September 2021
A Burro autonomous cart helps with this year's table grape harvest*
This time of year, the sponsoring organizations of the Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award meet with Claudia Smith and Jason Smith, wife and son of Rich Smith, to plan the annual award honoring his legacy. It’s always a welcome opportunity for us to recall a remarkable leader and his positive impact on our industry, and invite others to do the same.

Rich helped to form NGRA (as well as WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America, co-sponsors of the award), reaching out to growers he knew who, like him, believed in science as a means to advance the industry. Most of those he inspired to join and shape NGRA (then the National Grape and Wine Initiative, or NGWI) are still active members of the organization. But we’ve just lost the executive he helped to hire, who spoke at his memorial service and who set the template for what remains a vibrant national research organization. Jean-Mari Peltier (shown here) passed away on September 24, 2021.

Jean-Mari was the founding President of NGWI. She was hired in 2008 and led the organization for seven years, departing around the time of Rich’s passing to become Managing Partner of Environmental Solutions Group. She remained active in agriculture and with the table grape industry in the Central Valley, including with the Consolidated Central Valley Table Grape Pest and Disease Control District. Our hearts are with her family. (As of this writing, an obituary has not yet been published.)

I never had the opportunity to know Rich (his passing preceded my involvement in NGRA) and I didn’t know Jean-Mari well. But those who did know them will be quick to regale you with tales of their big personalities, broad networks of colleagues and allies, and their tireless efforts to advocate for and advance the grape and wine industry. For myself, I can say that Jean-Mari never failed to have a warm and ready smile, wry wit, and a heartfelt compliment for anyone she met.

I invite you to remember Rich and Jean-Mari and others who have championed our needs over the years. Their imprint on NGRA and the industry at large will endure.
Donnell Brown

This photo, taken in late August 2021 in a table grape vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley, is courtesy of Augean Robotics, which worked with the California Table Grape Commission, an NGRA member-organization, to design the Burro.

Nominations Now Open for the 2022 Rich Smith Award
Richard (Rich) Smith, founder of Valley Farm Management, Paraiso Vineyards and Smith Family Wines in California's Santa Lucia Highlands wine region, was first and foremost a family man, and also a successful grape grower and winery owner, and a respected colleague. Through his significant and selfless contributions of time, energy and funds to organizations that advance the American grape and wine industry, he came to be known as a highly effective, collegial and tireless leader. He passed away in December 2015.

Three of the organizations Rich helped to shape—NGRA, WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America (WGA)—collaborated to create the Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award to honor his spirit and legacy. It annually recognizes people who demonstrate similar qualities and make a similarly positive impact on the industry.

Nominate a colleague who emulates Rich's exceptional leadership! You may complete and submit your nomination online OR download a nomination form to complete offline and email to us. Nominations are due by October 29, 2021. The recipient will be named at the WGA Leadership Luncheon on January 26, 2022, in Sacramento.
ICYMI: Save the Date for NVEELC 2022
The dates have been announced for the next National Viticulture and Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC)! Make plans to join with fellow extension and outreach specialists August 14-17, 2022, in the central San Joaquin Valley—the largest, most diverse viticulture production area in the U.S. NVEELC 2022 will offer professional development, including research and regional reports, and foster collaboration and dialog, helping viticulture and enology extension professionals stay apprised of industry challenges across the country. Tours of vineyards, labs and other local viticulture and enology research and extension assets is an important part of the agenda for this event, and this year will cover mechanization and wine, raisin and table grape production. Stay tuned for details and registration for NVEELC 2022!
USDA Invests $500M in Climate Smart Ag, Requests Input
USDA this week announced $3 billion in investments to support drought resilience and response, animal disease prevention, market disruption relief, and purchase food for school nutrition programs. Of that total, $500 million will support drought recovery and encourage the adoption of water-smart management practices. The funds will enable USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation agencies to deliver much needed relief and design drought resilience efforts responsive to the magnitude of the current crisis facing growers.

