In 2015, OMAFRA chose OGWRI to administer the Research and Innovation Development (R&ID) portion of the Marketing Vineyard Improvement Program (MVIP).  The goal of the R&ID projects is to improve the quality, productivity and adaptability of grape and wine production by promoting innovative tools, technologies, resources, knowledge and information for grape growing and winemaking. In Spring 2022 OGWRI entered into an agreement with OMAFRA to continue the MVIP program until March 31, 2023.

The following Projects were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for Year 7 (2021-2022):

Magic of mushrooms: Innovative use of mycelium composite derived from pink oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus djamor) for treatment of winery wastewater and red grape juice

Principal Investigator: Dr. Belinda Kemp

Project summary: 

Biological approaches based on environmental biotechnology are currently focused onthe development of “clean technologies" that reduce waste generation and convert waste into a useful form. These clean technologies focus on the use of biological methods for the remediation of waste. One such biological method is mycoremediation, the practice of using mushroom-derived mycelium to remove contaminants from water and soil1. Mycelium, grown from oyster mushrooms, has been found to remove pesticides from water, along with phenolic compounds, and is referred to as mycofiltration1. Fungal cell walls are present in hyphae, which form a mycelium (collective noun) of hyphal filaments, comprising a thick and complex fibrous network of compounds (e.g. glucans, mannoproteins, chitosan, cellulose). It is this network that forms the structure in mycelium-cellulose foam matrix, (strengthened by the sawdust that the fungi digest), that attracts phenolic compounds, and contaminants1. The interest in the use of plant-based materials in juice and wine production to clarify and/or remove undesirable compounds that negatively affect wine quality e.g. microbial stability, and phenolic compounds in red juice has also dramatically increased in recent years. The rejection of animal-based products, consumer demands for traceability, and the use of natural, sustainable materials has resulted in research into alternative products for use in the food and beverage industries.

The aims of this collaborative, multidisciplinary research was to remove undesirable compounds from winery wastewater, and phenolics from red grape juice after pressing, using a mycelium-cellulose bio-composite material in granule form as well as in filtration pad formats. The mycelium is derived from pink oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus djamor). The project used mycofiltration, and mushroom-derived materials (chitosan), and consisted of two parts, firstly to use mycofiltration on winery wastewater to remove phosphorous, suspended solids and decrease the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of the water. Secondly, to remove pesticide residue and phenolic compounds from red juice prior to fermentation, and compare their efficacy commercially available activated MostRein® PORE-TEC (bentonite-activated carbon granulate charcoal product).

Click here to view the 2022 CCOVI Lecture Series presentation

Field evaluation of a weather-based model for timing fungicide treatments for grapevine fungal diseases

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wendy McFadden-Smith

Project summary: A weather-based expert system for predicting fungal disease development was evaluated at 5 vineyards across Niagara. Weather data was collected remotely by the expert system, and used to predict infection periods for fungal diseases. Fungicide sprays were applied to replicated plots according to the recommendations of the expert system. The selection of sprays was based on each grower’s spray program. Downy mildew and powdery mildew and Botrytis bunch rot and grapevine growth stage were monitored weekly in research plots as well as unsprayed plots and in sections of the vineyard sprayed according to the grower’s practices.

Click here for Dr. McFadden-Smith's OFVC 2022 poster

Spotted Lanternfly monitoring and risk assessment

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wendy McFadden-Smith

Project summary: 

  • Sticky band traps for trapping spotted lanternfly were deployed to 65 trees at 36 locations in Niagara, Essex county and Pelee Island. Locations were visited biweekly to ensure traps were intact and to change traps if full of insects. Traps were inspected for SLF nymphs/adults and trees were inspected for egg masses as well as symptoms of SLF feeding.
  • To date, no SLF have been identified in any of the locations.

 Click here for Dr. McFadden-Smith's OFVC 2022 poster

Grape Virus Disease and Virus Vector Control

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wendy McFadden-Smith

Project summary: 

  • Samples were collected from individual vines in vineyards sampled since 2018 to document the spread of GLRaV-3 and GRBV
  • The effect of solo and coinfections of GLRaV-3 and GRBV on fruit yield and quality
  • Vineyards were sampled for Grapevine Pinot Gris Virus (GPGV) to determine impact of asymptomatic and symptomatic infections of GPGV on fruit yield and quality.


  • Document the change in incidence of GRBV and GLRaV-3 infections in intensively sampled (individual vines) vineyards
  • Determine the effect of solo and co-infections of GLRaV-3 and GRBV on vine cold hardiness, vigour, yield and fruit quality.
  • Determine the impact of asymptomatic and symptomatic infections of GPGV on fruit yield and quality.

