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New York-certified, virus-tested vines are on their way to growers

Field day hosted by Double A Vineyards features tour of “Protocol 2010” produced vines.
By Tim Martinson

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Figure 1. New “2010 Protocol” mother block at Double A Vineyards. How it looked in 2015 (left) and July 2017 (right).

At a July 25th field day hosted by Double A Vineyards, I found myself at the edge of a 150-vine long mother-block row – one of 150, each planted to a different scion and rootstock selection. And a process that started ten years ago with establishment of the National Clean Plant Network became real to me:  Virus-tested mother vines are in the ground and will start producing clean budwood this year!

Vines in this vineyard are derived from tissue culture-produced vines that have passed through the stringent “2010 Protocol” – a battery of tests that screen and eliminate viruses – at National Clean Plant Centers in California and Washington state.

This and similar mother blocks at Grafted Grape Nursery and Hermann Wiemer Vineyard will undergo annual  testing and resulting vines will be certified annually by the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM).

Figure 2. Dennis Rak (left) describes the new Protocol 2010 mother block as Margaret Kelly (right) looks on.

Finally, New York nurseries will now offer growers NY-certified virus-tested vines.  Growers throughout the Eastern US will benefit by being able to start vineyards with clean, virus-tested vines.

Management of mother block. Dennis Rak, owner of Double A Vineyards, described how to manage the mother block. Each row is dedicated to one variety (or clonal selection), and all are grafted to 101-14 rootstock. There are 150 rows, representing interspecific hybrid, vinifera, and native varieties and several rootstocks. Each post length has four vines, spaced at approximately three feet in row. At maturity, Rak expects each vine to yield about 100 single-bud cutting for grafted vines or 30-40 3-bud cuttings for own-rooted varieties.  For grafted vines, both rootstock and scion will be sourced from this block. Vines will be cropped normally, in order to produce quality canes of the right diameter and internode length. Still to come: the challenge of harvesting and marketing fruit from all of these varieties.

NYSDAM Inspection and Monitoring. The key to the certification process is extensive monitoring of each vine in the mother blocks. The protocol for the New York State Certification Program is that 25% of mother block vines will be run through a battery of 10 tests for viral pathogens each year. In other words each vine will be tested every five years.

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Figure 3. Inspection tag placed by NYSDAM during their first inspection this past spring.

Objectivity in sampling is ensured by NYSDAM inspectors, who assign each vine an anonymous code. Then it falls on Cornell virologist Marc Fuchs to test each sample for 10 different pathogens.  This year, the Fuchs laboratory has processed over 20,000 individual samples.

“The tests are blind,” said Margaret Kelly, assistant director of Plant Industries at NYSDAM. “We don’t identify the nursery or the plants associated with the code, so Dr. Fuchs doesn’t know what he is testing. Our involvement ensures that the results will be based on objective standards."

In the event of a positive test, the protocol specifies removal and replacement of the vine and a number of its neighbors within a certain radius, depending upon ecological features of the specific pathogen detected.

“The New York certification protocol involves testing every scion and rootstock mother vine every four years, and mandates removal of vines testing positive in commercial nurseries” said Fuchs. “The level of testing and requirements for vine removal are the most stringent requirements of any program in the world.”

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Figure 4. Participants in July 25 field day at Double A Vineyards. Clockwise from top left: Rick Dunst (Double A Vineyards), Dennis Rak (Double A Vineyards), Margaret Kelly (NYSDAM), and Marc Fuchs (Cornell University).

Collaboration produces impacts. This program has come to fruition because of sustained efforts by many different groups. More than a decade of preliminary steps and numerous meetings and discussions are what brought us to this point: Real plants in the field, ready to produce the clean, virus-tested cuttings that will make their way into nursery production blocks and growers vineyards.

This process started with the establishment of the National Clean Plant Network in the 2008 Farm Bill, continued with establishment of the UC Davis’s “Russell Ranch” foundation vineyard with “2010 protocol” vines for which pathogens were eliminated through tissue culture therapeutics, and finally the establishment of mother blocks with 2010 Protocol budwood at Double A vineyards, Grafted Grape Nursery and Hermann Wiemer Vineyards.

This network happened because the Federal Government (USDA), a consortium of University clean plant centers, the New York State Government, and our three New York nurseries worked together to support new virus-testing protocols and therapy to eliminate viral pathogens from propagation wood. Additionally, infrastructure was put in place to support this long-term effort that will benefit the industry for decades to come.

Congratulations to Double A vineyards, Grafted Grape Nursery and Wiemer Vineyards for establishing these new plantings. Many thanks are due to NYSDAM, the National Clean Plant Network, Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis, other colleagues from different universities, and especially Dr. Marc Fuchs for guiding this process along. This is a great leap forward for the Eastern grape and wine industry.

For more information:

National Clean Plant Network: Grapes provides links to grape clean plant centers, factsheets, and state certification programs.
Clean Plants for the Future of the Eastern Wine and Grape Industry is a four-part webinar series including:

Martinson, T. 2016.  Clean Plants for the Future of the Eastern Wine and Grape Industry.  Appellation Cornell Research Focus article, Issue 25, May 2016.

Tim Martinson is a senior extension associate in the Section of Horticulture, based at the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY.