Projects

Completed: 01/09/2014
Lead Researcher: Debbie Inglis

This project is the next phase of the bud hardiness component of a larger winter injury research initiative (CanAdvance project – Evaluating Grapevine and Tender Fruit Winter Hardiness to Developing Best Environmental Practices for Using wind Machines to Reduce the Effects of Cold Injury 2005-2008) that was completed in spring 2009. Now that the measurement techniques have been developed to reliably measure bud hardiness, factors that influence bud hardiness can now be assessed to develop Best Practices Guidelines to Optimize Winter Hardiness for Grapevines.

Monitoring vine acclimation to cold using low temperature exotherms and the Tenny Freezer unit has allowed researchers to monitor the temperature at which 10%, 50% or 90% of buds were killed for 12 Vitis vinifera varieties and two hybrid varieties across Niagara. Monitoring bud hardiness throughout the dormant period has proven to be an invaluable tool to assist grape growers in managing winter injury by using the changing bud hardiness data to determine when wind machine use is warranted to protect the vines and by also understanding when, during the dormant period, bud injury occurred.

With this established and reliable measurement technique, we are now in a position to further extend this research to look at factors that optimize vine hardiness.

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Completed: 01/12/2012
Lead Researcher: Wendy McFadden-Smith

Female grape berry moth trap catches (as well as other biofixes, such as bloom of wild grape and male moth trap catches) and a model using degree day accumulation will be used to model the development of GBM over the season. This information will be used to fine-tune our sprays for GBM by having the most accurate estimates of moth activity. Cultural or chemical methods to change microclimate and/or canopy architecture will be evaluated for their potential to reduce GBM injury. The relationship between bunch rots and GBM injury will also be investigated.

Mating disruption is used in many vineyards in Ontario. The application of twist tie dispensers is labour intensive and may preclude wider adoption of this practice. If border applications of twist ties or a new sprayable formulation of pheromone are shown to be effective, adoption of this practice could reduce the cost of this method and could encourage wide-spread use of the technology.

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Completed: 01/04/2012
Lead Researcher: Wendy McFadden-Smith

Cultural and chemical treatments will be evaluated for their effectiveness in reducing sour rot and volatile acidity in the vineyard. Treatments to alter the architecture of the clusters, reducing berry-to-berry contact and duration of optimal conditions for infection by sour rot organisms will be evaluated in replicated trials. Chemical treatments will be applied both prophylactically and after the development of sour rot to determine their ability to prevent infection and/or to reduce volatile acidity once sour rot is established. These experiments will be repeated a second and third year to accumulate data on responses over a number of weather seasons.

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Completed: 15/01/2010
Lead Researcher: Kevin Ker

A significant challenge to the production and processing of premium grapes is the infestation by Multi Coloured Asian Lady Beetle (MALB) close to harvest. Due to the uncertainty of populations and zones of infestation many growers are left guessing whether or not to treat for MALB and if populations are high enough to warrant control. Populations of MLB are erratic with no two growing seasons having the same numbers of MALB present or cultivars impacted. Wine quality has been documented as severely affected and it has been published that the best control strategy for MALB must take place at the vineyard level

To assess MALB activity across the Niagara Region in the pre harvest and Harvest period to provide information to producers on locations of activity and to assist in determining if preventative controls are required. Information to be posted on KCMS website and brief oral message recorded each week on the GGO Crop report 905 708 6620

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Completed: 31/03/2012
Lead Researcher: Isabelle Lesschaeve

The demand for local products as well as organic or sustainable production has created a major gap in the wine market which presents a tremendous opportunity to the Ontario wine industry. In order to fill this gap and increase market share for 100% Ontario wines, it is necessary to understand consumer preferences and behaviour. There is currently a serious lack of knowledge of how Ontario consumers actually respond to the production practices and region of origin of wines they purchase and this project aims to address this. This research will combine innovative methods in sensory and consumer science and behavioural economics to determine Ontario consumers’ perceptions and preferences for buying and consuming local, organic or sustainable wines in relation to price, sensory experience, and region of origin. This will identify critical psychological and sensory factors determining consumer purchase and consumption behaviours, allowing the Ontario grape and wine sector to make informed decisions in order to deliver the products consumers want.