Click here for ON Fruit blog post

Elucidation of the cold-hardiness signaling and hormonal pathways induced by an ABA analog in Merlot

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jim Willwerth

Project summary: 

This project was a continuation of research projects concerning ABA analogs and a direct link to the AAFC grape cluster project. The overall program objective was to elucidate the signaling and hormonal pathways involved in cold-hardiness in a cold hardy Riesling and in a tender Merlot enhanced for cold hardiness by treatment with an ABA analog. In addition, a minor goal was to start a preliminary scouting experiment to determine the molecular mechanisms of how red blotch impacts cold acclimation and how ABA analogs improve hardiness and maintain dormancy in both healthy and red blotch virus-infected grapevines. It was anticipated that the data collected should enable us to identify cold hardiness-related markers to be used for best in class cultivar and clonal selection for Canadian vineyards and help to develop effective mitigation strategies to combat both climate change and red blotch virus.

The core goal of this project was to use RNA-sequencing to follow and analyze the simultaneous expression of all genes, from fall to mid-late winter, in control grapevines and grapevines treated with the 8’-actylene ABA analog. This ABA analog (ABAA) was characterized, by our team, as a positive enhancer of grapevine hardiness.

To jump start the current project, we preemptively collected bud samples during the 2020-2021 dormant season with the intention of extracting RNA and performing next-generation sequencing right at the start of the current project. However, after, performing low-temperature exotherms (LTE), and completing the extraction of messenger RNA from all the samples, collected in the 2020-2021 followed by real-time PCR analyses of all samples using 15 marker genes, we determined that the ABA analog did not perform as well in this season as it did during the past 10 years. As such, the samples harvested during the 2020-2021 season were outliers and were not representative of the general trend observed in the past. As such, we have observed that bud break occurred 2-3 days later analog-treated plants compared to a long-term average of 2 weeks. This forced us to rethink the timing of the project milestones.

In an effort to generate the highest quality data possible, we took the decision to postpone the transcriptome analyses on the original samples and to collect new equivalent samples (equivalent in terms of cultivar/treatment) during the 2021-2022 season. These samples collected so far, have been evaluated by PCR and look more promising compared to last year's samples, for performing the transcriptome analyses. The dormant season 2021-2022 has been above freezing until late December, with temperature dropping below freezing in January. This has forced us to extend our collection of samples further into the season and are planning to collect samples until late February to early March. We will then complete the RNA extractions and PCR analyses and submit the samples for sequencing. This will be followed by data analyses as planned in the initial proposal. We have committed funding from other sources as part of the MVIP project and, as such, we are therefore resolute to see the project to completion.

We have opted to delay the conclusion of the transcriptomic milestones in favor of collecting new samples, which will provide higher quality data. Higher quality data means lower genetic noise and a greater capacity of identifying the pathways involved in cold acclimation.

Click here to view Dr. Willwerth's OFVC 2022 presentation


The following Projects were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for Year 8 (2022 -2023):

Microbial terroir: the identification of natural indigenous yeasts during fermentation

Principal Investigator: Dr. Debbie Inglis

Project summary: In order to monitor the entire microbial profile of a natural wine fermentation to identify contributions made by different yeast species in wine production, and to isolate the most interesting yeasts that complete a fermentation, a new genomics approach using optimized genetic markers for detecting groups of microbes is the key. Taking a targeted High Throughput Sequencing (HTS) based approach may be a better option than the traditional approach of employing PCR coupled with Capillary Electrophoresis that identifies yeast strains by relying on the length of 11 PCR amplified microsatellite regions of the yeast genome. This new HTS-based approach provides the actual sequence of the amplified products, and is thus capable of revealing not only the length differences but subtle differences at the sequence level, making it a more accurate, sensitive, and powerful identification tool to differentiate all the strains of S. cerevisiae that are currently known as well as S. uvarum strains that are being identified. It also allows us to multiplex different target sequences aimed at different groups of microbes in one shot so that species and strains of species can be identified from one sequencing run, saving time and money in overall microbial identification. By reducing the costs and the time required to do the analysis, it will open the door for more wineries to embark on this approach to characterize their own microbial terroir for winemaking purposes.

 Click here for Dr. Inglis' OFVC 2023 presentation

Evaluating the potential of undervine cover crops in Ontario Vineyards

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathryn Carter

Project summary: 

  • Evaluating undervine cover crops that have shown potential for use in vineyards in other grape growing regions (NY, Australia, BC). The cover crops will be assessed to evaluate their efficacy in weed management, establishment (in our climate), impact on vine vigour and yields.
  • Conducting small plot screening trial will be used to assess the potential fit of cover crops that have been used successful in other crops, and evaluate their potential fit in vineyards.
  • Evaluate the potential of mechanically applying undervine cover crops in commercial vineyards.   In order for undervine cover crops to be viable in commercial orchards they must be able to applied by machine. This project will incorporate the work that has been done in other areas, to determine if it is commercially viable to apply undervine cover crops by machine. 

 Click here for Dr. Carter's OFVC 2023 presentation

Testing the application of novel IoT technology (TT-W) for assessing spatial variability of vine's canopy vigor, health and grape maturity using spectrometry

Principal Investigator: Dr. Richard Petrone

Project summary: The goal of this project is to test the use of small novel independent and integrated sensor systems called TreeTalker Wine (TT-W) supplied by project non-profit partner Nature 4.0. TT-W sensors will be installed directly on vines, and include embedded spectrometers (21 spectral bands) for quantifying spatial variability in canopy leaf area index (LAI), greenness, grape soluble solids and phenolics. This will create an innovative tool that will also employ multi-scale remote [unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, drone), satellite] sensing of evapotranspiration (ET) (crop water use and crop stress) and grape health and quality for improved adaptive management of vineyards to ensure continued productivity of quality grapes.

