrew McElrone, said, “This funding helps to assure that Abby can work exclusively on grapes and vineyard systems.” That’s music to our ears.

Although the number of applications may have seemed inauspicious, their volume and quality made us realize just how much great science is going on at the graduate and early-career level. As these 13 students showed, the new generation of grape scientists are engaged and eager to apply their prodigious talent to solving real-world problems. As an industry, we’re fortunate to have them.
Donnell Brown
Until the advent of cold-hardy varieties, grapevines planted in Minnesota were trained on these unique J trunks, which enabled them to be laid down and buried in winter to protect them from frigid conditions. The experimental vineyard at the University of Minnesota’s Horticulture Research Center continues the tradition with the cold-tender V. vinifera vines shown here used in breeding. The newest and most cold-hardy commercial release, Itasca, and other stalwart selections from the HRC breeding program dont need this treatment.

NVEELC 2022 Is Sold Out! (Waitlist Available)
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 offers an extraordinary opportunity to tour raisin, table grape and wine vineyards, and postharvest and production facilities—including Gallo’s Livingston Winery, the largest wine production facility on Earth—at the start of harvest. This years event is now sold out, but you can add your name to the waitlist in case tickets become available.
Meet the New APHIS Advisor for State and Stakeholder Relations
This month, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Administrator Kevin Shea announced Katrina Rudyj as the new APHIS Advisor for State and Stakeholder Relations, succeeding Hallie Zimmers, who held this position for more than 10 years. In this role, Katrina serves as the national coordinator and principal communication link between APHIS, state governments and the stakeholder community. Formerly APHIS Deputy Chief of Staff since 2019 (and a USDA employee since 2007), she brings an in-depth understanding of the agency’s activities and operations, and knows the importance of the agency’s diverse partnerships. Find her contact info here.
Keith Striegler Is New ASEV Board President
NGRA Board member Keith Striegler, grower outreach specialist at E. & J. Gallo Winery, has been confirmed as the 2022-23 President of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV), succeeding Tom Collins of Washington State University. As of July 1, in addition to Keith, the ASEV board’s Executive Committee includes: First Vice President Michelle Moyer, viticulture extension specialist and associate professor at the Department of Horticulture, Washington State University, Prosser; Second Vice-President Anita Oberholster, associate cooperative extension specialist in Enology at UC Davis; and Secretary-Treasurer James Osborne, associate professor at Oregon State University, Corvallis.
UC Davis V&E Department Receives $4 Million Endowment
The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Department of Viticulture and Enology has received a $4 million endowment that will provide support in perpetuity for its world-renowned research and education. The endowment, given anonymously, will fund unique projects that leverage its advanced tools and techniques to address major threats to the wine industry, including climate change, disease and diminishing water resources. For example, for improved vineyard resilience, the department is further developing high-quality disease-resistant grapes, predictive modeling and remote sensors. Additionally, technologies that aid in carbon capture and water reduction will advance sustainability in wine production. “This generous gift will help support our goals to better integrate innovation and technology into our teaching and research efforts,” said Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “We are grateful for the long-lasting impact it will have on the Department of Viticulture and Enology.”
WSU Announces Founding Chair for New V&E Department
Jean Dodson Peterson will join Washington State University this fall as Founding Chair of the newly created Department of Viticulture and Enology. She will be based on the WSU Tri‑Cities campus at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, and take over leadership from Thomas Henick-Kling, who has served as WSU V&E program director since 2009. Formerly Associate Professor, Viticulture at California Polytechnic State University, Jean says her top focus in her new role will be to “train our students to be critical thinkers such that they have the skills to tackle the problems of tomorrow.”
Cornell’s Jan Nyrop to Retire This Fall
Associate Dean, Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Goichman Family Director of Cornell AgriTech Jan Nyrop will retire November 30, 2022. Olga Padilla-Zakour will become interim director of Cornell AgriTech beginning December 1. Olga is a professor of food processing in the Department of Food Science, director of the Cornell Food Venture Center, managing director of the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University, and the food science program leader at Cornell AgriTech.
AVF Launches New Fellowship for UC Davis Grad Students
The American Vineyard Foundation (AVF) this month launched a fellowship to support viticulture and enology graduate student research in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. The Justin Meyer Graduate Student Research Fellowship honors the late, legendary winemaker Justin Meyer, AVF founder and long-time president, who was a UC Davis graduate. It will provide $50,000 annually for three years to fund a Ph.D. candidate at the university.
Concord Grape Innovation Contest Offers $100K in Prizes
Applications are being accepted through August 1 for the inaugural New York Concord Grape Innovation Award, a first-ever competition aimed at stimulating innovation and development of new products and markets for one of New York’s largest and most historic grape industries. Funded by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and organized and hosted by Cornell AgriTech, the competition will award more than $100,000 in cash prizes and packages of support from Cornell experts. There are two award categories—best new Concord grape beverage and best new Concord grape-based product—with proposed products containing at least 30% Concord grape. Semi-finalists in each category will be announced on August 19, 2022, and will be invited to submit a full product proposal. Finalists will compete in a judging symposium on December 9, 2022, at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY.
Ohio State Guide Helps Prevent, Cope with Frost Injury
