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Sustainable Winegrowing with Vineyard Team

Sustainable Winegrowing with the Vineyard Team brings you the latest in science and research for the wine industry. This on-the-go, sustainable farming educational resource provides in-depth technical information on topics like integrated pest management, fruit quality, water conservation, and nutrient management from experts like Dr. Mark Fuchs of Cornell University, Dr. Michelle Moyer of Washington State University, Cooperative Extension Specialists, veteran growers, and more. Our podcasts will help you make smarter, sustainable vineyard management decisions to increase efficiency, conserve resources, and maximize fruit quality.

Jun 16, 2022

Invasive pests and diseases are a challenge for all grape growers. Research is vital to develop new strategies and solutions. The Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board was established nearly two decades ago to allocate funding to the most promising research projects. Kristin Lowe, Research Coordinator at the Pierce's Disease and Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board and President of Vine Balance Consulting shares how projects are funded through a rigorous scientific review and screening panel. Also, learn about some of the most exciting projects including “pathogen confusion” to control Pierce’s Disease from Dr. Steve Lindow and a gene editing technology for grapevines using plant protoplasts Dr David Tricoli.


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Craig Macmillan  0:00 

I'm your host Craig Mcmillan. And with me today is Kristin Lowe, president of Vine Balance Consulting, and research coordinator for the Pierce's Disease Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board. Welcome, Kristin.


Kristin Lowe  0:12 

Thank you so much for having me.


Craig Macmillan  0:13 

First off, can you tell us what is the Pierce's Disease and Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board or the PDGWSS? As I want to call it from now on?


Kristin Lowe  0:21 

Absolutely. So the PDGWSS Board is a group of California growers or grower producers. There's 14 board members and also one public member. And their primary goal is to make sure that all of the assessment funds that are received to the board go to the most promising research for our most challenging pests and diseases today. Those that are designated as important problems.


Craig Macmillan  0:48 

And so the funding comes from an assessment.


Kristin Lowe  0:50 

That is correct. So the assessment, I believe, on average is about $1.50 per $1,000 of grapes in terms of value .The most, the cap is at $3 per 1000 grapes in value. But yes, that's collected every year and has been so since the board started back in 2001.


Craig Macmillan  1:13 

What led to the creation of the board?


Kristin Lowe  1:15 

Pierce's Disease. So. Well, I think anyone who's looked into the history of Pierce's Disease, so this is a bacterial disease, endemic to California, not not necessarily new to California, right. But what was new to California was not only the establishment, but the fact that the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter started thriving down in Southern California. That is the vector for Pierce's Disease. That insect exists in parts of Mexico and also parts of Florida and the Southeast US. But it got to California, and it started doing really well to the point that Pierce's disease started taking off. This led to a lot of sad looking pictures of dead vines, lots of concern over lost acreage, and this would be during the late 1990s or so. And in response to this, industry leaders from all different groups came together. A combination of industry USDA, UC California researchers, CDFA, to create the Pierce's Disease Control Program. And that's got many facets, but one of it is the PDGWSS Board, which whose mission is to fund the most important research to combat Pierce's Disease, Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter and all the other pests that they've designated in their RFP.


Craig Macmillan  2:31 

Yeah. And so the the mission is expanded now beyond just Glassy-Wing to a number of other invasive pests that correct?


Kristin Lowe  2:37 

Yeah, it has it has. And there's, there's a clear path for that. And I think what really blew that open was the European Grapevine Moth. So another invasive pest species that showed up, oh, gosh, and I think that was somewhere around 2011 or so maybe a little bit before, but agriculture always has a new bad guy. And so we needed a way for the for the PDGWSS board to, you know, expand what it was going to fund in terms of research to deal with new problems and, and continuing ones that keep coming back.


Craig Macmillan  3:08 

So what exactly is your role with the board?


Kristin Lowe  3:11 

Sure. So, they put out a call for proposals for a research coordinator last year, and I got the job, very excited. And so my goal is to kind of basically help guide the program to make sure that what we're funding is really on point to, to our goal, on point to making sure that the research is heading in the right direction, it's we get continual progress, and is also able to collaborate with, you know, get foster collaboration with other agencies, we have this general sense that we've been going since 2001. And there's been a lot of really great research going on for Pierce's Disease. These days, our problems might be different. And so the RFP expanded, also to include grapevine viruses. And those seem to be a real multi headed monster, for the industry for many levels. So I think that while my overall goal is just to make sure that the research funding program is focused and relevant, we're starting to look a lot more closely at visruses.


Craig Macmillan  4:20 

And RFPs  is Request for Proposals?


