Advancing research to maximize the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness
of the American grape industries.
If you read this newsletter regularly, you know I write this column every month. One month ago, putting our February copy together, the world was a very different place. I was looking forward to seeing many of you at industry and academic conferences across the country. I was sitting at my desk in the NGRA office alongside my colleague, Portia Richards, both working on business as usual. And no one had any reason to think that grape research would ever be at risk.
There's not much I can tell you about the effects of the coronavirus on our lives or businesses that you haven't already read or heard or experienced yourself. The things we eat and drink--and the places we eat, drink and buy them--were among the first and perhaps hardest hit of the efforts to "flatten the curve" of spread here in the U.S. As people with a scientific bent, we understand the logic of the shutdown of public spaces and gatherings. But we worry about the impact to your businesses and staffs.
And we worry about the future of the science that enriches and sustains our industry. Research labs stand empty. "Non-essential" research will go on hold. Young scientists who depended on data from projects this year may be unable to graduate. See the Research Update below.
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.
Stay safe and healthy, and let us know if there's some way we can help.
Need to see a friendly face? Navigate to the
Board & Staff page
of our website to
see the smiling faces of (most of) our NGRA Board members,
as well as Portia and me.
NEW NGRA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS
The day-to-day work of the National Grape Research Alliance is guided by the input of an Executive Committee, whose members are appointed by the Chair of our Board of Directors.
Chair Russ Smithyman has appointed two new Board members to the Executive Committee, selected for their unique insight and industry or regional perspective. Welcome (and thank you!) to
(Youngblood Vineyard) and Mark Amidon (National Grape Cooperative/Welch's), who accepted the appointments. In addition to Mark and Jessica, Executive Committee members are Russ Smithyman (Chair, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates), Allison Jordan (Vice Chair, The Wine Institute), Dan Martinez (Secretary/Treasurer, Martinez Orchards), Tony Stephen (Past Chair, American Vineyard Foundation), Nick Dokoozlian (Research Chair, E. & J. Gallo Winery), John Martini (Anthony Road Wine Company) and
Vicky Scharlau (Washington Winegrowers).
NGRA RESEARCH COMMITTEE REFRESH
NGRA Research Committee
is critical to the mission of our organization. Its members participate actively in the process by which we identify and prioritize industry needs for research and actively work to assemble teams of scientists to develop projects and acquire funding to get that research done. And this committee is about to see some new faces!
All of the three-year appointments for our Research Committee expire in June 2020.
Research Chair Nick Dokoozlian is working with the Chairs of each of the Research Theme Committees to refresh the committee, overall. We expect there will be some attrition as people's jobs and schedules change. Plus, we'd like to be sure each Research Theme Committee has deep and broad representation across wine, juice, raisin and table grape sectors and all growing regions nationwide. So we're seeking
nominations for the new class of Research Committee appointees. If you or someone in your organization would like to be considered,
click for complete details.
(Note: Industry appointees to the Research Committee must be NGRA members. New members are welcome!)
EVENT CHANGES AT NGRA AND BEYOND
Like all organizations that hold meetings or conferences of any kind, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, NGRA has had to rethink the events we organize or support. As you may have read previously, the
2020 National Viticulture and Enology Extension Leadership Conference
(NVEELC) that was scheduled for April 26-29 has been canceled. Our
Delegation to DC,
where we meet with federal agencies that do or fund grape research, which was to be June 4-5 in our nation's capital, also has been canceled. And we will hold our Mid-Year Board meeting on the original date (Friday, June 19), but entirely via Zoom and with a condensed agenda.
Nearly all conferences on our radar through July have been canceled, postponed or moved to Zoom.
We're checking the status of grape-related events daily, and
noting any changes on our website
as we learn about them. They're also listed in the Upcoming Events section below.
