For 2012-2013, the OWB allocated up to $240,000 for the support of these research grants. View the 2013-2014 research project summaries and full reports.

Walter Mahaffee, Research Plant Pathologist at the Horticulture Crops Research Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Grower Implemented Quantitative LAMP for Initiating and Adjusting Fungicide Program

The Foliar Pathology Lab group focuses on understanding the ecology of plant associated microorganisms, and applying that knowledge to reduce disease development while enhancing the economic and sustainable production of horticultural crops. Current projects include (1) characterize the biology of foliar and fruit pathogens, particularly powdery mildews and Botrytis cinerea; (2) developing methods to detect and monitor airborne inoculum and use of these data to adjust timing of pesticide applications; (3) model turbulent airflow and spore dispersion to better predict the spatial and temporal spread of a pathogen or pest; (4) development of technical infrastructure for regional and national disease forecasting systems for use by Oregon growers.  These projects are reducing the number of fungicide applications needed to manage disease and improving Oregon growers’ ability to make informed management decisions and reduce economic and environmental costs.

Vaughn Walton, Associate Professor and Horticultural Entomologist at Oregon State University, Characterization of Seasonal BMSB Damage on Grapes in Western Porduction Areas

Dr. Walton’s work at OSU focuses on key industry needs related to pests.  He is currently focused on mealybugs, Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) and Spotted Wing Drosophila.  The first two are currently of most concern, because of reduced crops and lower quality grapes. Of these, mealybugs currently impact certain regions of Oregon’s wine industry because of it spreading vine leafroll virus.  BMSB is an invasive pest and is found in most production areas. The aim of his work is to provide environmentally sustainable and minimal impact pest management strategies in Oregon.

Rodrigo Almeida, Associate Professor at UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources, Mealybug Transmission of Leafroll Virus

Dr. Almeida’s research group is studying the ecology of grapevine leafroll disease, primarily focusing on aspects associated with mealybug transmission of viruses causing this disease.  More recently he has been working on consequences of mealybug-mediated virus infection of plants in commercial vineyards.  In a field study he infected 15-year old plants in the summer of 2011, which resulted in symptomatic vines one year later, with symptoms present throughout plants.  Furthermore, fruit quality was impacted in the first year after infection, with Brix values being reduced by two points in comparison to adjacent control plants.  These results indicate that mealybug-mediated leafroll infection of vines may lead to disease symptoms and reduced fruit quality within one year.

Work is led by researcher Kai Blaisdell and the groups of Rodrigo Almeida, Kent Daane and Monica Cooper.

Gabriel Balint, Oregon Wine Research Institute, Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, Research and Extension Viticulture/Enology Program, Improving Wine Grape Quailty Through Water Use Optimization in Southern Oregon Vineyards: Impact of Time and Irrigation Strategies on Vine Performance of Tempranillo and Syrah Culticars

Dr. Balint’s research program in Southern Oregon focuses on a better understanding of how the vine water status affects the grape and wine quality under diverse soil types and mesoclimate conditions found in this region.  The final goal of this research is to control growth and optimize vine physiology by using various irrigation strategies in order to produce consistent premium fruit year by year.  Different deficit irrigation trials have been set up in order to study the interaction among soil and vine water status, mesoclimate, vine physiology, and grape quality. My irrigation trials are conducted on two grape varieties (Tempranillo and Syrah) located in three different vineyards: Troon Winery (Applegate Valley), Ellis Vineyards (Rogue Valley-Bear Creek) and Abacela (Umpqua Valley).  Each of these sites is characterized by different type of soil and mesoclimate. Four irrigation strategies were evaluated at each site in 2012. In 2013, a split plot design will be implemented where the interactive effect of irrigation and crop load on fruit quality will be assessed.  During 2012 season, soil and vine water status, vine physiological parameters, yield and berry chemistry data were collected.  Statistical analysis of 2012 data is in progress.  Since nutrient uptake is directly related to water status in the plant, another objective of this research focuses on understanding the interaction between nutrients uptake and water level in soil, and its effect on fruit quality. Due to the complexity of interactions among grape variety, rootstock, soil and mesoclimate, there are still numerous questions regarding the yield and fruit quality optimisation.  The major goal of this study is to find the best irrigation strategies for various cultivars, and integrate them in the best management cultural practices for this region.