Kristin Lowe  4:22 

Correct RFP is the request for proposals.


Craig Macmillan  4:25 

Okay, so academics, scientists, will write up a proposal of what they want to do research wise, and they bring it to the board, and the board, evaluates them and decides, hey, would give some money to this, we'll give some money to that.


Kristin Lowe  4:39 

Yes, absolutely. So we coordinate with other funding agencies and for the wine industry and actually for the whole wine and grape industry, not just in California, but in Oregon as well. And we all put out a request for proposals on the same date, December 1. And that after a couple months that closes and we look atthe proposals and they go through the PDGWSS Board, they go through scientific review, pretty stringent scientific review, and then also our research screening panel process. And ultimately, the Board makes the final decision on what gets funded within that year.


Craig Macmillan  5:14 

Cool. So tell us about some of these projects. I mean, it's been 20 years. What's happened? What are some of the ones that you are excited about? Or remember are really proud of?


Kristin Lowe  5:23 

Yeah, oh, there's so many. And I am I am so nervous about like glossing over things or missing details that I'm going to take this opportunity to tell everybody that there's some great resources on our website that you can, that you can look at to get more details. And that is And on there you can look at, there's a document that says projects at a glance, just great layman's layman person summaries of all of the research has been going on. There's our entire research symposium proceedings, and some recordings as well of


Craig Macmillan  6:05 



Kristin Lowe  6:06 

... recent one. So, you know, because this is public assessment money, this information should be available to everyone in the industry. So we work really hard to keep that website updated.


Craig Macmillan  6:16 

And we will have links to all of those on the page.


Kristin Lowe  6:19 

Okay, cool. Cool. Cool. Okay, so some science.


Craig Macmillan  6:23 



Kristin Lowe  6:23 

Have you heard Dr. Steve Lindow talk about his work on Paraburkholderia?


Craig Macmillan  6:29 

No, I haven't.


Kristin Lowe  6:31 

You haven't? I thought he I thought he presented at this Sustainable Ag Expo a few years ago, but maybe I'm mistaken.


Craig Macmillan  6:37 

No, he may have been I may not have been there.


Kristin Lowe  6:40 

Yeah, yeah. So Dr. Steve Lindow, is at UC Davis. And he made a crazy exciting discovery, there is a endophytic bacteria called Paraburkholderia phytofirmans, I'll just call it like, Paraburkholderia. That's enough of a mouthful.


Craig Macmillan  6:57 

That's enough, yeah.


Kristin Lowe  6:58 

And it inhibits the movement of xylella fastidiosa. So of the Pierce's Disease controlling or the organism responsible for Pierce's Disease, within the vine. So this endophytic bacteria, if you put it in the vine, at the same time, that's Xylella, in there, it not only moves throughout the vine, so it becomes systemic, but it inhibits the movement of the pathogen. So this is kind of huge. This species has been looked at before for for other reasons. But what this basically is, we're hoping that it leads to, is an infield treatment with an endophytic bacteria. So his work has involved figuring out, first of all the mechanism. But second of all, the practical aspect of this, which is what I love about it. It seems to work best when the two organisms are there together. So there's a timing of you know, do we pre inoculate with endophytic bacteria, and then it gets Xylella. That works. Or if a vine has been infected with Xylella, and then you are able to treat it with a Paraburkholderia. It also helps to not only the reduce the Xylella count, but reduce symptoms.


Craig Macmillan  8:14 

How do you introduce it this thing into the vine?


Kristin Lowe  8:18 

Oh, right. Yeah, first of all, with a pinprick basically. So an inoculation, I don't think everyone out there is going to want to go through and inoculate every vine. So they are working on a sprayable formulation. And to be able to actually get that into the vine, as well. And it seems to work with certain types of surfactants. So that's kind of where that technology is at is, you know, how do we create, you know, how do we create a usable product with it? What's going to work the best in the field? What's, what's the most practical in terms of rate, and timing? And in getting the endophytic bacteria into the vines?


Craig Macmillan  8:54 

That's, that's amazing. That's definitely amazing. Endophytic bacteria is something that lives inside the plant.


Kristin Lowe  9:00 

Yes, it is naturally there, there are 1000s of them and 1000s have been tried to see if they first of all actually move throughout the plant rather than in just the place that you found them. And second, if they are going to work against any sort of pathogens. Yeah, an amazing discovery and work that's been going on for for years and is I believe, is finally in the stages of getting to field trials and seeing how it would work. But imagine if you could go out to your block that you know is going to get pressure every year and think that you could decrease that pressure with with a spray. Never, I mean PD kills vines, that's huge. And in areas with constant pressure, it kills just more and more every year. So to have that sort of infield treatment is pretty exciting.