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Completed: 01/10/2010
Lead Researcher: Rebecca Hallett

A systematic approach to identify volatiles from grape during ripening that strongly attract MALB into vineyards is necessary to design effective push-pull strategies to control MALB entrance into vineyards. Dr. Rebecca Hallett from the University of Guelph has the ability to collect, separate and identify volatiles to then determine which volatiles elicit an antennal response in MALB and hence identify compounds that attract and/or repel MALB (technique called GC-EAD, see note below). In terms of repellency effects, we have speculated that potassium metabisulfite (KMS) sprayed in vineyards to control sour rot may also be having an irritant effect on insects in the vineyard based on the observed activity of fruit flies post spray. This irritant effect may prove to act as a repellant for MALB in the vineyard with no negative residual effect on wine fermentation since residual sulfur dioxide has not been reported in the juice of grapes processed from KMS-sprayed vineyards 1 day after spray application. This project will be designed to identify grape volatiles in the vineyard that strongly elicit a MALB response as well as test the repellency effect of KMS as a first step in developing a push-pull strategy to repel MALB from vineyards.

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Completed: 01/08/2010
Lead Researcher: Gary Pickering

Isopropylmethoxypyrazine (IPMP) has previously been identified by Gary Pickering as the causal agent of MALB taint. In comparing the IPMP levels in wines produced from fruit infested with either 7-spot or MALB, our study last year indicated both lady beetle species released similar levels of IPMP into wine. Funding is requested to complete sensory evaluation of the experimental wines to compare the taint from 7-spot lady beetle to MALB. The second part of this project is focused on juice treatment to remove lady beetle taint prior to fermentation. No fining agent has been identified to date that has the ability to remove Isopropylmethoxypyrazine (IPMP), the causal agent of MALB taint, to below sensory detection threshold (approximately 1 ng/L). However, the majority of agents tested have not been specifically targeted to bind to IPMP. Odorant binding proteins from mammals naturally bind methoxypyrazines as part of their olfaction system to assist them in finding food. An odorant binding protein (OBP) from porcine has now been identified that binds methoxypyrazines at a low pH of 3.5, close to the pH value found in grape juice. Dr. Inglis’ lab has engineered a readily available source of this protein that can now be tested for its ability to remove IPMP from tainted juice/wine. In collaboration with a colleague in the chemistry department, a delivery method to add the protein to tainted juice and remove the bound complex can be tested by trapping the protein in a silica glass bead matrix. The measurement of IPMP pre and post fining will be done in collaboration with Dr. Pickering using the lower sensitivity measurement method developed in his laboratory. This strategy of removing methoxypyrazines from juice also has applications to remove/reduce the “green” character from methoxypyrazines (mainly isobutylmethoxypyrazines) in under-ripe grapes that is often problematic in cool climate growing regions such as ours. Hence, this strategy is not only limited to remediating juice tainted by MALB and 7-spot, but also to adjust the green character in juice due to excessive levels of isobutylmethoxypyrazines (IBMP) in grapes at harvest.

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Ongoing Project
Lead Researcher: Wendy McFadden-Smith

Cultural practices and chemical treatments will be integrated to manage sour rot.  These will address this challenge in several ways: reducing cluster tightness, increasing skin resistance to splitting, reducing vinegar fly infestations and reducing sour rot pathogen populations.  Several chemical treatments, including biocontrol agents and potassium metabisulphite will be tested to determine optimum use timing and rate.  Cluster architecture will be manipulated by plant growth regulators (natural and synthetic), reduction of photosynthate available during bloom (mechanical and hand leaf removal and antitranspirant spray) and mechanical blossom thinning post bloom.  The relationship among the vector (vinegar flies), sour rot organisms, and host susceptibility will be elucidated.  Using field observations and inoculations under controlled environment, a model will be developed to determine when berries are susceptible to infection.  A threshold for degree of vineyard infection relative to volatile acidity will be developed and the impact of different levels of sour rot on wine quality will be evaluated. The effects of crop load and leaf removal timing and severity on sour rot, yield and fruit quality will be determined. 

Completed: 11/20/2015
Lead Researcher: Simon Lachance

The house fly is of concern in rural and urban areas in part as it can be a nuisance to people and has the potential to spread diseases to humans. House flies may cause public health issues, loss of business income due to diminishing clientele and legal actions. As part of a larger effort to manage house flies in animal production, a project will focus on identifying reasons why house flies might be dispersing from poultry operations (sources) to the Ontario grape and wine value-added industry chain receptors: grape growers, wineries, restaurants, client neighbours, client businesses etc. and how best to mitigate the nuisance problem given that poultry operations and rural residential areas must co-exist in Ontario. This will include developing efficient outdoor sampling methods to correlate the abundance of flies at the source to receptors; identifying potential breeding and resting sites for house flies at receptors; establishing best management practices to minimize the nuisance of house flies; and estimating the potential risks of disease transmission to humans from house flies.