ASEV HONORS SCIENTISTS, CANCELS ANNUAL CONFERENCE
In a big loss for enology and viticulture research and scientific collaboration, the American Society of Enology and Viticulture has canceled its annual conference, which had been planned as a joint event with ASEV-Eastern Section. It was to be held in June in Portland; more than 150 speakers had been secured, including these honorees:
- Merit Award Presentation - Forty Years of Wine and Sensory Science
Dr. Hildegarde Heymann, University of California, Davis
- Extension Distinction Award Presentation - Land Grants and Grapes: Traditional Approaches for Modern Extension Programs
Dr. Michelle Moyer, Washington State University, Prosser
- Honorary Research Lecturer - From Canopy Systems to Water Relations to Climate Change Research - An Unsteady Path in an Ever-Changing Environment
Dr. Hans Schultz, Hochschule Geisenheim University, Germany
- Keynote Presentation
Dr. Gavin Sacks, Cornell University, New York
Earlier this month, ASEV announced the winners of the
2020 Best Paper Awards
which also would have been presented at the event:
- For viticulture, Elimination of the Crown Gall Pathogen, Agrobacterium vitis, from Systematically Infected Grapevines by Tissue Culture, by Luz Marcela Yepes, Tom Burr, Cherie Reid and Marc Fuchs from Cornell University's School of Integrative Plant Science
- In the enology category, Distribution of Yeast Cells, Temperature, and Fermentation By-Products in White Wine Fermentations, by Mira Schwinn, Dominik Durner, Antonio Delgado and Ulrich Fischer from Dienstleistungszentrum Ländlicher Raum Rheinpfalz, Institute for Viticulture and Oenology in Germany
ASEV says that some conference content will be presented online throughout the year. Right now, you can access both Best Papers on
free of charge.
ASEV-ES IS ACCEPTING SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS
ASEV-Eastern Section (
ASEV-ES) is accepting applications for $1,000 scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year. Eligible students include upper-level undergraduates and graduates who are
enrolled in a enology or viticulture program at an accredited college or university within the boundaries of ASEV-ES, and are student members of the organization.
complete eligibility requirements and application
on the ASEV-ES website. The deadline to apply has been extended to April 15, 2020.
USDA-APHIS MAKES AN IMPACT
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) this month released its 2019 Impact Report, highlighting the agency's work across the nation and around the world last year. Of particular note for the grape and wine industry are the achievements of the APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine program, which works
to prevent destructive pests and diseases from entering the United States, limit the spread of pests and diseases that are already here, eradicate economically and environmentally significant pests of concern, and facilitate the safe trade of plants and other agricultural products. For example, in 2019, APHIS-PPQ...
- Cleared 20,917 imported shipments containing nearly 1.7 billion plant units (cuttings, rooted plants, tissue culture, etc.) and prevented entry of 1,119 quarantine-significant pests at U.S. plant inspection stations
- Intercepted 79,388 pests found during inspections of 30,227 ships and more than 1.2 million cargo, mail and express carrier shipments
- Allocated $66 million in funds from the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program to cooperators across the country for 407 projects that help safeguard U.S. plant health
This year, the agency is allocating nearly $70 million to support 386 plant protection projects focusing on pest detection and surveillance, identification and mitigation of threats, and safeguarding the nursery production system. This includes 29 projects funded through the National Clean Plant Network, including $565,326 to enhance surveys for grape pests and diseases in 17 states. It also includes a reserve of $15.5 million to support rapid response to invasive pest emergencies, as it did with the spotted lanternfly.
Read the complete funding announcement.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON COVER CROPS
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) are seeking farmer insights on their nationwide cover crop survey. The survey seeks answers not just from long-time cover crop fans, but also from new users and farmers who have no cover crops at all. It is intended to help guide resources in research, communications and policy around cover crops. The online questionnaire, which should take about 15 minutes to complete, is open now till April 12.
DIGITAL RESOURCES FOR EXTENSION PROFESSIONALS
In partnership with the Association of Public and Land-Grant University (APLU) Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, the eXtension Foundation has mobilized
the eXtension website
to support the Cooperative Extension system during this time of social distancing. The site provides a means for Extension educators and administrators to share their resources and guides about teaching and working virtually. The group also has started a webinar series to address teleworking and connecting with audiences through digital technology. The next one is tomorrow (April 1, 2020):
National Action Dialogue - Community Based Programming in the Digital Networked COVID-19 Age.
