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California PD/GWSS Board Recommends 2020-21 Research Funding

Funds to Study Red Blotch Spread at FPS Russell Ranch Vineyard 
by Ted Rieger
April 28, 2020

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Pierce’s Disease (PD)/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS) Board approved $2.4 million to fund 12 research projects ranging from one to three years related to Pierce’s Disease, grapevine viruses and mealybug vectors at an April 23 meeting held via web conference from Sacramento.

Funding includes $167,000 for one year to UC Davis (UCD) Foundation Plant Services (FPS) for applied research to understand how grapevine red blotch virus has infected and spread within the FPS Russell Ranch Foundation Vineyard, with FPS lab director Maher Al Rwahnih as principal investigator. 

The Board received 17 research proposals for fiscal year (FY) 2020-21 from its annual request for proposal (RFP) and approved recommendations of the research screening committee, chaired by Steve McIntyre of Monterey Pacific Vineyards. The Board forwards recommendations to the CDFA Secretary for final approval that historically have always been approved.

McIntyre said fewer proposals were received this cycle, down from an average 24 in recent years. McIntyre observed, “The research program from the standpoint of PD has matured, and researchers realize we’re on the cusp of possible solutions. But I’m disappointed we haven’t had more mealybug and grapevine virus related proposals where we need more work done.”

The Board research screening committee now coordinates efforts with the American Vineyard Foundation (AVF) and the Oregon Wine Board for research on similar projects to more efficiently allocate resources from the three funding organizations. 

Funded project highlights include:

Rodrigo Almeida, UC Berkeley—Comparative field infection and disease development in an established test vineyard of multiple grape varieties and rootstocks by introducing PD and grapevine leafroll virus 3.

David Gilchrist, UCD—Transgenic rootstock-mediated protection of grapevine scion against PD by dual stacked DNA constructs.

David Tricoli, UCD—Development of gene editing technology for grapevines using plant protoplasts.

Marc Fuchs, Cornell University—(Two projects) Ecology of grapevine red blotch virus; and resistance to grapevine leafroll virus 3 and mealybug vectors.

Rachel Naegele, USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS)—Evaluation of Vitis rootstocks with partial resistance to vine mealybug. 

Lindsey Burbank, USDA-ARS—Genomics based technology for identification, tracking, insecticide resistance and pest management of vine mealybug in vineyards.

Continuing, multi-year projects previously approved by the Board total $1.4 million for FY 2020-21. These include field trials to test PD-resistant plant materials and technologies, and breeding of PD-resistant winegrapes by Andy Walker at UCD. McIntyre highlighted a progress report from UC Berkeley’s Dr. Steven Lindow using a naturally occurring bacterium, Paraburkholderia phytofirmans, that can create resistance in grapevines from the PD pathogen Xylella fastidiosa (Xf). McIntyre said, “Dr. Lindow’s field trials show this bacterium can clear Xf from a vine by foliar application with a surfactant. UC has applied for a provisional patent. We’ve reached out to ask if we can help with its commercialization.”

Key CDFA Staff Retiring

The PD Control Program will be losing two key, long-time CDFA staff with the announced retirements of statewide program coordinator Roger Spencer, and environmental program manager Tom Esser, who have been with the PD program since its inception 20 years ago.

Spencer became statewide coordinator in January 2019 following the retirement of Bob Wynn. Spencer has spent his entire 43-year career with CDFA and will retire May 1. Esser, who will retire June 30, has managed the Board’s research screening committee, contracts and budget. The Board’s executive committee, led by chair Domonic Rossini, plans to discuss possible replacements with CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.


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