Flies will be captured by sticky cards at a broad range of receptors from mid-April to the end of October and identified and sexed. Correlations with densities inside and directly outside source barns will be used to determine thresholds for human nuisance.  Flies collected at receptors will be tested for the presence of Salmonella and E. coli. The percentage of bacteria positive flies and seasonal abundance of house flies will provide an estimation of the risk of bacterial transmission from some of the source barns to receptors. If pathogenic bacteria are present, bacterial resistance to antibiotics will be tested in the laboratory. Surveys of potential breeding and resting sites of house flies will be performed during peak adult fly activity periods at 25 locations, and at least at 3 grape growers, 3 wineries, 3 restaurants and 3 neighbours, within 1 km of source barns, by visual observations and counts of adult flies on organic substrates and structural surfaces.

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Completed: 31/10/2013
Lead Researcher: BLOOM

Given the crucial role of water in winemaking and the subsequent generation of wastewater, a need has been identified to support Ontario wineries with successfully solving their current and emerging wastewater issues.  Given the broad variation in the operations and organizational capacity of individual winery operations, there are challenges across the sector associated with understanding wastewater issues, relevant solutions and adoption approaches.

This project is focused on consolidating and transferring the knowledge necessary to build capacity of wineries to address priority water and wastewater challenges within the sector through actionable solutions that provides business value for the winery.

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Ongoing Project
Lead Researcher: Adam Dale

This project will develop viticulture best practices, to support the grape and wine industry in the Ontario South Coast region as it addresses performance of vines in sandy soils in relation to drought stress, and climate change. Rootstocks adapt grafted vines to site conditions. The project objectives will be addressed in two ways: 1. Riparia vines growing in the area (adapted to the area) will be evaluated as rootstocks.  2. The best available rootstocks will be evaluated through trials in the proposed DVA.

1. A large collection of rootstock material (900 plants) will be screened using plant characteristics that are linked to drought tolerance, to identify 40 candidate rootstocks. Proline assay technology will be used to reduce the number of genotypes from 40 to a 10 for further assessment. These ten selected genotypes will be tested for their acute drought resistance in controlled environments at 3 different drought levels. These trials will be repeated over three years.  A second series of trials with these same 10 rootstocks will assess how well they support grafted “Pinot Noir” scions. Performance of rootstocks will be assessed through Pinot Noir vine health, vigor, fruit quality and production. The morphological, biochemical (proline content) and physiological characteristics of the rootstocks together with the Pinot Noir scion performance will be used to rank the ten Riparia rootstocks. Knowledge of level of drought stress tolerance will be valuable complimentary information to growers.

2. This project will implement field trials of 4 vinifera grapes (selected from the Varietal Plan of the Grape Growers of Ontario), grafted onto 4 commercial rootstocks. These trials will assess the vines for their performance, including yield and fruit quality in five different sites in Ontario.

Ongoing Project
Lead Researcher: Baozhong Meng

In this project, there are four main objectives: (1). To establish and validate nucleic acid-based methodologies [reverse transcription (RT)-PCR and quantitative RT-PCR (RT-qPCR)] for the detection of important grapevine viruses individually and in a multiplex format;  (2). Production of highly specific antibodies for use in serological detection of four major grape viruses;  (3). To develop and validate serology-based methodologies (dot-ELISA) for the detection of these viruses individually and in a multiplex format; and (4). To compare and evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of both of these methods for the detection of the target viruses and to transfer the technologies for adoption for large-scale applications. 

There is potential for a significant return from this project as the technologies developed will greatly enhance productivity, quality, sustainability, and international competitiveness of Ontario grape and wine industries through the implementation of clean stock programs.  The technologies aimed at being developed in this project are a central piece for many research and development projects related to the clean stock and mitigation programs pertaining to viruses and viral diseases of grapes.

Project Completed
Lead Researcher: Chrystel Olivier/Lorne Stobbs

Grapevine red blotch associated virus (GRBaV) has been designated as a serious virus disease of grapevine due its impact on fruit quality and grapevine health. Very little is known about its epidemiology, except that the virus is graft-transmissible and can be transmitted from grapevine to grapevine by the Virginia creeper leafhopper under laboratory conditions. In this project, it is proposed that researchers will identify the leafhopper species in Niagara, Prince Edward County, and south-western Ontario vineyards during the summer and fall of 2014 and to investigate the GRBaV vectoring ability of up to 5 leafhopper species. Leafhoppers will be collected in commercial vineyards in the Niagara region, using sweeping nets and sticky traps. Collected leafhoppers will be identified and counted, providing information on the prevalence and geographical distribution of leafhopper species in vineyards. All collected leafhoppers will also be tested for the presence of GRBaV using molecular (PCR) tests to identify potential leafhopper vectors. Laboratory transmission assays will be run on the most prevalent GRB-positive leafhopper species, to determine if those species can transmit GRB from grapevine to grapevine.

