Time (And a Brood of Cicadas) Flies

April 2021

A news story this month stopped me in my tracks. As reported by The New York Times, tens of billions of cicadas, called Brood X, is set to emerge any day now across the Eastern U.S. Aside from the biblical connotations of swarms of locusts, the thought is mind-boggling: these creatures went underground in 2004, 17 years ago! Also known as the Great Eastern Brood, the cicadas will emerge in 18 mostly Mid-Atlantic states, when the soil warms to about 64 degrees. Their emergence is anticipated to have three epicenters: the Washington, DC, area, in Indiana, and Knoxville, TN. As soon as they finish feeding and laying eggs on woody perennials (including grapevines) during their four to six weeks of life above ground, their nymph-state offspring will burrow into the soil to become the Class of 2038, 17 years from now.

Just think, in 2004, George W. Bush was President. Facebook was launched. And the foundational idea for NGRA—that by working together, industry stakeholders could develop a process for catalyzing research that would mutually benefit our stakeholders and academic research institutions—was shared at a meeting in August 2003, a little over 17 years ago.

No matter how much the pandemic has changed our perception of the passage of time, 17 years is still a long time. Or is it?

Eight years before those Brood 2038 cicadas emerge, by 2030, the U.S. is pledged to have cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half, based on 2005 levels, to slow climate change. When you think of a monumental goal like that—or how the lost year 2020 passed in the blink of an eye—the years seem like no time at all.

With grapes ranking as the largest fruit crop in the U.S., and the U.S. being the fourth largest producer of grapes in the world, the grape and wine industry could have a large part to play in carbon sequestration. Rightfully, then, it’s something NGRA’s Natural Resources and Environment Research Theme Committee is exploring. It’s a testament to our founding principal of collaboration on game-changing research for our industry…and perhaps for the planet.

So if it’s warm enough in your neck of the woods, grab a grape product and sit outside and listen. If there are cicadas singing, raise your glass to them. They—and we—have a lot of work to do and so little time!

Donnell Brown
NGRA President