A just-published 25-page Spring Frost Injury of Grapevines and Protection Methods bulletin from The Ohio State University helps growers deal with one of their more heartbreaking issues. With more than 25 illustrations, the guide lays out the types of spring frosts and freezes, and gives long-term, mid-term and short-term methods for frost protection and recovery from frost injury. The guide is $7.50 for a printed publication and $4.25 for a PDF.
Grape Research Receives Funding
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service this month announced awards of $9.98 million to 14 collaborative, multi-state projects impacting 28 states to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops via the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP), reauthorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. Among the funded projects, the California Department of Food and Agriculture received $871,052 to investigate development of a novel treatment to selectively remove smoke compounds from affected wines without impacting quality—critical, as currently no effective remedies exist.
The Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research also announced its 2022 funded projects. New awards for grape research address Grapevine Trunk Diseases in Idaho, novel cold-hardy grape rootstocks for the Pacific Northwest, optimal irrigation initiation, drought and heat mitigation strategies, soil effects on nematodes in Washington and Oregon, and the use of long-term, multi-vineyard data on yield management.
University of Georgia Seeks an Assistant Professor of Horticulture, Viticulturist
The Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia is seeking Ph.D.-level applicants for an Assistant/Associate Professor of Horticulture with responsibilities in commercial viticulture addressing both wine grape and muscadine grape production. The nine-month 80% Extension, 20% teaching appointment includes a guarantee of two months’ summer salary. The incumbent will be expected to establish applicable research and Extension programs that address high-priority issues for the state’s diverse and geographically distributed $20 million (farm gate value) grape industry. Plus, the candidate will co-teach the existing “Viticulture and Enology in the Mediterranean Region” study abroad course! The position will be effective November 1, 2022. Learn more and apply by August 31.
By Abby Hammermeister, NGRA Fellow
Water scarcity already threatens sustainable agriculture in arid regions of the western U.S., and changing climatic conditions will make matters worse. Reduced water availability forces growers to employ conservation techniques like deficit irrigation. This practice induces water stress in plants that decreases growth and yield, but is often used purposefully in vineyards to control grapevine vigor, improve fruit quality or facilitate harvest. To effectively implement deficit irrigation strategies, whether on its own or as part of a precision farming regime, grape growers need reliable real-time data on crop evapotranspiration (ET) and water stress. Ground-based and remote sensing platforms can deliver this information, but still require refinement and rigorous testing under realistic commercial settings to better link to vine function for irrigation decisions. In part, that’s because grapevines’ response to stress is complicated.
Grapevine leaves represent a complex exchange system, ideally maximizing carbon capture and limiting water loss. Under well-watered conditions and moderate temperatures, leaves can utilize sunlight effectively and have ample water to maintain optimal internal water pressure, or turgor, for the stomata to capture CO2. These ideal conditions can change dramatically under stress imposed by drought and high temperatures. But the expression of these changes can be incremental and nuanced.
The McElrone Lab has been studying the processes by which leaves exchange light, CO2 and water, and how stressful conditions can induce structural changes inside the leaves that impact how they absorb, transmit and reflect light. Remote sensing uses reflectance data to generate information about leaves’ response to stress as it corresponds to spectral indices. For irrigation management, however, this data may not yet yield the clearest picture.
For example, I recently utilized X-ray microCT scanning to evaluate how grapevine leaf petioles and lamina are altered by drought stress. In doing this, my collaborators (Drs. Caetano Albuquerque and Andrew McElrone) and I discovered that the range of physiological responses to mild drought stress may not be accounted for in current models of how water moves through the grapevine. That is, the variable responses of leaf structures within the canopy can lead to mixed stress signal detection. Incorporating such dynamic responses into existing models should improve ET and stress-detection efforts. As a graduate student in biophysics, I feel uniquely positioned to utilize ongoing research in our lab to better link leaf-level physiological responses with whole canopy and vineyard scale measurements to improve our understanding of signal output from proximal and remote sensors.
With my dissertation research, I will use a variety of approaches in field and controlled conditions including plant water relations, pressure volume curves, gas exchange physiology, fluorescence and spectral imaging, and modelling efforts at the leaf scale to finetune the stress-response picture. I also will utilize existing datasets and the experimental sites established by the GRAPEX variable-rate irrigation project to link changes in stress physiology with those detected with proximal and remotely sensed systems. The McElrone Lab recently developed a new wavelet method to track vineyard water use, but more work is needed to interpret stress signals with this technique. This innovation represents a timely opportunity to hone my research and ultimately improve irrigation strategies in ever hotter, drier vineyards.
Currently, I am in the early stages of my project planning and would welcome the insights of industry collaborators to better refine this work for applied outcomes, and will continue to explore collaboration with other research labs working in this space.
Abby Hammermeister is a Ph.D. candidate in the McElrone USDA-ARS Plant Physiology Lab at UC Davis.
Award Nominations
The NAS Prize was established in 2017 by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The $100,000 award recognizes a mid-career scientist (defined as up to 20 years since completion of Ph.D.) at a U.S. institution who has made an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of a species that’s fundamentally important to agriculture or food production. Nominations are due by October 3, 2022.

