PLANT IMPROVEMENT FOR THE LONG TERM HEALTH OF THE WASHINGTON WINE AND GRAPE INDUSTRY
The most important decision in our business is selection of plant material.
It is one of the most economically sensitive and long-term investment decisions made when developing a vineyard and the industry faces a challenge obtaining quality plant material. Washington state nurseries can meet some needs but rapid expansion of the industry has revealed the limitations of foundation material and in-state nurseries to supply all needs.
The grape vine foundation block at WSU’s Irrigated Ag Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser was originally established at the Roza Unit in 1961 by Dr. Walter Clore and relocated to IAREC headquarters unit in 1983. Its primary purpose was to test selections from around the world to supply clean cutting wood to certified nurseries in Washington. The current foundation block is in need of updating, improved maintenance, and consistent management.
Using certified material is perhaps the most sure way to plant highly productive, long lived vineyards and ensure our industry remains viable…and clean. Unfortunately, the amount of certified material in Washington state is limited.
Consequently, the majority of plant material used in our industry’s recent expansion has been non-certified. Although most of this material is relatively clean, some will place our industry at risk. The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) recent virus survey revealed the presence of some debilitating viruses, some of which were not previously known to exist in Washington. Although at low levels, merely finding these viruses is a concern to the industry for the long term.
The Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers (WAWGG) was given the task of taking the lead role in determining a program to pursue clean plant material. Addressing the plant improvement needs of the industry will allow Washington state to remain competitive in an extremely competitive industry. The industry clearly stated that important changes need to be made to improve our current situation and that priority must be placed on a fast track. The following goals were established:
The WAWGG board of directors appointed its Technical Committee to work with the industry and determine a plan. The Technical Committee set up a plant improvement sub-committee and identified four main areas of need which were separated into industry working groups. The working groups began meeting in early 2001 and established objectives, determined work plans and began initial activity.
THE FOUNDATION BLOCK ADVISORY GROUP
The WAWGG board identified the need, responsibilities and make-up of an Advisory Group that would include growers, wineries, nurseries, juice growers, WSDA, WSU and at-large positions.
Their role is to advise on the overall business of the Foundation Block including management, direction, selection of plant material, distribution, phytosanitary issues (test and re-testing), all policies and procedures, funding needs, quarantine issues and needs, program review and industry reports.
The NW Foundation Block Advisory Group (FBAG) meets on a quarterly basis.
PLANTS TO OTHER COUNTRIES
For information on exporting plant material, call the nearest WSDA Plant Services Office. Click here
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