Craig Macmillan  9:45 

Is this the kind of project that would receive funding over many years or multiple years from the board?


Kristin Lowe  9:49 

Absolutely. And I don't remember when it first started. Definitely preceded my time there, but I think I've been following it since at least 2016.


Craig Macmillan  9:52 

Oh, wow. Okay.


Kristin Lowe  9:52 

No, it takes time from you know, discovery not only to making sure it's going to work, and then and then there's all this stuff after to get it actually implemented. But most of these projects that are going to result in a long term sustainable solution, or long term projects, you need years of data to make sure that they're gonna work.


Craig Macmillan  10:17 

Science takes time.


Kristin Lowe  10:19 

It takes time. I know, we're always impatient about that. But it does definitely take time.


Craig Macmillan  10:25 

And support.


Kristin Lowe  10:26 

Yeah, yeah.


Craig Macmillan  10:27 

What's, what's something else that you're excited about?


Kristin Lowe  10:30 

Okay, another one that's pretty exciting and groundbreaking is work by Dr. David Tricoli. And he's at the UC Davis Plant Transformation Facility. Have you heard of him at all?


Craig Macmillan  10:42 

No, no.


Kristin Lowe  10:43 

Okay. So he's doing has done something that might sound simple, but it opens up a wealth of options for future research. He's developed a cell culture method for regenerating a grapevine from a cell Protoplast. So you might remember back from biology, major differences between animals and plants. Plants are surrounded by a cell wall, animal cells, plant cells. Animal cells are not. When some of the like gene editing technology is coming out that's happening in animal cells, it's a lot easier to do, because they don't have the cell wall. Previous to this work, no one's been able to regenerate a grapevine from just a Protoplast. Without a cell wall. What this work has done is enabled there to be a platform of getting a group of grape cells together, just their protoplasts without the cell wall, onto which you could potentially do CRISPR Cas9, or some of the other fast developing gene editing techniques that are out there.


Craig Macmillan  11:45 

This this is a technology I've heard repeatedly, and I'm I have no idea what the acronym stands for. And I'm not really sure I understand what it does. So what is CRISPR? Yeah,


Kristin Lowe  11:55 

and I'm not going to tell you exactly what the acronym stands for either. To me, but so Cas9 is is a gene editing technology that allows for very, very precise small changes in a gene or in a genome. Ultimately, when done for plants by multiple steps later, it can result in a plant that's retained this small edit, but has absolutely no foreign DNA. And unlike a traditional GMO, that would have external DNA from a plasmid or from some other plant, this one is I can kind of think of it as like a lucky or benevolent mutation occurred. And you can't tell but it was purposeful. And and the result is a different phenotype that, that you can see. CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing is it's been out there for a number of years now. But it's taken time for everyone to develop different platforms for which it could work. For plants, especially for plants that are always regenerated by cuttings. So we don't do crosses to get new grapes, we take cuttings, we need a platform to possibly be able to do this. What this work has done is developed that platform. Where it could go it completely depends you need to you need to know which you know which genes to edit, which ones are going to reduce, are going to result in a phenotype. Obviously, what's fascinating, or what's most interesting to me is disease resistance that's usually complex multigenic. So we're still a ways down there from coming up with a with a solution. But the fact that the platform was developed, was actually a major breakthrough.


Craig Macmillan  13:35 

That's phenomenal. So that's research that was done. It's gonna open the door for new research?


Kristin Lowe  13:40 

Potentially, exactly. I mean, you can hear about CRISPR-Cas9 and the news happening to everything else, but but not the crop you're interested in until someone figures out that they're all different. Right?


Craig Macmillan  13:52 

Right, right. What, is their other pests that have come into the catalogue that you think are interesting in that people are doing interesting work on?


Kristin Lowe  13:59 

Our most recent designated past is the Spotted Lantern Fly, we do not have that one yet. Depending on who you ask it seems inevitable that's making its way steadily west from Pennsylvania. And so that's one that the Board and has its eye on for for sure. But we don't have it yet, but we're accepting proposals for it. Because we're trying to be ready. It's actually pretty rare that you can eradicate a, an invasive pest. The fact that California did it with a European Grapevine Moth is it is an amazing example. What's next right? Yeah, so Spotted Lantern Fly is probably next on our horizon is being something that would certainly be problematic if it got here, and you know, trying to stay ahead about research to understand how it would and could be controlled.