The Alan T. Waterman Award is the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) highest honor, annually recognizing an outstanding early career researcher in any field of science or engineering the agency supports. Named for NSF’s first director, the prize includes a grant of $1,000,000 to use over a five-year period for scientific research or advanced study in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, social, or other sciences at the institution of the recipient's choice. Nominations will be accepted through September 16, 2022.
Funding Opportunities
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. It provides three years of support over a five-year fellowship period for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements. The deadline to apply is October 17-21, 2022, depending on the student’s area of study.

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

The Foundational and Applied Science Program of USDA-NIFAs Agriculture and Food Research Initiative supports fundamental and applied research in six priority areas: plant health and production, and plant products; animal health and production, and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; bioenergy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities. Deadlines run through November 17, 2022, depending on the program area.
July 25, 2022 | phys.org
Breakthrough! A team of scientists led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst has discovered the previously unknown combination of compounds deployed by the fungi that cause Grapevine Trunk Diseases that leads to vine death. The team also found a potential biocontrol fix: antioxidants and chelators produced by other antagonistic fungi and bacteria.

July 21, 2022 | OPB
Oregon State University’s Chad Higgins’ research shows that agrivoltaics—pairing agriculture and solar power production on the same plot of land—could increase the efficiency of that land significantly. The solar panels’ shelter could protect plants from frost and heat, reduce their water use, increase production and generate energy. “It’s a four-way win for farmers,” he says.

July 21, 2022 | Forbes
Modern scientific advances expand the concept of terroir beyond soil type to the small but mighty microbial world within the soil. Research indicates the soil microbiome is vital in producing high-quality agricultural products like wine and, when properly managed, offers the potential to combat climate change.

July 19, 2022 | Water Technology
McManis Family Vineyards has no access to city water or wastewater facilities, so must manage and treat its own process wastewater. Using fine screening, a large percentage of grape solids are removed from wastewater, diverting them from treatment ponds where they create costly sludge to onsite compost, instead becoming a valuable vineyard soil amendment.

July 18, 2022 | The New York Times Style Magazine
Advances in plant breeding have led to produce innovations like leopard-spotted honeydew, or Picasso melons; pink-Starburst flavored strawberries called Wow lolliberries; and the Cotton Candy grape that, in 2013, sparked the specialty fruit boom. The finicky variety (it must be picked at the height of ripeness and refrigerated within six hours for best texture and flavor) was developed by International Fruit Genetics using traditional breeding methods. It’s grown and sold exclusively in the U.S. by the Grapery. From May 2021 to May 2022, Cotton Candy grapes sold more than $129 million here.

