2018: A very good vintage

The National Grape Research Alliance did and achieved a lot in the last 12 months. As the year winds down, we thought we’d share a snapshot of how, with the support of our members nationwide, NGRA helped to advance research to support and improve the U.S. grape and wine industry in 2018, and into 2019 as well.

Ensuring delivery of our research mission

  • In 2018, we changed our name. The new name, National Grape Research Alliance, better reflects what we stand for and underscores the fact that research is at the heart of all we do.
  • In another landmark move, this year we established the NGRA Research Fund, creating a mechanism that, for the first time, enables the organization to set aside money for research. It will be used to fund internally created projects, driven by industry priorities.
  • NGRA remains engaged in our two current supported projects—VitisGen2 and Efficient Vineyard and has begun work to bring the Efficient Vineyard sensor technology to commercial readiness.
  • Our advocacy for increased appropriations for grape genetics research helped drive creation of the USDA’s new Breeding Insight Platform, being formed to support this work at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
  • We conducted an industry survey of desirable grape traits, led by our Genetics & Grapevine Improvement Research Theme Committee, to help inform NGRA-supported research.
  • The NGRA-ARS Cooperative Planning Grant, the outcome of the USDA-ARS Workshop in November 2017, brought together a team of scientists in August who developed a project that was submitted for funding by the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The project, called “Ag-RISCS: Risk Inference, Simulation and Cyber-physical System for Converting Data to Actionable Information in Viticulture,” creates a decision support system based on canopy growth modeling and data aggregation, and uses mealybug (detection and management, of both the pest and its associated leafroll virus) as a model system. If funded, it is hoped that the Ag-RISCS technology will, in future, be applicable to a broad range of viticultural issues.
  • We provided letters of support and collaboration for grant funding for externally created projects that address our research priorities.
  • We have begun planning a sensor technology workshop with ARS to be held in November 2019. This industry forum will be offered as a benefit to NGRA members and open as a ticketed event to others. It will showcase sensor technologies available today (including their strengths and pitfalls) as well as innovations in development, and provide insight into where research is headed in this important area.
  • Each NGRA Research Theme Committee is working to initiate projects in priority research areas, to be offered for consideration for planning grant funding at our January Board meeting. These will be the first fruits of our research refresh last year.

Driving a sense of community among those who believe in and advance the industry through science

  • We continue to support the annual National Viticulture & Enology Extension Leadership Conference (NVEELC), including the 2018 event last May and the next one in April 2019. Designed by and for extension and outreach specialists, this conference gathers the VIPs who bring research to industry, and helps them to strengthen their network and professional best-practices to serve you even better.
  • The industry’s appetite for and engagement in our science-based communications continues to grow. Some 1,500 people now receive our monthly newsletter, which has high open and click-through rates. Our Facebook page has attracted more than 200 fans and followers, who actively like and share our content.
  • NGRA was present at 15 industry conferences and events in 2018, hearing first-hand what’s top-of-mind for growers and scientists nationwide.
  • We participated in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance to ensure that the research aspects of the $867 billion 2018 Farm Bill—particularly the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Specialty Crop Block Grant program—were well-funded for the next five years.
  • In an effort close to our hearts, we worked with Winegrape Growers of America, WineAmerica and the Smith Family to bestow the third-annual Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award. The winner will be announced at the WGA Leadership Luncheon on January 30, 2019.

Strengthening our organization

  • With five new or returning members in 2018, all seats on our Board of Directors have been filled, with all geographic regions and industry sectors represented.
  • We approved a pilot development/outreach plan this year that, if successful, will serve as a model for years to come.
  • New and newly formatted financial reports were created this year, improving our fiscal management and transparency.
  • In October, NGRA was joined by new Executive Services Coordinator, Portia Richards. Her support enables me to focus on strategic business issues and priority projects. Meet her at any of our 2019 meetings.

As you can see, 2018 was a momentous year, and 2019 promises to be just as impactful. All our efforts are made possible with support and input from you—industry partners who believe in the power of research to keep the American grape and wine industry strong, now and into the future.

Let us know if you’d like to get more deeply involved—through project advisory panels and/or any of our standing or ad hoc committees—and if there’s a way we can bring applied science to your own mission. We value your contribution and look forward to all we can achieve, working together.