GRAPE RESEARCH GOES ON HOLD
The COVID-19 pandemic will certainly have far-reaching impacts on the world, including the volume and pace of research and to the scientists whose careers depend on collaborating on, conducting and publishing research.
As states and municipalities issued shelter-in-place orders this month, one by one, industry and academic conferences were canceled. Government agencies and universities closed campuses first to visitors, then to students and non-essential personnel, and finally shuttered labs. They also issued guidance about "essential" research and what experiments could be safely maintained in the context of social distancing, access to personal protective gear and ability to follow safety protocols.
In a survey of communications from administrators at leading universities with strong viticulture and enology programs, it seems that vital plant populations such as experimental vineyards (and at USDA, germplasm collections) will be maintained through the crisis. It's important to "retain critical research assets for long-term progress," as
Prasant Mohapatra, Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Davis,
put it in his memo, "Reducing On-Campus Research Activities."
"This is not a shutdown of research at UC Davis," Dr. Mohapatra writes. "Rather, we hope and expect that much of the research we accomplish during this time period will be conducted remotely and that researchers will shift as much of their work as possible to electronic or other formats that reduce physical contact."
Campus operations there are now suspended and staff density has been reduced to 10-15% of normal operations. Researchers have been asked to ramp down non-critical research, continuing only (as it relates to viticulture and enology) the "maintenance and care of plant populations that are hard to recreate and represent decades of research," as well as "long-term experiments where there would be considerable cost and/or time associated with requiring the experiment to end prematurely."
Addressing faculty at Cornell University
, Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Vice Provost for Research and Vice President for Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property and Research Policy Emmanuel Giannelis similarly asked "that only those research activities that are absolutely necessary to retain critical research assets for long-term progress are conducted on campus," including care for plant specimens.
They added, "We encourage you to focus on research activities that can be completed remotely (e.g., writing papers and proposals, analyzing data, running computations and developing computational or analytic methods)."
"conduct of research"
memo to staff and students, Washington State University Interim Provost and Executive Vice President Bryan K. Slinker and Vice President for Research Christopher J. Keane stressed that, "WSU is not closed; all research currently being conducted via telework should continue; and all research that can be safely conducted should continue." They also outline essential activities to include "laboratory or field research where immediate discontinuation would generate significant data and sample loss, or significant harm to the long-term WSU research enterprise. This includes work focused on preserving key plant, tissue, cell-line, environmental or other samples."
In all cases, the guidance from university administrators has been to not initiate new non-essential research.
Across the board, scientists were scrambling mid-month to bottle research wines ahead of schedule and collect plant tissue samples they could analyze remotely.
Fortunately, it seems that the salaries and stipends for staff, students and postdocs that rely on grant funding will continue as usual. But p
rofessors who have advisory responsibilities also expressed concern for their students. WSU explicitly called out "research that is essentia
l to support students planning to graduate this spring" as necessary. But most feel the disruption in regular research activity could impact graduate students' ability to
successfully complete their degrees.
Could there be any silver lining in the pandemic for scientists? Maybe. We could see a host of new papers detailing the research scientists never had the time to write up. Plus, t
observes that, with the cancellation of
researchers are finding alternative ways to share their work
and interact with collaborators. The shift could make meetings more accessible to a wider set of scientists, including those from resource-poor universities and others with disabilities. And without travel to traditional in-person meetings, it could reduce the academic community's carbon footprint. And
POLITICO polled 34 "big thinkers"
about how the crisis could "reorder society." Among the predictions are "science reigns again," "a return to faith in experts" and "revived trust in institutions."
We can only hope.
NIFA EXTENDS APPLICATION DEADLINES
USDA-NIFA has extended proposal deadline for some grant programs to provide more time to scientists as they work through social distancing efforts at their institutions. Of particular note are adjustments for Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) application submission deadlines and extensions for the 2021 Plan of Work for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (AREERA) capacity funded projects and programs. For guidance on the new dates, visit the NIFA website.
