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CDFA Grapevine Regulations Working Group Begins Review of Grapevine Certification Program

Working Group Requests CDFA Add Red Blotch Testing Requirement
by Ted Rieger
July 22, 2015

The first meeting of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Grapevine Regulations Working Group, an advisory committee of grape industry representatives formed to review and revise the California Grapevine Registration and Certification Program, was held July 21 in Davis. The working group requested that CDFA move forward with drafting regulatory language to add Grapevine Red Blotch-associated Virus (GRBaV), the pathogen for Red Blotch Disease, to the list of viruses that are required for testing of vine material under the state program.

CDFA received a written request to review program regulations in 2014 due to concerns about the potential presence of GRBaV in certified nursery stock sold in California, in addition to other program concerns. Regulations require that vine material certified under the program be tested for a specific list of viruses, however, GRBaV, officially recognized only since 2012, is not currently included in the program.

CDFA held regional meetings for industry input in Napa, Bakersfield, Tulare, and Parlier (Fresno County) from April through June. Joshua Kress, supervisor of the CDFA Nursery, Seed and Cotton Program, based in Sacramento, said based on input from the meetings, adding GRBaV to program testing is the highest priority regulatory change. Kress said at least two more regional meetings will be held in the near future, one in Lodi and one in the Central Coast.

Working Group Members

Working Group members include: Ruben Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner; Mike Boer, Stipp Ranch, Ukiah; Garrett Buckland, Premiere Viticultural Services, Napa; Rick Burnes, Vintage Nurseries; Greg Clark, Napa County Agricultural Commissioner; John Crossland, Vineyard Professional Services, Paso Robles; Kent Daane, UC Berkeley entomologist; John Duarte, Duarte Nursery; Marc Fuchs, Cornell University; Deborah Golino, UC Davis Foundation Plant Services (FPS); Charlie Hossom, Delicato Family Vineyards, Jay Jensen, Novavine Nursery; Steve Maniaci, Sunridge Nurseries; Dan Martinez, Martinez Orchards; Rhonda Smith, UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County Farm Advisor; and Andrew Zaninovich, Sunview Vineyards.

Program Overview and Background

The Grapevine Registration and Certification Program was started in 1956 and program regulations were most recently revised in 2010. The program is voluntary, with 31 California nurseries participating in 2014 that managed 73 registered increase blocks totaling 1,885 acres. Participants apply to be in the program and pay fees for approval, and for regular inspection and testing of grapevine nursery blocks. CDFA has collected an average of $140,000 annually in program fees from nurseries since 2010.

Under the program, FPS at UC Davis is the source of Foundation block certified material made available to nurseries for propagation in increase blocks. FPS has been testing Foundation block vine materials for GRBaV since 2013 and is now following Protocol 2010 standards for vine testing and propagation established under the National Clean Plant Network--protocols more stringent than the CDFA program. Many California grapevine nurseries are voluntarily testing vine material for GRBaV and have upgraded propagation and growing practices in response to industry concerns. Most nurseries are testing a higher percentage of vines than CDFA is required to test under the state program.

The program is voluntary, and regulatory changes would not completely eliminate the sale of possibly diseased material by non-participating nurseries, or the spread of unclean material by growers who take cuttings to propagate and plant material from older vineyards that may be untested. Another point made at the July 21 meeting is that grapevine buyers and the industry must be educated to understand that CDFA certification is not a guarantee that all grapevines purchased from a certified nursery are 100% clean. CDFA does not test every vine in certified nursery blocks under current requirements, and will not likely in the future, although the working group will look at potential improvements to sampling and testing requirements.

Increased Costs for Testing

Kress provided estimates for increased program costs for testing for GRBaV that will include about $100,000 for CDFA to upgrade its lab and purchase new equipment to perform real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, plus the cost of running an additional 5,000 test samples per year at costs ranging from $60,000 to $100,000. These costs are expected to be manageable based on the current program budget and available funds. In addition to program fees collected by CDFA from participating nurseries, certification program activities also receive financial support from assessments collected through the California Fruit Tree, Nut Tree and Grapevine Improvement Advisory Board (IAB).
The working group asked CDFA to develop a more detailed budget for implementing GRBaV testing, and present it at a future meeting.

Other Suggested Changes

General categories of suggested regulation changes, in addition to GRBaV testing, include: the frequency and timing of testing and CDFA inspections at certified nurseries, nursery block location and eligibility requirements including increasing the distance requirements for planting and propagation between registered/certified grapevine material and non-registered/non-certified material, the traceability of certified stock in the system, and standards for suspending/cancelling certification of vines and nursery blocks.

CDFA officials previously said regulatory changes would not necessarily be drafted and updated all in one rulemaking, but may involve several phases of rulemakings in order to address the highest priority issues first, and allow the working group more time to review other changes that may require more analysis. Revisions to the regulations must be justified based on current science and information, and the process requires an economic analysis.

More Information, Submission of Comments

Information about program revisions and meetings, a copy of the current program regulations, and a link to sign-up for e-mail notifications of updates, can be found at:

Written comments can be submitted by e-mail at any time during the proceeding regarding program changes to CDFA at or to Joshua Kress at

Written comments can also be sent by U.S. mail to: CDFA; Nursery, Seed and Cotton Program; 1220 N Street, Room 344; Sacramento, CA 95814.

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