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California PD/GWSS Board Recommends 2019-20 Research Funding

New Research on Pierce's Disease Suppression Bacterium
by Ted Rieger
May 01, 2019

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Pierce’s Disease (PD)/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS) Board approved up to $3.6 million to fund up to 18 research projects (pending contingent requirements for some projects) related to Pierce’s Disease, grapevine viruses and mealybugs at its April 29 meeting in Sacramento.

The Board received 23 research proposals for fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 from its annual request for proposal (RFP) process. The Board approved recommendations of the research screening committee, chaired by Board member Steve McIntyre of Monterey Pacific Vineyards, to fund up to 18 proposals and not fund 5 proposals.

The Board forwards its annual research recommendations to the CDFA Secretary for final approval. To date, the Secretary has always approved the Board’s recommendations.

McIntyre highlighted a particularly promising new PD control solution, the identification of a naturally occurring bacterium, Paraburkholderia phytofirmans, in the lab of UC Berkeley researcher Dr. Steven Lindow, that appears to protect, and create resistance in, grapevines from the PD pathogen bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. McIntyre said, “Dr. Lindow’s work with this bacterium looks extremely promising, with the potential to spray it on the vine as a foliar application with a surfactant, or inject it directly into a vine with the effect of killing Xylella or significantly reducing disease severity. It also offers a non-GMO solution to PD control.” The Board approved $296,000 to fund research by the Lindow lab for two years for “Optimizing biological control of Pierce’s Disease with P. phytofirmans.”

Since 2010, the PD/GWSS Board has had the ability to use funds, collected through California wine industry assessments, for research and outreach on other designated pests and diseases of wine grapes in addition to PD and GWSS. Research funded in this cycle on other designated pests and diseases include grapevine red blotch virus, grapevine leafroll disease, and mealybug pests of wine grapes.

The Board research screening committee coordinates efforts with the American Vineyard Foundation (AVF) that also receives research proposals for similar projects and from some of the same researchers. In the case of some proposals, the Board recommended co-funding with AVF, or funding contingent upon the outcome of the AVF RFP process.

Research Proposal Highlights

Other PD-related projects and researchers funded for FY 2019-20 include:

Rodrigo Almeida, UC Berkeley—Testing of grapevines designed to block vector transmission of Xylella fastidiosa.

Andrew Walker, UC Davis—(Two projects) Breeding PD-resistant wine grapes; and Molecular breeding support for the development of PD-resistant wine grapes. This new funding to continue Walker’s work to develop PD-resistant wine grape varieties through traditional breeding with additional PD resistance genes was approved by the Board contingent upon Walker submitting necessary paperwork for patent approval for past work funded by the Board. Walker has developed and released five new PD-resistant varieties that are now part of the collection at UCD Foundation Plant Services (FPS). Some commercial nurseries in California have obtained vine material from FPS to begin propagation work to increase vine supply for future sales. The research committee and Board are concerned about the slowness of the paperwork process for completing the intellectual property requirements to make these new varieties commercially available for the industry.

David Gilchrist, UC Davis—Field evaluation of cross-graft protection effective against PD by dual DNA constructs expressed in transgenic grape rootstocks.

M.C. Roper, UC Riverside—Generating PD-resistant grapevines using CRISPR/Cas9 and traditional transgenic approaches.

Virus and vector related projects and researchers receiving funds for FY 2019-20 include:
Marc Fuchs, Cornell University—(Two projects) Ecology of grapevine red blotch virus; and Resistance to grapevine leafroll-associated virus-3 and the grape mealybug.

Monica Cooper, UC Cooperative Extension—Improving extension outcomes: Identifying drivers and barriers to adoption of management practices using leafroll and red blotch disease as model systems.

Stephanie Bolton, Lodi Winegrape Commission—Grapevine virus management in Lodi: A collaborative research and integrated outreach effort to solve a statewide challenge. (Co-funded with AVF.) This provides one more year of funding to continue extension and outreach activities.

Rachel Naegele, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, based in Parlier received funding for one year to continue a project on “Identification of grape cultivars and rootstocks with resistance to vine mealybug.”

Oregon State University—Three different red blotch research projects by Oregon State researchers were funded contingent upon whether or not they are funded, and how much they receive, from the Oregon Wine Board and from AVF in their upcoming RFP funding approval cycles.

Also funded are 12 continuing, multi-year research projects approved by the Board in previous funding cycles that total $989,000. These projects include field trials to test PD-resistant plant materials and technologies, four red blotch projects, one leafroll project, one virus-related project, and one GWSS insecticide resistance project.

Based on data provided by CDFA, since the PD/GWSS Board began funding research in 2001 it has allocated a total of $41.4 million for research. The majority, almost $32 million, has been for PD and GWSS research. Since 2010, the Board has allocated nearly $4.9 million for research on other pests and diseases, and $2.8 million on PD field trials. The Board has spent $448,000 on grapevine tissue culture and transformation projects, $1.2 million on insecticide studies, and $286,000 on economic analysis.

Legislation Introduced to Extend Board Operations

Senate Bill 449 was introduced in February in the California Legislature by Senator Mike McGuire (D-North Coast) to extend operations of the CDFA PD/GWSS Board for another five years past its current sunset date of March 1, 2021. Since the Board was established by legislation passed in 2000 for a five- year period, new legislation has been required every five years to continue Board operations. Once legislation is approved, a statewide grower referendum is conducted through CDFA every five years to obtain grower approval to continue collecting assessment fees to continue Board operations. Under SB 449, the Board would continue operations to March 1, 2026, pending grower approval through a referendum to be conducted in April 2020.

SB 449 contains a new provision regarding Board payments in University of California research contracts stating that amounts paid shall not exceed the UC’s actual cost of research and shall not include indirect or overhead costs. In 2016, UC announced its intention to begin charging the Board “indirect costs” of up to 20 percent to cover administrative and overhead costs that had not been previously included in research contracts. CDFA and wine industry trade groups have been negotiating with UC management on this issue since that time. UC agreed to not charge indirect costs for a five-year period, which would be written into law under the current bill.

The bill is supported by the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), the Wine Institute and Family Winemakers of California. CAWG director of government relations Mike Miiller said the bill has passed two Senate policy committees and appeared headed to the Senate Floor without opposition.

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