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

A proximal sensor in action*
Last month, when NGRA Board members met with administrators at federal agencies that fund grape research, talk flowed quickly to technology. In addition to more traditional viticulture and enology topics, we discussed grant programs for computer and information systems, research initiatives for satellite-to-ground measurements of vine and soil water status, big data projects for storing and sharing terabytes of genetics information across the global plant-breeding community, proposals for developing mechanized and/or automated production capabilities, and programs to train field workers on the use of sensors and IT. At some point in the not-too-distant past, it all may have seemed like futuristic fluff. But today, these topics are top of mind for the grape and wine industry. As a speaker at a recent industry conference told an audience of growers, "We're not farmers anymore. We're agriculture technologists."
In This Issue
Accordingly, NGRA Board and Research Committee members routinely discuss high-tech issues as we work to address research needs across wine, juice and table grapes, and raisins. Often, talk turns to sensors--important tools that can deliver incredible amounts of critical data. But new sensor technologies are being developed and advanced to market so quickly and with such varying degrees of application and efficacy that it's hard to know what's out there, what's real, what provides tangible benefits to growers today and what's coming down the research pipeline. So, we decided to get answers to these questions--and to include the grower community in our discovery.
We partnered with our colleagues at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to get an objective, science-based perspective on the current state of sensors for enabling precision viticulture practices. Together, we created the NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop where 30 speakers--scientists from both ARS and academic institutions--will present their work developing sensor technologies for vine and soil water status and irrigation management, and the detection and control of pests and diseases. The day-long program also includes discussion of the data integration and modeling applications that translate sensor outputs into usable information. And a panel of growers will present their experiences implementing sensor technologies, reporting on their successes and reflecting on what they've learned. The event will take place November 13 in Sacramento, and tickets are available now. (Note: We only have space for 200 people, so don't delay!)
We're grateful to our ARS partners  who graciously and expertly spearheaded the planning with us. The NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop promises to help us understand the landscape of sensors today and bring the future of these important tools into greater focus. Join us on the journey!
Donnell Brown
Photo credit: Efficient Vineyard project
The American Vineyard Foundation (AVF) announced funding of $1.5 million in 2019-20 for 26 projects addressing critical viticulture and enology research needs. The awards range from $23,000 to $100,000, and address trunk diseases, drought tolerance, smoke exposure, virus outreach and more.
The Washington State Wine Commission already has an enviable research program, but it's about to get even bigger! Starting next month, the Commission will increase its research budget by nearly 300% over the next four years. Total spending on viticulture and enology research in Washington State has exceeded $1 million in each of the last three years. It is now set to expand to an estimated $5.5 million from 2020 through 2023.
USDA-ARS scientist Dr. Feng Gao was one of 12 federal employees honored this month with the Arthur S. Flemming Award for outstanding achievements. Feng was recognized in the area of Applied Science and Engineering for his work in remote sensing. Congrats! Come hear him speak at the NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop on November 13!
Earlier this mo nth, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced where the USDA will  relocate two research-related agencies. By year's end, he said, the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (the agency that administers the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and other extramural funding programs) will move from Washington D.C. to the Kansas City area. At the time of the announcement, a specific site had not yet been chosen, but  property on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border is being considered. The USDA estimates savings from the move will total some $300 million over 15 years from employment and rent. About 550 jobs will be affected.
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has proposed a new SECURE rule to guide the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of genetically engineered organisms and reduce the regulatory burden for developers of GE organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks. The proposed rule follows the principles of Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient, or SECURE for short. It is intended to modernize the department's biotechnology regulations with a balanced approach that continues to protect plant health while promoting agricultural innovation. Public comment is invited, now till August 5.
USDA-NIFA and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) seek nominations to deliver the prestigious Hatch Lecture at the APLU annual meeting this November in San Diego. The lecture honors William Henry Hatch, the Missouri Congressman who championed the Agricultural Experiment Station Founding Bill, which became law in 1887, and celebrates the accomplishments of the Experiment Station System, which the Hatch Act created. Get details and submit your nomination by July 15.
There is still time to participate in the international climate study funded by the European Union called LIFE-ADVICLIM (Adaptation of Viticulture to Climate Change) to consider the future of wine in a warming world. The survey polls winegrowers from 22 wine-producing countries about their perceptions of the changing environment and their priorities to adapt their practices and techniques to its impacts.  Take the survey now! 

