Mid-Year Milestones

July 2021

On June 28, 2021, NGRA’s Board of Directors held its Mid-Year Meeting, virtually of course. Even with an abbreviated agenda for Zoom, we manage to cover a lot of ground at our Board meetings, and this one was no exceptions. Here are highlights from our June meeting, focusing on what’s new and what we’ve achieved so far in 2021.

Welcome to the Board
The new delegate for long-time NGRA-member the Arkansas Wine Producers Council, Andrew Post (Post Winery), was unanimously elected to join our Board as Southwest Regional Representative. Andrew will serve to convey the research interests of Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Congrats, Andrew!

New Members Invited
A membership structure was adopted for our new affiliate membership category for organizations that support the grape and wine industry with services, supplies and equipment. It sets a minimum annual contribution of $3,000 for affiliates and provides member-only opportunities to underwrite things like this newsletter and private NGRA Board functions, and to receive priority consideration for field trials, demo days and symposia. As Development Committee Co-Chair John Martini (Anthony Road Wine Company) said, “Affiliate members bring a unique and valuable perspective to the issues that affect our industry. Having them ‘in the room’ broadens our conversations about the research we need.” We look forward to onboarding our first affiliate members yet this year.

Mission-Related Milestones
Benchmarking performance against the goals we set in January, Board Chair Russ Smithyman’s Chairman’s report captured the mid-year moment. He noted:

Strategic Planning: A planning committee led by Vicky Scharlau (Washington Winegrowers) this month started to lay the groundwork for an all-Board strategic planning meeting to be held in person, hopefully, in Spring 2022.

·     Our goal to get at least two NGRA-initiated research projects funded is half-met, with one project receiving funding so far this year. The project, “Online Guide to Grapevine Varieties and Rootstocks,” led by Matt Fidelibus and Glenn McGourty, both of University of California Cooperative Extension (Glenn is now emeritus) and initiated by NGRA’s Extension and Outreach Committee, was awarded first-year funding by the American Vineyard Foundation and is now under development.

·     Each of our four Research Theme Committees is refining and/or launching priority projects that emerged from our brainstorming process in 2020. These projects span defining soil health and climate-smart viticulture; seeking the genetic mechanisms for broad-spectrum, durable disease resistance; developing or adapting a fruit quality sensor for use in grapes; and assessing the state of viticulture and enology extension in America in a definitive white paper.

·     With our colleagues at the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, we successfully produced the ASEV-NGRA Precision Viticulture Symposium on June 21, 2021. Now, planning is underway for the event’s demo day in Spring 2022. Between the conference proceedings a few weeks ago and the field day to come, this event seeks to explore the current and future state of precision viticulture, provide two-way dialogue to identify current research gaps, inform future scientific discovery and inspire application of current innovations.

·     And speaking of dialogue, NGRA also initiated a new New-Scientist Engagement Series to introduce industry stakeholders to early-career researchers working in grape, hear about their projects and programs, provide input and offer support. The first installment was in May and second this past Monday.

Russ concluded the meeting by acknowledging NGRA’s strengths. He called out our vibrant mission to facilitate research and newer efforts to expand outreach efforts through events and seminars. Our achievements, he said, all come down to member engagement and a strong ethos of volunteerism. Indeed, as President, I’m just here to make sure the plates keep spinning—our members keep our research mission alive and thriving.

Thank you to our Board of Directors for their robust participation, not only in Board meetings, but in all we do—even in virtual formats.

Donnell Brown
NGRA President