Craig Macmillan  14:52 

Does the does the board fund research in states other than Oregon and California? 


Kristin Lowe  14:56 

The board funds researchers. So we do have PIs from from out of state and from not from the West Coast. Absolutely. The Board funds projects, obviously, they have to have some applicability to what we're, what our problems are and what we're concerned with. But yeah, there's no real state, state by state guideline.


Craig Macmillan  15:16 

Right. Right. Right. Well, you know, you mentioned the review process. I just want to shift gears to that. What are the boxes that need to be checked or the hurdles that need to be cleared to get a project funded? What are the what are the criteria that the board and the written in the reviewers are looking for?


Kristin Lowe  15:31 

Oh, sure. Well, I believe it's even just out there when we send up the call for proposals. But it just basically has to be really good science. It needs to be well, you know, well justified that there's either preliminary data or an excellent premise from a different crop. Or another reason why this idea would work. There have to be sound and detailed materials and methods that are laid out there has to be good experimental design, especially when you get to the field level, right, proper controls, proper replication, the stats will have to work, right, all of those things, the budget needs to be reasonable, all those sorts of things for sure.


Craig Macmillan  16:09 

Which reminds me how much money is available each year?


Kristin Lowe  16:12 

It varies. So it will it will depend on on the assessment. And I'm not the numbers person, I'm more the idea person. But I yeah, I have something that could find a figure for you for later. But I think over the 20 years, I believe I read that we have had up to somewhere between 60 and 70 million. But that's not all straight for research. It also goes to the Person's Disease control program treatments for battling Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter outbreaks and some of those control.


Craig Macmillan  16:44 

So what is the one thing related to this that you would recommend to our listeners? How can we how can we help?


Kristin Lowe  16:51 

Oh, that's a great question. How can you help. Well, stay stay engaged. Make sure that everyone all the way up the chain knows what your problems are. And and what, you know what what you really need. This is grower money, that for this particular funding program, there are other agencies out there that are simply donation only, not for profit. But I would say, so this is assessment money so it's a little bit unique. But I would say in general, your problems are not unique. And, I mean, we all we're all dealing with some of the same problems. And we have to come together as an industry to, you know, industry to help solve them. A, stay informed, work with researchers. One of the hardest things is for researchers to find field trials or fields that will let them come do some experimentation. They're always looking for industry partners, as sources of sick vines, helping to track patterns, helping to try new technology, just to collect data. Collaborators like that are always needed.


Craig Macmillan  17:57 

 I think that's some great encouragement. I think that's a great message. Don't be afraid to be a collaborator.


Kristin Lowe  18:01 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It gives you kind of a seat at the table. And researchers aren't growers. And so we need to have this kind of constant communication for there to be good outreach of what they found, to make sure it's applicable and that everyone understands it and and will adopt it too. The most frustrating thing is if something comes out, and people are slow to adopt it, even though it works. So staying informed about what's current, and what are what are new, good ideas.


Craig Macmillan  18:27 

I think that's important. So pay attention.


Kristin Lowe  18:30 

Yeah, get out there to grow our meetings and and industry meetings. And, yeah, a lot of these researchers do try very hard to do outreach. They hear you if you're if you're there and are showing up for the conversation.


Craig Macmillan  18:43 

If I wanted to be a collaborator, how can I make myself available?


Kristin Lowe  18:46 

Oh, gosh, that's a good question. Well, first of all, you would need to know what was going on. So you would need to need to, you know, go to meetings, listen to these people talk, you know, decide if you have similar problems. Almost all of them pass up their email and say, Look, yeah, I've got a place where I've got this, this issue going on. I've you know, been dealing with virus or I've been near dealing with Pierce's Disease. And do you need a field? You know, do you need data set? Some sort of field data or collaboration or a field site? Yeah.


Craig Macmillan  19:16 

Well, that's fantastic. That's great advice. Where can people find out more about you?


Kristin Lowe  19:21 

Oh, me personally? Okay, well, sure. I've been I started a consulting company almost 10 years ago, and my website is I am largely based out of the Napa-Sonoma area, and keep in my toe in the research world because it's exciting. And viticulture is a science. That's one reason why I love it.


Craig Macmillan  19:44 

It's nice to talk somebody loves science. Yeah. I love talking about science. It's so much fun. Well, I think it's time today I want to thank Kristin Lowe, who is the Research Coordinator for the Pierces Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Board and President of Vine Balance Consulting. Check out the website we'll have links and notes of where to go and we look forward to talking to you again.


Kristin Lowe  20:08 

You're most welcome. Thank you for the opportunity. Have a great growing season.


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