As part of the announcement, Secretary Vilsack unveiled the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative and requested comment. The new initiative is intended to finance the deployment of climate-smart farming and forestry practices to aid in the marketing of climate-smart agricultural commodities. It includes a set of pilot projects that provide incentives to implement climate smart conservation practices on working lands and to quantify and monitor the carbon and greenhouse gas benefits associated with those practices. Comments may be provided by November 1, 2021, via the Federal Register, Docket ID: USDA-2021-0010. Feedback will be used to inform design of the new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. 
Global Wine Industry Leaders Form Sustainable Wine Roundtable
More than 40 leaders in the production and marketing of wine around the world have joined forces in the newly formed Sustainable Wine Roundtable (SWR). Building on the many local sustainability standards for wine, the SWR will develop a global reference standard clarifying the wine community's consensus on exactly what sustainability means and how it is implemented and measured, providing clear and credible guidance on how to get vineyards and wineries on the sustainability pathway and help retailers and consumers sort out the various eco-labels and claims. NGRA members New York Wine & Grape Foundation and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates are among the founding members of the SWR. 
Multi-State Partnership Advances US Wine's Sustainability
Since 2018, wine organizations from the four largest winegrowing states in the nation—California, Oregon, New York and Washington, collectively producing 95% of US wine—have been partnering to advance sustainability initiatives industry-wide. Through trade and consumer research, two Sustainable Winegrowing Summits, and trade and consumer outreach and education, the project has effectively furthered the understanding of sustainable winegrowing. As the initial phase of the multi-year project concludes, the partners are sharing results and resources, including a common definition and principles, and a new unified website, We proudly note that many of the participating organizations are members of NGRA.
Unified Returns to Sacramento
The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, the largest wine and grape conference in the nation, returns to its in-person format in Sacramento, January 25-27, 2022. Registration and housing will open on October 19, 2021.
Call for Nominations: ASEV Extension Distinction Award
The American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) Extension Distinction Award recognizes a current extension educator for distinguished contributions of information in enology or viticulture through the awardee’s extension program, and/or the translation of novel research findings into commercially applicable tools for enologists or viticulturists. Nominators and nominees must be current ASEV members. Nominations are due November 1, 2021. Get complete details.
New Leadership at Vineyard Team
After leading NGRA member-organization the Vineyard Team for more than 22 years, Kris Beal is retiring as Executive Director on December 31, 2021. Beth Vukmanic, SIP Certified Program Director since 2009, will step into the role on January 1, 2022. Vineyard Team is an internationally recognized leader in sustainability for the wine industry and producer of the annual Sustainable Ag Expo.
PD/GWSS Board Welcomes New Research Coordinator
The California Department of Food and Agriculture this month announced that Dr. Kristin Lowe is the PD/GWSS Board's new Research Coordinator. She has more than 20 years of experience working with growers and researchers in viticulture science and practical farming, and will oversee and guide the Board’s research program, which focuses on Pierce's disease and its vector, the glassy-winged sharpshooter, as well as other serious pests and diseases of winegrapes.
OWB Funds Six Research Projects
For the 2021-22 fiscal year, the Oregon Wine Board is funding $289,000 in six technical research grants. The projects span variations in berry size, grapevine trunk diseases, irrigation, botrytis bunch rot, rootstocks and dry farming, and Willamette Valley soil moisture profiles. The projects are listed in NGRA's ongoingly updated inventory of US funded grape research.
ARS Seeks a Research Chemist/Food Technologist
The USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has a new opening for a Research Chemist/Food Technologist. The incumbent will initially address the issue of smoke taint in wine grapes. The position will be located in the ARS Crops Pathology and Genetics Research Unit in Davis, CA, and based on campus at UC Davis. Positions like this are unique opportunities to develop creative research to address a broad range of problems relevant to the grape and wine industry. They have open-ended promotion potential. See the qualifications and apply by October 22, 2021.
By Chelsea McCall, Texas A&M AgriLife Research
A Texas A&M AgriLife Research study has led to the discovery of the first curative and preventive organic treatment against Xylella fastidiosa, the bacterium that causes the deadly Pierce's disease in grapevines. It's considered the world's first.