July 18, 2022 | National Institute of Standards and Technology
Seeking to test whether magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) could serve as energy-efficient neural networks, a team of scientists led by the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) turned (oddly) to wine. They fabricated a “very simple” AI system to taste and identify wine, training it on 148 virtual wines from a dataset of 178 made from 3 varieties of grapes. Each wine had 13 characteristics to consider, such as alcohol, color, etc., each assigned a value between 0 and 1. When given the 30 wines it hadn’t seen before, the system IDed them with 95.3% accuracy. The point wasn’t to build an AI sommelier, NIST says, but to show that an array of MTJ devices could be used to build new AI systems for applications such as smart clothing, miniature drones or sensors that are just robust but use less power.

July 18, 2022 | Wine Enthusiast
Wretched weather in the Texas High Plains AVA the last two growing seasons cut the region’s wine grape production by two-thirds, even as Dicamba drift from nearby cotton fields has damaged thousands of vines. But a lawsuit filed against manufacturers Bayer-Monsanto and BASF may hinge on the question of application. Did the cotton farmers apply the herbicide correctly? If not, it’s their fault for misuse of the product.

July 12, 2022 | CDFA Planting Seeds
California Department of Food and Agriculture personnel at a Border Inspection Station in Northern California detected viable spotted lanternfly egg masses on a load of firewood on a trailer from New Jersey. The firewood and eggs were destroyed.

July 2, 2022 | The Washington Post
The average summer temperature across the U.S. in the past five years has been 1.7 degrees F warmer than it was from 1971 through 2000, with the West hardest hit with a 2.7-degree F increase. In many areas, it’s getting warmer faster in other seasons, but the summer is often when the climatic effects cascade.

July 2022 | Practical Winery & Vineyard Management/Wine Business Monthly
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Christopher Chen reports that, even in California’s northern coastal regions, heatwaves take their toll. Veraison and harvest have shifted 1-2 weeks earlier, but flowering has moved up only half that amount, effectively shortening (not lengthening) the growing season, increasing pressure on labor and altering phenolic profiles at harvest. Heatwaves call for specific management strategies up to and including replanting to new varieties. (See page 36 at link above.)

June 30, 2022 | Wine Business Monthly
A research trial in Santa Cruz, CA, shows the promise of using drones to replace manual vineyard spraying. Using a dual-drone model (one to spray and one to hold the hose), a 35-acre vineyard was sprayed in 16 hours with three people over two eight-hour workdays. Spraying the same vineyard by hand took 17 workers with backpack sprayers three days. Thus, this proof of concept revealed a 90% reduction in effort.

June 29, 2022 | CBS17.com
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has confirmed the first established presence of the invasive spotted lanternfly in the state.

June 28, 2022 | HortiDaily.com
A new AI-based vision and micro-drone solution can detect and eradicate airborne pests, earlier and without human intervention—at least in a greenhouse setting. A related innovation automates sticky trap monitoring via a wireless computer vision network, again with no labor required.

June 23, 2022 | Eater.com
Indigenous and newly developed grape varieties are more tolerant of extreme weather and the pests and diseases that come with it. And without a change to better-adapted varieties, the world’s wine-growing regions are projected to shrink by as much as 56%. Suddenly, efforts to bring new—and old—varieties to fields and markets are taking on new urgency.

June 17, 2022 | NASA Harvest
A new study finds that the combined use of machine learning (ML) and hyperspectral reflectance can rapidly and cost-effectively quantify soil organic carbon (SOC), a key soil health metric. The study utilized a continental-scale soil laboratory spectral library to analyze ML algorithms, and pre-processed spectra to quantify SOC. Overall, results demonstrate that fusion data from multispectral satellite missions can effectively be used to monitor global soil carbon and is particularly applicable in evaluating historical SOC changes.

May 13, 2022 | Progressive Crop Consultant
The open-gable trellis system and demand for pristine fruit at harvest make it hard for table grape growers to mechanize pruning. But trials in Q1 2022 explored the viability of four mechanical pruning tools in hopes of decreasing labor requirements for the task: a pre-pruner, shredder, and battery-powered shears and machines for tying canes or cordons to catch wires.
Find these stories and more, published every weekday, on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
August 11, 2022
Prosser, WA

August 11, 2022
Kingsville, OH

August 14-17, 2022
San Joaquin Valley, CA

August 25-26, 2022
Traverse City, MI

October 18-20, 2022
Fresno, CA

October 31-November 4, 2022
Ensenada, Mexico

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

November 2-4, 2022
Dripping Springs, TX

November 14-16, 2022
San Luis Obispo, CA

November 14-16, 2022
Kennewick, WA
Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.

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