Project Ongoing
Lead Researcher: Dr. Jim Willwerth, Dr, Belinda Kemp and Dr. Debbie Inglis, CCOVI, Brock Univeristy 

This research program will examine ways to improve vine health, consistency, quality and sustainability across key VQA approved varieties. It will address common issues that lead to inconsistent vine performance such as winter injury, disease, poor fruit maturation, stress, poor yields and excess vigour through both short term and long term projects. Short term objectives will include the use of proper viticulture decisions to help deal with inconsistent/underperforming varieties that are currently in production. This includes optimizing cultural practices such as leaf removal to achieve quality relative to wine style (i.e. still wine vs. sparkling wine) as well as identifying/evaluating different clones and rootstocks of core varieties currently in production to improve consistency among our core V. vinifera varieties. Long term objectives will include the establishment of formal clone/rootstock adaptation trials similar to other grape growing regions around the world by assessing vine performance and wine quality based on Ontario’s climate and soil profiles. The results of these trials can be used for selection of material for a national clean plant program. This also includes investigating new Canadian clonal selections from Ontario vineyards to reduce reliability on foreign importation of genetic material. The ultimate goal is to have clean plant material that is well suited to our climatic conditions, improve consistent production and quality, and address the issue of our changing climate with respect to production challenges. Results from this program will allow our industry to make informed choices for future plantings to reduce risk, increase profitability, and match site to variety and consumer preference over the long term.

Project Ongoing
Lead Researcher: Dr. Debbie Inglis, CCOVI, Brock University

3-alkyl-2-methoxypyrazines (MPs) are a potent class of grape- and insect-derived odor-active compounds associated with wine quality and climatic conditions. 3-Isobutyl-2-methoxypyrazine (IBMP), 3-isopropyl-2-methoxypyrazine (IPMP) and 3-sec-butyl-2-methoxypyrazine (SBMP) are found in many vinifera grapes and elicit green and vegetative aroma and flavour in wine. Although these MPs can positively influence wine quality in Sauvignon blanc at low concentrations, in other varieties, and at higher concentrations, they are dominant and unpleasant, mask fruity/floral aromas, and are associated with under-ripe, low quality fruit. A more detrimental source of MPs is that of insect origin. Specifically, MPs from the Multicoloured Asian ladybeetle (Harmonia axyridis;MALB) and the seven-spotted ladybeetle (Coccinella septempunctata;C7) have been found in wine. When these Coccinellidae are inadvertently incorporated with grapes at harvest, elevated MP concentrations are found, concurrent with development of an off-flavor coined ‘ladybug taint’ (LBT). IPMP is the primary compound believed responsible for LBTalthough IBMP and SBMP have also been identified at low concentrations in some affected wine. Both MALB and C7 are non-native ladybeetles repeatedly introduced to North America as biological control agents, and enter vineyards just prior to grape harvest. Climate change has contributed to a northerly progression in the distribution of these insects, and warmer winters in Ontario over the last few years are associated with much higher survival rates of MALB, with subsequent potential for proliferation the following year. These pests continue to plague the industry, and long-term solutions for managing the insects and their taint are required.

 Due to the negative impact of LBT in wine, the industry has instigated an almost zero tolerance policy for ladybeetles in grapes intended for juice and wine production, with subsequent substantial economic losses to grape growers. Currently, the use of insecticidal sprays in the vineyard is the only tool available to the majority of growers; to date, this approach has had variable success, and does not address the quality issues associated with high natural MP levels in grapes. MPs, regardless of source, are very resistant to removal by traditional grape and wine processing measures, which has led us to search for alternative approaches for reducing MP levels in juice/wine.  The technology to be optimized in this proposal is the use of proteins with naturally high affinity for MPs to bind to and remove MPs in juice and wine, whether the MPs are grape- or insect- derived.

Project Ongoing
Lead Researcher: Dr. Jim Willwerth, CCOVI and Dr. Sue Abrams, University of Saskatchewan

Freeze tolerance in grapevines is the most limiting factor for grape production in Ontario and Canada.  Cold or freeze injury is the greatest threat to the success and sustainability of the grape and wine sector and the threat will likely worsen as more erratic weather becomes more common with climate change.  New innovative approaches can help reduce cold injury and allow growers to continue to enjoy the successes of producing world class V.vinifera grapes in Ontario. 