NIFA also has issued guidance on applications that are delayed for valid extenuating circumstances.
See these policies
if you think your submission might be late.
A Low-Cost Core Genome Marker Platform That Works Well Across the Diverse
April 14, 2020, 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific
Several considerations determine whether a platform for identifying DNA markers for traits of interest can help move the needle for work of geneticists, biologists and plant breeders. Certainly cost and throughput (how many samples the system can process in what amount of time),
but perhaps most importantly, genome coverage (the resolution of the trait associations it can deliver), the quality of the analysis and its interpretation, and the transferability of the marker data across other species. The SCRI-funded
Gen2 project developed a breakthrough marker platform called rhAmpSeq that delivers 2,000 DNA markers from 22,000 individuals, 91% of which are transferable, covering 97% of the core grape genome. Now they're working to make it openly accessible and useful for the grape breeding community. Hear from the experts who developed the technology and the strategy they adopted to use it so effectively.
March 19, 2020 | Star Tribune
Cheers to this terrific recognition for three female vintners, growers and scientists in Minnesota! From their roles at University of Minnesota and beyond, they have been instrumental in discovering the selection of cultivars, shaping the quality profile and molding new entrants to the wine scene in the state, both industry and academic.
March 17, 2020 | Growing Produce
Grape growers don't have a range of vine-size-restricting rootstocks available as other crops, like apple, do. So scientists at Virginia Tech undertook a long-term (10 years!) study to see if physically restricting grapevine roots could effectively reduce vegetative growth and improve fruit quality--particularly in the humid conditions in the Southeast, where canopies can grow quite large. It worked! The use of root bags successfully dwarfed grapevines in a research vineyard. Now the team is trialing the bags in commercial vineyards.
March 16, 2020 | MIT Technology Review
A new microchip smells like your brain! That is, it can engage in the act of detecting and discerning olfactory signals like the human brain can. When scientists at Intel trained the chip's algorithm on 10 "smells," it was able to accurately distinguish between them faster and more accurately than a conventional chip. It's in the early stages of development, but the chip could one day support applications like bomb or disease sniffing or the detection of noxious fumes or "off" aromas.
March 12, 2020 | The Hindu Business Online
Grape geneticists in India have developed a new variety of grape, currently called ARI-516, suitable primarily for juice, which is the lowest production of all the grape sectors in the country. A cross between Catawba (
labrusca) and Beauty (
vinifera), the new variety has a musky flavor, moderate resistance to fungal diseases and roughly double the yield of India's average per-hectare grape production.
March 12, 2020 | USDA-ARS
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service have developed an app that could speed the search for genes that underpin important crop traits, like high yield, or resistance to pests, diseases or adverse environmental conditions. The app, called PAST, short for Pathway Association Studies Tool, allows users to build on the results of crops' genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to find single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for target genes and follow the expression of desired traits. More importantly, it can help geneticists see gene markers that may not seem statistically significant but could be meaningful. The tool has been documented in maize, and has application to other crops.
March 10, 2020 | Good Fruit Grower
What time of day and what season is the spotted lanternfly most active? What's its feeding behavior and how quickly can it kill a vine...or vineyard? These are some of the questions addressed by Penn State Extension Associate Heather Leach, who was hired in May 2018 to deal exclusively with the spotted lanternfly.
March 6, 2020 | Wine Spectator
Dr. Wes Zandberg of the University of British Columbia has discovered a novel use of a phospholipid spray, called Parka, used in cherry: protecting grapes from smoke exposure. In research trials, it reduced levels of compounds responsible for smoke taint by 300%. "We think it's kind of like putting a Teflon coat on the grapes," said Dr. Zandberg.
March 5, 2020 | Vineyard Team
Tune in to this podcast as Wayne Wilcox of Cornell University shares insights from an esteemed career studying applied biology and integrated management of grapevine fungal diseases. Here, he talks about tracking berry susceptibility changes throughout the season to determine when to step up control programs. It's often the case with diseases, he says, that "you see the problem later in the season, but where you lost control was early," when symptoms aren't yet present.