The glassy-winged sharpshooter, the primary vector of Pierce's disease, feeds on the sap of grapevines, spreading the disease vine-to-vine as it does. GWSS is thought to be limited by cold winters, so in warm and arid places like Texas and California, Pierce's disease spreads efficiently. But with temperatures rising from climate change, it's feared that PD will spread more widely, more quickly. To date, most efforts to control Pierce's disease have focused on the pest, often with deleterious effects on non-target beneficial insects such as honeybees.

This new solution is a bacteriophage therapy. Developed by Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, a professor in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology and member of the Texas A&M AgriLife Center for Phage Technology, it is a precision treatment of bacterial infections that uses viruses to infect and kill the bacterium itself. In other words, this injectable treatment targets the disease within the plant’s vascular system, helping to cure the infected grapevine and stopping the spread to surrounding vines.

"Our research findings resulted in an injectable organic remedy rather than a surface application. As with any biological, if you rely on pesticides that are not systemic and it rains, it's not going to do much good," Dr. Gonzalez said. "Developing a bacteriophage treatment was ideal because it works to cure the plant from within—rather than a pesticide that's meant to kill insects that vector the pathogen."

The bacteriophage therapy has been trialed in high-disease-pressure vineyards in Northern California. After two seasons, it was reported to have reduced the incidence of Pierce's disease by almost 60%.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical partnered with AgriLife Research in 2010 to develop a bacteriophage treatment for Pierce’s disease. Development was led by Dr. Gonzalez in collaboration with the company. The treatment has now been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the commercial name XylPhi-PD, is registered for use in California, Arizona and Texas, and is approved for use in organic production by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). The product is now marketed in the US by Otsuka subsidiary A&P Inphatec, LLC.

"The development of this first-ever bacteriophage treatment for Pierce's disease is a significant step for the agricultural industry," Dr. Gonzalez said. "Bacteriophage therapies will have a major impact on agricultural sustainability, as they'll allow us to implement more ethical practices and growing techniques that are good for the plant and the environment."

This article was adapted from the original, entitled "Texas A&M AgriLife Research develops bacteriophage treatment for Pierce’s disease," published May 28, 2021, on AgriLife Today, the online publication of Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Elements of this article are included, as well: "World's First Organic Treatment for Pierce's Disease," by Lee Allen, Western Farm Press, August 26, 2021.
Apply for an OIV Award
The OIV Award, bestowed by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), recognizes works of reference in 12 categories, including viticulture and enology, new category “sustainable vitiviniculture,” and others. In addition to academic papers and journal articles, books and interactive digital tools are eligible for consideration, as well. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2022.
Attend USDA Stakeholder Meetings
Two USDA agencies are holding stakeholder meetings soon:

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will host a two-day virtual Fall Data Users' Meeting on October 13-14, 2021. The event is regularly held to share recent and pending program changes, and to solicit comments and input on data and information programs important to agriculture. Organized by NASS in cooperation with the World Agricultural Outlook Board, Farm Service Agency, Economic Research Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, Foreign Agricultural Service and the US Census Bureau, this meeting is free of charge and open to the public. View the agenda and register to attend.

Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS), part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), will hold its annual Stakeholder Meeting virtually on November 18, 2021. Topics will include the agency’s revised biotechnology regulations and electronic permitting system, a review of fiscal year 2021, and discussion of its FY 2022 priorities to protect plant health through the regulation of organisms developed using genetic engineering. BRS seeks input on additional meeting topics via email by October 15, 2021. Register to attend.
Funding Opportunities
Sharpen your pencils! These grant programs have upcoming deadlines.
NCR-SARE Programs
Two grant programs of the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education are now accepting applications:

  • The Research and Education Grant program supports sustainable agriculture innovators with competitive research and education grants of up to $250,000. The agency anticipates that roughly $3.5 million will be available, with individual grants not to exceed $250,000 total for projects lasting up to three years. The deadline is October 7, 2021.
  • The Partnership Grant program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Individual grants are limited to $40,000. A total of approximately $720,000 is available for this program. The deadline is October 21, 2021.

