National Grape and Wine Initiative (NGWI) has received $1.8m research grant to fight against trunk diseases affecting grape vineyards and other crops throughout the US.

Besides grapes, the trunk diseases also affect the pistachio and almond industries, which have also joined hands with NGWI to fund under a two-year Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) grant.

NGWI chairman Vicky Scharlau said trunk diseases are the single biggest reason for removal of American vineyards.

"These resources will open the door for a distinguished research team to develop innovative approaches that we hope will contribute to treat diseases that robs the wine and grape industry of $200 million every year," Scharlau added.

The research project titled ‘New Detection, Research, and Extension Tools for Managing Wood-Canker Diseases of Fruit and Nut Crops’ will be carried out by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist Dr Kendra Baumgartner, ARS plant pathologist and lecturer Dr Themis Michailides and University of Nevada professor Dr Grant Cramer.

To carry out the experiment, NGWI members will donate their own lands as laboratories, which include table grapes from two different regions and wine grapes from five regions.

Baumgartner said they will seek methods to detect disease symptoms in grape leaves and shoots, which would allow growers to know earlier whether their vines were infected.

"Our work will use state-of-the-art tools like special CT scans from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, to understand how these diseases affect vines at the molecular level, which will help lead to more effective treatment regimes," Baumgartner added.

The team will also use a mobile device application to diagnose vineyards with trunk diseases like Eutypa and Botryosphaeria.

Scharlau said these efforts to combat trunk diseases are a prime example of how SCRI was intended to work pursuant to the 2008 Farm Bill.

"This grant should serve as a reminder to Congress about the need to ensure a vibrant SCRI program for the future," Scharlau added.

Image: NGWI aims to strengthen the US grape and grape product industries alongwith academics and government through researches. Photo: National Grape & Wine Initiative