Regenerating Pixie is Important Step in Grasping Grape Genetics
Understanding the grape genome in all its vast variety will give growers more effective and efficient tools to battle pests and diseases in the field, translating into more sustainable viticulture practices and a deeper understanding of wine quality and how to create it. Historically, wine grape growers have been plagued by an economically devastating pest, phylloxera, which has necessitated the replacement of almost all vines with new ones grown on pest-resistant rootstocks in most of the world’s wine-grape-growing regions. Washington growers have not had to contend with phylloxera, though they must deal with other soil-borne pests. Fungal diseases are not only an economic threat but an environmental one as well, since they require heavy fungicide treatments to beat back the spread of powdery mildew and other fungi that weaken vines and damage fruit.
Getting a grip on grape genetics requires not just the sequencing of entire genomes but detailed knbowledge of which genes do what. To get that information, scientists need a way to quickly grow sample plants that have been genetically transformed. Transformation means that a particular gene is silenced or added to an organism in order to learn what effect the change has on the organism, in this case, grape plants.
“We need regeneration in order to do transformation,” said Kathie Nicholson, a doctoral student working in horticultural genomicist Amit Dhingra’s lab. “But it’s been hard to find a reliable method of regenerating grape in the lab.” Regeneration is a carefully controlled laboratory technique in which whole plants are grown from just a few cells.
Nicholson is the lead author of a paper that outlines a grape regeneration technique she and her colleagues developed using Pixie, a dwarf grape variety that flowers continuously and reaches maturity in just a few months. Only available since 2006, Pixie appears to be an ideal candidate as a grape “lab rat” because it grows quickly, does well in the greenhouse, takes up very little space and, now, can be regenerated reliably. In other words, Nicholson and her team’s work is an important step forward in the development of a tool that can be used to understand grape genetics.
Read the rest of this article on WSU’s agricultural science news web site, where you’ll also find links to the paper mentioned in this article, a video about WSU’s Pixie grape research, and links to further reading »
WSU Extension Trains U.S. Troops on Afghanistan’s Viticulture
U.S. troops preparing for deployment to Afghanistan are learning about that country’s grape production and the importance of small-scale farming to its citizens, thanks to a Washington State University Extension viticulturist. Michelle Moyer, a WSU statewide viticulture extension specialist, has developed a presentation for the national eXtension Grape Community of Practice (GCoP) that offers troops a general introduction to vine biology, how grapes are grown, potential threats to grape production, and specifics of Afghan grape production. An organization of 87 grape-production professionals from 31 states and Ontario, Canada, the GCoP will distribute Moyer’s presentation to its members at universities and government agencies for their troop training efforts.
“Specific information on Afghan grape production is important for developing cultural and production sensitivity in deploying U.S. troops,” Moyer said. “Grapes are the leading horticulture crop for Afghanistan, but their production systems are not like those U.S. citizens would be accustomed to seeing.
“By providing information regarding what our troops might encounter while on the ground in Afghanistan, we can reduce the likelihood of a negative impact on production for this very important crop,” she added. “This sensitivity is critical in rebuilding economic and agricultural stability that is necessary for the overall long-term stability of a country…. I would hope that as a result of this type of training, our troops will be able to recognize the importance of small-scale farming in countries like Afghanistan and realize that production systems can differ greatly among different agricultural regions,” Moyer said. “But they all still have the same bottom line: to provide food and a livelihood for a country’s citizens.”
Read the rest of this article on WSU’s agricultural news web site »
How Grapevine Virus Diseases Spread
Unlike many other crop species, wine grape cultivars are grown from cuttings taken from source plants to maintain quality characteristics or varietal integrity (trueness-to-type). Thus, distribution of infected vegetative cuttings is the most significant means of spreading viruses and virus-like agents around the world.
Wine grapes are grown on their own roots in eastern Washington, so using cuttings from sources with compromised sanitary status will introduce virus and virus-like diseases into new plantings here. In western Washington, grapevine cultivars are propagated by grafting a cutting (called a scion) onto suitable rootstocks to protect the resulting vine from phylloxera and nematode-borne virus infections and to promote early ripening. In these cases, virus introduction into new plantings can occur if either the rootstock or scion is infected with a virus. If a new vineyard is planted with infected cuttings or grafted with budwood from infected vines, the vines will grow along with the infection and suffer chronic and cumulative losses over the life of the vineyard. In addition, infected vines in a new vineyard can serve as a source of inoculum for secondary spread by resident vectors (either insect or nematode) and infect other vineyards if used as cuttings for new plantings.
Learn more about how you can protect your vineyard from the spread of virus diseases on WSU’s viticulture Extension web site »
ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum, July 17 in Seattle
Do you own a winery? Dream of owning a winery? Or want to invest in one? With the wine industry an $8 billion sector in Washington State alone, ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum takes a serious look at the business of wine. Industry experts and leaders in the areas of sales, distribution, branding, marketing and social media, the science of winemaking and the critical role of viticulture, liquor law, and more will gather for the 3rd annual ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum on July 17 at Urban Enoteca in downtown Seattle.
The day-long forum includes consecutive sessions on:
- Legends of the Fall and Young Lions;
- Marketing the Nectar of the Gods;
- The Education of a Winemaker and the Dirt Under Their Nails;
- Liquor Laws and Libation Litigation;
- Click and Sips: The Power of Social Media; and
- Names to Name Calling: Defending Your Brand, Label, and Trademarks.
Experts include Washington wine leaders Dick Boushay, Chris Figgins, Greg Harrington, Norm McKibbin, Greg and Stacy Lill, Thomas Henick-Kling and many, many more. To register for the ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum and learn more about the ZINO Society, please visit the Society’s web site.
WSU V&E Students Sweep ASEV
The recent American Society of Enology and Viticulture meeting in Portland saw WSU grad students take both Best Student Presentation Awards in the Enology category. Yue Yu, who recently graduated from the School of Food Science with a Master of Science degree, won for her presentation of her research on “Improvement in Protein Precipitation Tannin Analysis by Altering Resuspension Buffer Formulation to Neutral pH.” Yue Yu’s major professor was Jim Harbertson.
Doctorial student Federico Casassa won for his presentation on “Timing and Severity of Regulated Deficit Irrigation on Cabernet Sauvignon Wines: Interactive Effect of Skin Contact Time.” His major professor is also Jim Harbertson, and Chateau Ste. Michelle Distinguished Professor of Viticulture Markus Keller was a cooperator on Casassa’s research, as were Russel Smithyman and William Riley from Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Casassa’s research was the subject of a Jan. 2012 Voice of the Vine article called “Science in Paradise.”
in addition to being honored by their peers and mentors at the conference, Yu and Casassa won $1,000 scholarships. Congratulations to both students. Learn more about ASEV at their website »
Brian Carter is 2012 Legends Blend Winemaker
The Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center just announced that Brian Carter is their 2012 Legends blend winemaker. Carter is the sixth winemaker to make an exclusive red blend to commemorate his induction into the Washington Wine Hall of Fame.
Brian Carter’s 2012 Legends blend is a tribute to Dr. Walter Clore. “During my first couple of decades in the industry, I was fortunate enough to spend quality time with Walter, both in and out of the vineyards. This blend is a tribute to Walter Clore’s vision and his dedication to the success of Washington wine. I know Walter would be thrilled to see so many distinctive varieties contributing to the wondrous wines being made in Washington today,” Carter said. The 2012 Legends blend consists of 32% Counoise, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah, 16% Cinsault, and 12% Grenache. Learn more about Brian Carter Cellars on their website.
The Legends blend will be released at the 2012 Legends of Washington Wine Gala on August 10. An annual fundraising program in support of the Clore Center, Legends honors those whose contributions to the community and the wine industry are of historical and lasting significance. This garden-party-style event features the induction of the newest member of the Washington Wine Hall of Fame, release of the newest Legends blend, and a live auction. For more information or to purchase tickets visit the Center website.
The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center is named after the late Dr. Walter Clore. Clore was a WSU faculty member for many years. Dr. Clore began his life’s work in 1937 studying vinifera grapes and their potential for growth in Washington soils. His research, a cornerstone of the industry’s development, earned him official recognition from the Washington State Legislature as the “Father of the Washington Wine Industry.” Learn more about Clore, his colleagues, and the birth of the Washington wine industry here.