This Graduate Research Fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students pursuing full-time, research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The program provides three years of support over a five-year fellowship period. NSF specifically encourages women, persons who are members of groups historically underrepresented in STEM, persons with disabilities, veterans and undergraduate seniors to apply. The deadline is October 19, 2021.

NSF also encourages members of the research community to volunteer to review GRFP applications. If you would like to serve as a GRFP reviewer, signal your interest by registering here:
The Michigan Craft Beverage Council (MCBC) is accepting research grant proposals with a maximum grant award of $40,000. While any research topic will be accepted, the Council has identified the following funding priorities: climate change impacts affecting Michigan’s craft beverage agricultural supply chain, crop quality analysis; new varieties for hops, fruit, barley, grain or other agricultural inputs used in craft beverage production; and sustainable wastewater discharge best practices. Proposals must be received by October 25, 2021.

The state agriculture agencies in Arizona, California, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin are now accepting applications from entities that are the lead on projects with multiple state partners for the 2021 Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP). With awards ranging from $250,000 to $1 million per project, a total of nearly $10 million is available for these grants. All SCMP proposals must include at least two partners (referred to as "multi-state partners"), who must be located in two different states to qualify for the program. Applications are due November 4, 2021.
September 28, 2021 | Western Farm Press
Robotics startup Future Acres is collaborating with Sun World International to field-test its first product, Carry, an automated electric cart that moves bins of table grapes from pickers to packing stations in the vineyard.

September 17, 2021 | Wine Australia
Australia now has a free online Variety Selector Tool. Developed by scientists at CSIRO, the website collates data on 465 different winegrape varieties suited for warmer climates. Check it out at

September 17, 2021 | Wine Australia
Scientists at Australia's Charles Sturt University have developed an AI-enabled smartphone app to identify grapevine nutritional disorders based on their visual symptoms.

September 15, 2021 | The Washington Post
A spotted lanternfly in a state fair entry was the first Kansas authorities had heard of the presence of the invasive pest in the state--1,300 km away from the next nearest sighting. "He has alerted us to a threat we weren't aware of, and we're really thankful," said the state leader for the Kansas 4-H program.

September 14, 2021 | CalMatters
Among the many examples cited of how scientists are working to find solutions to help farmers (nut-crop growers are the focus here) cope with drought, this article highlights the importance of germplasm collections like the National Clonal Germplasm Repository outside Davis, CA, one of the largest for grape in the world. To breeders and geneticists, it's "a kind of living, botanical Smithsonian, a lending library where [they] can check out rare plants, study past research and conduct breeding trials."

September 13, 2021 | Napa Valley Register
UC Davis scientist Megan Bartlett gives advice to California grapegrowers about vineyard and canopy management techniques and the drought-tolerant rootstocks she studies. "You have to think about your site and how variable the conditions are," she says. There is no one-size-fits-all drought solution.

September 13, 2021 | Western Farmer-Stockman
With a grant from the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab's Western Water Applications Office, WSU scientists will use machine learning to scour 20 years of satellite imagery to find out if today's longer growing season is increasing double-cropping on WA farms--a farming practice that requires much more water.

September 9, 2021 | Western Farm Press
WSU's Markus Keller is studying several aspects of heat and drought, with some findings that upend age-old advice. For example, southern exposure for grapevines has been prescribed since the late 1900s, he says, but "now we’re telling growers to back off that a bit."

September 8, 2021 | Western Farm Press
New research led by UC Davis' Kaan Kurtural shows that California coastal grape growers can cut irrigation water by 50% without compromising flavor, color or sugar content. The findings shed new light on how vineyards can mitigate drought effects at a time when California is experiencing a severe water shortage, Kaan says.

