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     October 2011                                                                                               NGWI.ORG

In This Issue
NGWI Members Fund Work on Precision Vineyard Management
NIFA Funds National Grape Research Priorities
NGWI Urges Support for Agricultural Resrearch
NAREEE Advisory Board Names Jean-Mari Peltier as Chairman

Calendar of Events


WAWGG Grower Caucus  


NGWI Board of

Directors Meeting

Sacramento, CA

January 23, 2012


Unified Wine & Grape Symposium
Sacramento, CA
January 24-26, 2012


WA Association

of Wine Grape Growers

Annual Meeting

Kennewick, WA

February 7-10, 2012


Cold Climate Grape &Wine Conference
St. Paul, MN
February 23-25, 2012


Eastern Winery Exposition
Lancaster, PA
March 7-8, 2012  


Wineries Unlimited
Richmond, VA
March 27-29, 2012 


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The National Grape and Wine Initiative (NGWI) is an industry-driven partnership with academic and government representatives, design to focus emphasis on research and extension as a means to strengthen the competitiveness of America's grape and grape product industries.


NGWI Members Fund Work on Precision Vineyard Management

The grape industry lacks the technology enabling precision crop assessment in the vineyards. In 2010 and again in 2011, NGWI has funded work on a sensor and mechanization project, working with researchers at the well-respected institutions of Carnegie-Mellon University and Cornell University. The outcome of this project will be the development of tools for more accurate crop and canopy estimation to help improve vineyard operations.


"We were extremely pleased that the "proof of concept" work conducted last year showed real promise," according the NGWI Research Chair, Nick Dokoozlian. "That is why industry representatives have dedicated another $150,000 to take this work to the next level."


Canopy performance, the balance of crop weight and canopy volume, are all key indicators for viticultural production. Traditional measurement practices are labor intensive and provide sparse data that may not reflect vineyard viability. Additionally, current industry practice for measuring grape crop weight involves labor-intensive manual cluster counting in a vine with destructive sampling to find the average weight of a single cluster.


This project utilizes a camera and laser system for efficient and automatic crop and canopy size assessment. Through a combination of visual and laser sensing equipment mounted on vineyard machinery, the project will provide dense maps of canopy performance indicators.



Work conducted last year included the use of cameras and machine vision algorithms to automatically detect and count berries for estimation of the weight of crop growth on the vines. The approach was validated by comparing weight estimates generated by the system against harvest measurements collected by hand, see below. Experiments performed at a variety of vineyards including wine and table-grape production demonstrated estimation of the harvest weight of individual vineyard rows to within 10% of their actual values.


 Clusters  berry count &total count


Left: Image of Chardonnay semi-VSP vineyard with berries automatically detected colored by red contour. Right-top: Correlation between detected berry count and hand harvest weight. Right-bottom: Calibrated berry count provided estimation of row weight to within 10% average accuracy.  


Machine mounted laser scanners produce 3D maps of vine canopy and canopy volume measurements can be automatically extracted and validated by correlation with manually collected dormant vine pruning weight. See below. 

3D Occupancy   Canopy Correlation     
Left: 3D map of canopy of a Concord vineyard generated by laser scanner. Right: Scan volume generated by laser scanner correlates against dormant vine pruning weight.


Attaching the laser and camera sensors to vineyard machinery will allow crop weight and canopy volume measurements to be collected on a large scale quickly and economically.


Stephen Nuske, a scientist at Carnegie-Mellon said "our research team is excited to be working on this project because we are able to develop new technologies that have a clear industry need".



NIFA  Funds National Grape Research Priorities

The U. S. Department of Agriculture recently announced the award of 29 grants across 19 states to develop and share science-based tools to address the needs of America's specialty crop industry. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).


An NGWI project - Accelerating Grape Cultivar Improvement was awarded $2 million (as part of a continuation grant for approximately $5 million). John Martini, NGWI's Board Chairman stated, "We are extremely pleased that this critically important project was selected by the USDA for funding. The findings from this research could change the way we grow grapes."


The project led by Cornell grape breeder Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulture takes a complementary approach to a common problem: how to make grape breeding more efficient, since new grape varieties can take more than 20 years to breed and evaluate and much longer to reach commercial success. "We are focusing on developing wine, juice, table and raisin grapes with three attributes: fruit quality, cold hardiness and resistance to powdery mildew, a fungal pathogen that is costly to control," said Reisch.


Reisch is working with 24 scientists from grape breeding programs across the country on this project to streamline genomewide DNA analysis and trait-screening methods to more efficiently identify promising progeny. His project team also includes Cornell plant pathologists, enologists, scientists with the USDA-Agricultural research Service in Geneva and Ithaca; and experts with Cornell's Life Sciences Core Laboratories for genomics and computation biology.


The linking of DNA markers to specific traits -- such as an undesirable grassy aroma or a highly desirable disease resistance -- will make breeding for complex traits more efficient. It will also allow breeders to develop varieties with enhanced disease resistance based on multiple resistance genes, which Reisch hopes will satisfy consumers and growers interested in organic or sustainable production.


Also receiving funding were two other NGWI-supported projects: a continuation grant to Dr. Jim Ayars and Dr. Andrew McElrone to develop improved techniques for growing grapes with less water or water which is more saline; and a planning grant to Dr. Kendra Baumgartner and Dr. Themis Michailides to develop a full-scale research progect to address trunk diseases for grapes.




NGWI Urges Support for Agricultural Research

By the October 15th deadline, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees advised the federal budget "super committee" how to cut $23 billion from the federal agricultural budget. The bulk of the cuts would be made to commodity support programs; the research program, under their recommendation, would be spared further cuts. At the same time, the National Grape & Wine Initiative joined 1200 organizations, individuals and companies in calling for support agricultural research. The following is an excerpt from that letter:


"The success of the agriculture and food industry plays a significant role in the overall health and security of the U.S. economy and has been one of the few bright spots in recent years. In 2010, U.S. farms and ranches spent $288 billion to produce goods valued at $369 billion; the value of U.S. food and agriculture exports is expected to be more than $140 billion in 2011, creating a record trade surplus of $42.5 billion. Furthermore, the jobs of 21 million Americans depend on the vitality of the U.S. agriculture and food sector."


"Investments in publicly funded research are critical for maintaining a successful agriculture and food sector. For every $1 invested in publicly funded agricultural research, $20 in economic activity is generated. Budgetary decisions made today have far reaching impacts, as the scientific research funded today will be responsible for enhancing the Nation's agricultural productivity and economic prosperity in the future."



NAREEE Advisory Board Names Jean-Mari Peltier as Chairman  

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack named NGWI President Jean-Mari Peltier to another one-year term on the Department's official research advisory board. The National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board consists of 25 individuals from a broad cross section of agricultural research interests.  Its role is to advise the Secretary of USDA as well as the Congress on national research priorities.  It also evaluates the relevance of research and the adequacy of its funding.  Last year, Peltier was elected by her peers on NAREEE as its chair.


"I am honored to be re-appointed to serve in this capacity - particularly as we move into discussions about research programs authorized under the Farm Bill, " Peltier said.  "With acute awareness of fiscal constraints, it will be more important than ever to make sure that USDA continues to invest in agricultural productivity.  Making sure that programs address the critical research questions with major impacts will continue to be my goal.  Maintaining research, education and extension capacity is crucial if the U.S. is to continue to have a world-class system."


The next meeting of the NAREEE Advisory Board will be held November 7 to 9 in Washington, D.C.