Growers and Shippers Gather for California Table Grape Seminar
March 3, 2020
California Table Grape Commission
At the California Table Grape Seminar last week, more than 150 growers and shippers met to review the latest in viticulture research, technology trends, and promotion plans for the year ahead. Scientists for the commission, and from UC Davis and the USDA presented their work on improving table grape color development, identifying nitrogen deficiency via multispectral imaging, understanding fungicide resistance in Botrytis cinerea, improving effectiveness of spray application and breeding new table grape varieties.
March 1, 2020 | BBC
"The 2019 vintage will go down in history here in Germany as the first year in which the ice harvest has failed nationwide," reads a statement from the German Wine Institute i.e. Wines of Germany. None of the country's 13 wine-growing regions had the necessary temperatures of -7C to produce ice wine last year. Add to that, the dates for a possible ice harvest have shifted later--to January and February--while the grapes are ripening earlier, the organization says.
X-Ray Imaging of Vitis Buds Shows Freezing Pattern
March 2020 | Appellation Cornell
Did you know that dormant grapevine buds freeze from the inside out? That's just one of the findings from a recently published study in the journal Nature, by a team of New York-based scientists from Cornell University, Cornell AgriTech and USDA-ARS. This great "Research in Plain English" summary from Cornell explains how buds survive (or not) low winter temperatures.
March 2020 | Appellation Cornell
In this article, Cornell University scientists share that flavor degradation, scalping (loss of compounds associated with sensory attributes) or development of H2S ("rotten egg" aroma) are likely interactions between the aluminum of the can, its interior polymeric coating, or liner) and the wine. One thing is certain, they say: "Opportunities exist for further extending the shelf life wine of wine in cans by focusing on the interaction of SO2 and the can liner."
March 2020 | The Australian Wine Research Institute
If you're a winegrape grower in a region plagued by wildfires, you've probably wondered if blending can be an effective option for the remediation of smoke-affected wine. Scientists at the AWRI tried blending at various levels and with various wines, with promising results.
February 26, 2020 | The Counter
Increasing soil salinity doesn't get as much attention as other environmental threats to grapevines, but the impacts can be as serious as vine mortality. Rootstock serves as the conduit between the grapes and the earth itself, and is the first point of contact between the plant and salty soil. UC Davis' Dr. Andy Walker is breeding rootstocks that can withstand rising salinization. "We're looking for types [of root systems] that exclude excess amounts of sodium chloride from getting to the plant, so that they can persist even longer and last even longer," he says.
February 26, 2020 | Cornell Chronicle
In cold climates, a sudden cold snap can kill up to 90% of buds, seriously impacting plans for pruning. "We have to really understand what the mortality level is in different parts of the vineyard to guide pruning practices," says Dr. Justine Vanden Heuvel of Cornell University. She's a co-PI on research to design an imaging system that integrates thermal and multispectral sensors with data technologies to ID live vs. dead buds and produce a pruning map. Scientists from Cornell AgriTech and Penn State University are working with her to bring the ATV-based system to life.
February 24, 2020 | Financial Times
Technology innovation is taking root in viticulture, thanks to climate change, lack of labor and stalling demand. Check out these new technologies, ranging from GPS-tracked sniffer dogs to smart irrigation systems to UV light-zapping robots.
A low-cost, portable e-nose originally developed to assess beer quality has been tested by researchers at the University of Melbourne in a smoke contamination trial to detect smoke-related compounds in grapes and wine. The e-nose combines nine gas sensors and integrated temperature and relative humidity sensors with machine learning and artificial intelligence to accurately predict aromas and other sensory characteristics.
October 22, 2019 | Virginia Cooperative Extension
Scientists from University of Georgia, North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension collaborated to produce this awesome Viticulture Management poster. Click the title above to see the full image and download it in PDF!
North Fork of Long Island, NY
May 26-30, 2020
Joint conference of ASEV and ASEV-Eastern Section
Friday, June 19, 2020
NGRA Mid-Year Board Meeting