September 3, 2021 | American Vineyard Magazine
The spotted lanternfly has made its way to Ohio and Indiana.

September 2, 2021 | Wine Industry Network
Programs at Cornell and the University of Minnesota have created grape varieties designed to combat disease and weather challenges. For wineries in regions with harsh winters and high disease pressure, their work "is nothing less than essential."

September 2021 | Wine Opinions
In a survey of 1,557 wine drinkers conducted last month, nearly half (47%) agreed that the prolonged drought in California was evidence of climate change, while nearly a quarter (23%) believe that climate change has not affected the wines they drink.

August 20, 2021 |
French scientists anticipate that the peppery notes attributed to rotundone in warm-climate Syrah will be lost due to increased temperatures and less precipitation at ripening. "The days of comparing a glass of Northern Rhône Syrah to a strip of peppered bacon appear to be coming to an end," says wine writer Deborah Parker Wong.

August 19, 2021 | Vineyard Team
Most vineyards that use sheep and goats for grazing employ them only in winter. Kelly Mulville wondered, could year-round grazing restore the ecosystem without the animals eating the vines? In this podcast, Kelly discusses his successful Watson system-based trial at Paicines Ranch.

August 19, 2021 | Good Fruit Grower
WSU's Markus Keller, Manoj Karkee and others are exploring the use of hyperspectral sensors to estimate vine water stress, based on the wavelengths of light reflecting off the vines. The technology could usher in a new era of precision irrigation, Markus says.

August 18, 2021 | Bloomberg
Tractors burn 5.3 billion gallons of fuel a year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, and agriculture accounts for 10% of American greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, that's creating more incentive for R&D in farm machines that are smaller and greener.

August 18, 2021 | Spectrum News 1
Farmers in California and other western states are suffering a punishing drought and water restrictions. Why not just focus on desalination? It can create other problems.

August 12, 2021 | Western Farm Press
WSU entomologist David James has been studying the white-headed grape leaffolder for three years, rating it "about a 5 on the reason-to-be-concerned meter." Normally, pests will spread quickly, but so far, the leaffolder has stayed in South Central Washington. "I don't see it as being an industry-wide problem—but I could be wrong," he said, adding, "It's a significant problem for the people who already have it."

August 9, 2021 | The Washington Post
Science has spoken. Don't wash your grapes (or other fruits and veggies) with soap or detergents. Why? Their skins are permeable and can absorb these chemicals.

August 2021 | Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting (presented paper)
A new study shows that consumers' willingness to pay for conventionally bred table grapes vs. those developed using gene editing increases as their knowledge about gene editing increases. "Consumers appear to be more accepting of food developed using gene editing," the authors write.

July 20, 2021 | Science of the Total Environment
A study from Italy finds that the main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions for wine are: the glass bottle (29%), electricity in the winery (14%), transport and distribution of wine to the consumer (13%), heat used in the winery (9%) and fossil fuels used in the vineyard (8%).

February 4, 2021 | Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Climatologists have new advice for regions dealing with drought: Follow the forecast. Advances in understanding and predicting atmospheric river storms is helping the US Army Corps of Engineers optimize water resources at Lake Mendocino, a Northern California reservoir, even increasing seasonal stores of drinking water.

October 2, 2017 | Epicurious
What's the difference between traditional brown raisins and golden raisins? If you guessed grape variety, you'd be wrong.

Find these stories and more, published daily, on NGRA's Facebook and Twitter feeds.
October 18-November 30, 2021
Central Coast, CA, and virtual sessions
NGRA President Donnell Brown speaking

October 31-November 5, 2021
Virtual event

November 9-10, 2021
Dripping Springs, TX

November 10, 2021
Davis, CA, and livestream webinar

November 18, 2021
NGRA End-of-Year Board Meeting
Via Zoom

November 30-December 2, 2021
Montpellier, France

December 3, 2021
College Station, TX

December 13-15, 2021
Corvallis, OR

Find all upcoming events on the NGRA website.

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