The survey is short and anonymous, and all information shared will be used only  for scientific purposes. Study findings will be communicated back to NGRA and other participating institutions, and published in an appropriate research journal. Understanding growers' needs and intentions toward climate change helps to enable sustainable research and policy efforts for the wine sector.

Oregon State University economist Dr. Clark Seavert recently completed a study, funded by the Washington State Wine Commission and Erath Family Foundation, comparing the profitability of mechanizing routine vineyard tasks with using hand labor in vineyards of varying sizes. He found that, with only one exception, net cash flow (a measure of profitability) increases when production is mechanized.
Entitled "Developing Economic and Financial Benchmarks for Mechanizing Northwest Vineyards," Clark's study sought to assess the profitability and feasibility of current labor-saving machines and also understand the significance of preserving and enhancing fruit and wine quality while using automation. Breaking this down into discrete project objectives, he wanted to identify the vineyard tasks that would generate the highest return on investment when mechanized. And he aimed to determine, by farm size, the financial requirements to purchase machines and the minimum acreage required to make the investment feasible.
"Everybody says, 'I can't afford to [mechanize]," Clark said. "That's all you hear." But the results of his study prove to him that growers must look beyond the pricetag of expensive equipment when deciding whether they can actually afford mechanization. They must evaluate profitability over time as much as the financial feasibility right now.
Rather than focusing only on how long it takes to pay equipment off, Clark compared projected net returns of tasks over 10 years on case-study vineyards of 20 acres and 40 acres in Oregon and 100 acres and 500 acres in Washington, taking scale and relative impacts into account. To determine profitability, he calculated the net present value of mechanizing each task-that is, the net (or difference) between cash coming in and cash going out over time-10 years in this case.
He found that growers who purchase machines to mechanize common tasks will see savings compared to those who rely on hand labor. Not surprisingly, mechanized harvesting was the clearest winner with profitability of more than $1,200 per acre per year, whether employed in a vineyard of 500 acres or 40.
Cane pruning was the lone task not suited to mechanization. It was the only example in which net cash flow per acre per year ended up higher when mechanized.
Trying to figure out if mechanization will work for you? As part of this research, Clark has developed and online tool called AgBiz LogicTM with which growers can calculate the economic feasibility of investing in mechanization in their own vineyards. The decision-support tool is offered free of charge, via Oregon State University.
Portions of this story were excerpted from an article in Good Fruit Grower entitled "The Margins of Mechanization," by Ross Courtney, published May 22, 2019. Read that article.
Additional resources:
  • Earlier this month, the Oregon Wine Research Institute hosted a webinar by Dr. Seavert, called "Can Mechanizing Vineyard Tasks Make you Money?" Watch the recorded webinar now.
June 18, 2019 | University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Extension's Annie Klodd reports that many Minnesota vineyards suffered severe winter injury this year. Whole blocks are dead to the ground but some vines have produced shoots. Here, she offers guidance on rejuvenating grapevines with signs of life. And she says a formal multi-state survey will be conducted to determine which varieties, site types and geographic areas were most affected by winter injury.
June 18, 2019 | Good Fruit Grower
When it comes to water needs, it has long been believed that winegrape varieties were either isohydric (good water retainers) or anisohydric (dry down as the soil dries). The truth is more nuanced, according to new research from Ph.D. candidate Joelle Martinez at Washington State University.