Abscisic acid (ABA) is a plant hormone that is involved in many plant processes.  One of the key roles of ABA is mediating the adaptation of plants to stress (drought, salinity, freeze).  Some of its key functions include leaf abscission, induction and maintenance of dormancy, growth control, as well as regulation of water loss in the plant.  Exogenous ABA applications to grapevines can hasten fruit maturation, improve yield and fruit quality, and induce leaf abscission/dormancy to name a few.

ABA or synthetic ABA analog application may be a novel and practical way to improve cold hardiness in grapevines without negatively impacting fruit composition or quality.  A plant growth regulator like ABA may prove very beneficial in optimizing cold hardiness in grapevines especially in Ontario’s climate where cool and wet fall periods can delay cold hardiness.  Furthermore, ABA application may also delay deacclimation which could result in less freeze damage associated with sporadic warming and freezing events during dormancy. 

Project Competed 
Lead Researcher: Dr. Wendy McFadden-Smith, OMAFRA

The distribution of grapevine red blotch disease in red and white vinifera as well as hybrid variety blocks in the major grape growing areas will be determined using a medium-density sampling procedure.  These data will be related by GIS to scion variety and clone, rootstock, vine age and source. 

Project Ongoing
Lead Researcher: Dr. Won-Sik Kim

Grapevine red blotch-associated virus (GRBaV) is a plant pathogen that has recently been found to be affecting grapevines, causing grapevine red blotch disease.  GRBaV was first identified in 2011 by two independent groups in the United States – one in California and one at Cornell University. GRBaV has since been detected in vines from eight different states (California, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) within the United States.  Recently, GRBaV has been found to be spreading into Canada, and has been detected in vines in both Ontario and British Columbia.  There are also some recent indications that the virus is spreading outside of North America, as GRBaV was reported on a grapevine in South Korea and its sequence was deposited in Genbank. 

GRBaV has been confirmed in both red and white grape varieties.  Disease symptoms in red varieties include reddening of regions within leaf blades, as well as red veins and petrioles; however, diseased leaves can also remain green.  Disease symptoms in white varieties include subtle-to-obvious chlorotic regions within leaf blades.  Red blotch disease can result in delayed fruit maturity, uneven ripening or failure to ripen, as well as a significant reduction in berry sugar content, therefore having significant economic impacts on the grape and wine industries.  Red blotch disease shares many symptoms that are easily confused with grapevine leafroll disease, including reddening of leaves and leaf curling, thereby making any visual diagnosis difficult.  Furthermore, symptoms of read blotch may fail to show at all and not all leaves on symptomatic vines show similar levels of symptoms. 

It is currently not known how the virus is spread in vineyards, however there are some studies that suggest the vector is a flying insect. The use of contaminated rootstock materials for propagation can also allow for the easy introduction of the virus into new vineyards, and makes the eradication of the virus extremely difficult.   GRBaV is known to infect several grape varieties grown in the Niagara Region, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  Continuously increasing production and the demand for grapes and grape-derived products in the Niagara Region has led to a focus on increasing efforts to eradicate grapevine-affecting pathogens and disease.  It is particularly important to focus on the detection and management of newly emerging pathogens.  Therefore, it is extremely important that the Niagara Region has access to a highly sensitive, specific, inexpensive and rapid method of detection for GRBaV.  

The current gold standard for the detection of GRBaV is a qPCR assay performed by commercial labs.  However, there are issues with this method as it has been found to lack sensitivity and consistency.  Using PCR-based methods for the detection of viruses in grapevines is often difficult, due to high levels of polysaccharides and polyphenolic compounds found in plant tissues, and also due to the often low titer of virus found in hosts.  For example, some recent studies with GRBaV have found that the virus titer can fluctuate significantly between samples taken from different parts of an infected plant, leading to false-negative results in some cases. 

The focus of this project is therefore to develop a novel and robust method to allow for the sensitive detection of GRBaV from grapevines.  Our working hypothesis is that the isolation of clean, inhibitor-free DNA from the plant is the essential first step in reliable detection.  A robust isolation method should be able to overcome the issues associated with high levels of contaminants or low virus titer that are plaguing the currently available detection methods.  Furthermore, we believe that the sampling of the grapevine and the handling of the sample will also have a significant impact on reliable detection.  Therefore, there are 3 main objectives of this project: 1) develop and validate a PCR-based molecular detection system for GRBaV detection; 2) develop and validate a robust DNA isolation method that will work on all the different grape varieties grown in the Niagara Region to isolate high quality, inhibitor-free DNA even from low titer samples; 3) standardize the sampling of the grapevines, including where to take the samples from and how to store the samples prior to DNA purification.