And We’re Off!

With the sleepy holidays behind us, 2020 has started with a bang! Conference season is in full swing. Starting this month, there were at least two grape and wine industry events somewhere in America every week. February is even more intense, beginning with NGRA’s first-of-year Board meeting and the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento next week and state and regional meetings everywhere throughout the month. We work hard to catalog the action–check out the events page on our website  for a rolling snapshot of the year.

January was a month of intense grant-writing for our academic colleagues. Today is the deadline for the Unified Grant Management System for grant programs from the American Vineyard Foundation, Oregon Wine Board, Washington Wine Commission, California Table Grape Commission, California Grape Rootstock Improvement Commission and more. And the March 13 deadline for full proposals for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) is now less than six weeks away. But SCRI applicants got some welcome news this month, when the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that the 100% matching requirement has been waived. (See the January newsletter for more details.)

This month also brought opportunities to reconvene with old friends and make some new. The ongoing, NGRA-supported VitisGen2 project, now halfway through its own SCRI grant, held its annual team meeting the first week of January. I am honored to chair the team’s advisory committee and awed by the strides the team has made. Already, several promising new wine, juice and table grape selections have emerged from their work to identify genetic markers for powdery mildew resistance, some of which are shown above. And now, the team has given us the first comprehensive map of the Vitis genome. (See the January newsletter for more details.)

Regarding new friends, well, they had me at “hops.” The Hop Research Council invited me to deliver the luncheon keynote at their winter conference last week, to compare notes about our respective research programs. The brewers and hop growers in attendance listened graciously, asked good questions and handed me a cold beer the moment I stepped off stage. But more importantly, they let me sit in on their own proceedings, where I learned how their industry works to actualize research and what that research looks like. (Hello, powdery mildew!) The way each of our organizations mobilize our research missions is somewhat different, but we are alike in our desire to improve quality and productivity for our stakeholders.

January offered a breathless beginning to the new year. Hang on to your hats for February!