Another objective of Dr. Balint’s current research is to compare various methods for assessing the water status in vines, and validate an easy algorithm to calculate the water needs. A new method using remote sensing and heat units will be developed to validate reliable crop coefficient need it to calculate accurately the water needs at various times during the growing season and various locations.  As part of the “Precision Farming” concept, a major objective of this research is to develop and asses a network of various sensors spread across Southern Oregon vineyards, which will provide more accurate tools to grape growers for real-time decision making regarding water use, frost protection and pest management.

Laurent Deluc, Assistant Professor in grape research at the Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Effects of vine vigor reduction on the hormone metabolism in expanding shoots and developing berries throughout the first phase of berry development

Excessive vigor in grapevine is a problem affecting vine balance (ratio between vine yield and vine size) and results in poor grape and wine quality.  Vineyard practices have been designed to reduce vine vigor but they are time and labor consuming.  Hormones contribute to the vine balance but few studies have attempted to characterize their accumulation in reproductive and vegetative tissues of excessively vigorous vines.  Dr. Deluc’s research team wants to understand how these regulators contribute to the vine balance in excessively vigorous vines.  This knowledge would benefit in the long-term the industry to devise solutions to remedy the influence of excessive vigor on the vine balance.

James Osborne, Enology Extension Specialist and Associate Professor, Oregon Wine Research Institute, Impact of non-Saccharomyces yeast on wine quality

When grapes arrive at the winery a large array of yeast may be present on them. Most of these yeasts do not survive the winemaking process but a number do persist during the early stages of the fermentation and may contribute to the aroma and flavor of the finished wine.  Dr. Orborne’s research investigated yeast population and species diversity present on Pinot noir grapes during pre-fermentation cold maceration (cold soak) and alcoholic fermentation and the impact these yeast had on Pinot noir wine aroma. Winemakers may conduct a cold soak in order to improve wine color, texture, and aroma but the role microorganisms play in these changes is unknown.  Results to date have demonstrated that a number of yeast species persist and grow during the cold soak and cause significant changes in the aroma of the final wine.  Current work is investigating the diversity of yeast populations from different vineyards and whether these differences translate to changes in the aroma of wine produced from these vineyards.

Patty Skinkis, Viticulture Extension Specialist & Assistant Professor, Oregon Wine Research Institute, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Understanding vine balance and cropping levels in Oregon vineyards

Dr. Patty Skinkis is leading a research project that is addressing a key question in quality Pinot noir production: How should Oregon Pinot noir producers manage vine growth and fruit yield to obtain the best fruit and wine quality each vintage?  This is a challenge for Oregon since the ample rainfall and fertile soils of the state’s grape growing regions can lead to high vine vigor, putting vines out of balance with respect to the amount of fruit on the vine.  Management practices currently favor crop removal to obtain low yields, thereby tipping the scale to a further imbalance in vine growth.  The research studies in this project show that vineyard management practices that reduce the vine growth to a moderate level puts vines into better balance, reduces canopy management costs, and enhances fruit and wine composition.

Michael Qian, Department of Food Science and Technology, Oregon State University, Non-Saccharomyces on wine aroma

Dr. Qian’s research at OSU focuses on flavor chemistry.   One of his major research interests is to understand the flavor and flavor precursor development in Pinot noir grapes.  He has been working on various projects to study the impact of viticultural practices on grape quality and wine flavor. Current researches involve the soil nutrients on grape and wine flavor quality; basal leaf removal on grape and wine flavor; and crop load on wine quality.  These research projects help the grape growers to implement the various viticultural practices in Oregon to produce the highest quality grapes.  Another area of research is to understand flavor and off-flavor generation during fermentation, both chemical and enzymatic conversion by yeasts, particularly grape derived flavor compounds.  Dr. Qian also has a very active research program on volatile sulfur compounds in wine. These researches provide knowledge base for wine makers to produce the best Pinot noir wines.

R. Paul Schreiner, Support of Optimal Nutrients

Dr. Paul Schreiner is researching optimum levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus in Pinot noir vines to determine ideal nutrient amounts. By growing Pinot noir in a pot-in-pot vineyard where nutrients are precisely controlled, he is able to control nutrient delivery at specific levels, and determine the correct application levels for these three key nutrients. Aside from the pot-in-pot system, the vines are managed the same way as in commercial vineyards. The new nutrient guidelines that will be developed from this research will allow premium wine grape producers to optimize vine nutrient levels and find the sweet spot where high quality and yield are achieved. This will improve their profitability by allowing them to charge more for higher quality fruit and spend less on fertilizers and labor to manage vigorous canopies. Managing nutrient levels more sustainably will also reduce the amount of chemical run-off into waterways and improve water quality.