June 18, 2019 | Agronomy
Looking for the best salt-tolerant rootstock for Cabernet Sauvignon? A team of scientists, led by Dr. Donald Suarez, at the USDA-ARS Salinity Lab in hot, dry Riverside, CA, tested several over four years. The significant findings of the study include not only the identification of one high-performing rootstock, but also the fact that salt tolerance decreases over time.
June 17, 2019 | The Scientist
Purdue University's Dr. Sylvie Brouder, part of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, makes the case for agricultural researchers to take better advantage of the massive amount of data they produce and move into an era of "big science." But first, she says, ag science must change in significant ways.
June 14, 2019 | Wine Business Monthly
Ph.D. candidate Konrad Miller in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis has developed a reactor model for red wine fermentations, paving the way to being able to "design a fermentation regime to get the results one wants," as Wine Business Monthly's Curtis Phillips explains here. "If the model really matches enough real-world results," he adds, "it can be used to predict the results of (your) next fermentation." The study was published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture.

We Drink Basically the Same Wine Varietals as Ancient Romans, and That's Not So Great

June 10, 2019 | NPR
According to a new study in Nature Plants, many of the most popular wine varieties sold today are nearly identical, genetically, to the wines that ancient Romans drank-and may have existed for thousands of years longer.

June 7, 2019 | Wine Australia
Australian scientist Dr. Monica Kehoe has developed a portable, hand-held molecular diagnostic tool that can identify grapevine leaf-roll viruses 1 and 3 in the field within 30 minutes. She also sequenced 13 complete genomes of GLRV3 and 12 of GLRV1. A recipient of Wine Australia's Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, we'd say Dr. Kehoe has a bright future!
June 6, 2019 | Seven Fifty Daily
Managing vine vigor helps keep vineyards in balance, but not everyone agrees on how...or what vigor even means. "The term becomes a matter of debate when it comes to researchers," says Dr. Patty Skinkis of Oregon State University. Vigor also can have a different meaning for growers than it does for scientists.
May 31, 2019 | Washington State University
Washington State University's Dr. Manoj Karkee is working on a smartphone app to tackle the time- and labor-intensive task of estimating yield. "Currently, growers send workers into the field to collect samples for counting, weighing and sizing grape clusters," he says. "This app can do the same thing. It will estimate the number of berries, clusters and other parameters related to estimating crop-load in vineyards." The first version of the app will take about a year to develop.
May 31, 2019 | The Drinks Business
Are you a curious night owl with a penchant for punk music, perfectionism and cats? If yes, this study has you pegged as a white-wine drinker.
May 27, 2019 | Good Fruit Grower
Grapevines infected with red blotch virus produce poor quality fruit, driving growers to delay harvest to see if the fruit will pull through. But new research from UC Davis reveals that the virus disrupts both sugar and anthocyanin production. The only management tactic that works? Rogueing or replanting with clean vines.
May 23, 2019 | Bloomberg
Dogs are being used to sniff out pests and taint-causing compounds in vineyards and wineries. For example, Honig Vineyard & Winery is using dogs from Bergin College of Canine Studies to identify mealybugs. "Using dogs is organic," says Michael Honig, and it confines chemical treatments to only the affected vine. Hear more about dogs and other (inorganic) sensors at the NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop in November!
May 17, 2019 | Catalyst
A team of scientists at the University of California led by UC Cooperative Extension agent Dr. Monica Cooper has discovered a novel and effective way to eradicate the Argentine ant in vineyards: toxin-laced crystals. Published in American Society for Enology and Viticulture's Catalyst, the research showcases the journal's new video capability.
June 19, 2018 | Healthline
Weekend reading: Were those raisins, sultanas or currants in your corn flakes this morning? It probably depends on where you live.
Find these stories and more, published as we find them, on the NGRA Facebook page.

July 10, 2019

July 7-12, 2019
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada

July 19, 2019
NGRA Mid-Year Board Meeting
Geneva, NY

August 15-16, 2019
Mountain Grove, MO

November 13, 2019
NGRA-ARS Sensor Technology Workshop
Sacramento, CA

November 14, 2019
NGRA End-of-Year Board Meeting
Sacramento, CA

Find all upcoming events
on the NGRA website.