 Click here for Dr. Petrone's OFVC 2023 poster

Spotted Lanternfly monitoring and risk assessment

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wendy McFadden-Smith

Project summary: 

1) Tree-of-heaven and black walnut locations will be monitored along major transportation corridors (QEW, 403, 401, 406) with tree band traps and visually for egg clusters, nymphs and adults of SLF. The focus will be on Niagara and Essex counties as they have the most US truck traffic and high densities of vulnerable agricultural crops. The intensity of monitoring will be heightened to weekly monitoring according to the US pest cast system.

2) Locations of tree-of-heaven and black walnut will be determined using previous surveys (Beaton, Scott-Dupree, Doubleday) as well as information from MNRF, conservation areas, regional foresters. These non-grapevine hosts and nearby vineyards be geolocated. While visiting the sites, tree-of-heaven, black walnut, grapevines and roses at row ends will examined for presence of SLF.

 Click here for Dr. McFadden-Smith's OFVC 2023 poster

Using ultraviolet light to manage leafhoppers on grapes

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wendy McFadden-Smith

Project summary: Effective alternatives to conventional pesticides are attractive to growers for both economic and environmental reasons. This is even more the case with the loss of several key insecticides for managing leafhoppers and the paucity of organic options for leafhopper control.

Ultraviolet (UV) light has been shown to effectively control mite pests as well as diseases in grapes and strawberries. UV-C treatment killed spider mite eggs and nymphs but not adults. Field scale applications have been as effective as commercial pesticides. The goal of this project is to determine whether exposure to UV-C will have a similar detrimental effect on different life stages leafhoppers. This will be evaluated under growth chamber conditions as proof of concept to eventually proceed to field applications if effective. It is also possible that this technology could be applied to other insect pests.


The following Projects are funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for Year 9 (2023-2024):

Assessing spatial and temporal variability of vine’s canopy health and water-use and grape maturity, using spectrometry and sapflux measurements from novel IoT sensors (TT-W) and UAVs

Principal Investigator: Dr. Richard Petrone

University of Waterloo

Project summary: The goal of this project is to use small novel independent and integrated sensors, called TreeTalker Wine (TT-W), produced and supplied by Nature 4.0 & installed directly on vines, for quantifying spatial and temporal variability in canopy leaf area index (LAI), greenness, grape veraison, and vine water use within rows. Algorithms developed from TTW measurements at row-scale will be used to develop the use of multi-scale remote [unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, drone), satellite] sensing of vine water use and grape veraison and quality at vineyard scale.  This project builds-on and continues the work of our 2022 MVIP grant, where we tested the use of the TTW technology in the field and assessed spatial variability in parameters.  Here we will also look at the temporal variability, scale up to UAV measurements and also look at vine water use. Knowledge gained from this project will help improve adaptive management of vineyards to ensure continued productivity of quality grapes.

Evaluating the potential of under-vine cover crops in Ontario vineyards 

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Carter

Ontario Fresh Grape Growers

Project summary: This project will evaluate the potential benefits and commercial viability of using under vine cover crops in Ontario vineyards.  This project will build on research conducted by OMAFRA in 2021/2022 and will include under vine cover crops that have been used in other viticultural areas (New York, Pennsylvania, British Columbia) and horticultural crops. This project will assess the potential of mechanized seeding of under vine cover crops, allowing for the adoption of this practice in commercial vineyards. 

The objectives are to evaluate the viability of using under vine cover crops as alternatives to herbicides or cultivation in Ontario vineyards.  This goal of this project is to:

  1. Continue to screen cover crops that have been used in other grape growing regions and in other horticultural crops for their potential use as under vine cover crops in Niagara vineyards.
  2. Investigate the potential of adapting existing vineyard equipment to allow for mechanized seeding of under vine cover crops allowing for easier adoption of under vine cover crop treatments in commercial vineyards.
  3. Collect baseline data to evaluate the impact of under vine cover crops on soil health.
  4. Assess the economic viability of using under vine cover crops in commercial vineyards.

Development of a genetic test for ascertaining natural wine yeast variants

Principal Investigator: Dr. Debbie Inglis

Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and Brock University

Project summary: There is growing interest in the wine community locally as well as internationally, to utilize the indigenous microflora on grapes to support wine fermentation and express the “microbial terroir” of a winery (Cheng et al, 2020, Kelly et al, 2020a; McCarthy et al, 2021).  This strategy allows wineries to differentiate their wines in a competitive market. Although these fermentations are often dominated by natural Saccharomyces cerevisiae or the more newly characterized Saccharomyces uvarum yeasts (McCarthy et al, 2021; Scholl et al, 2016) leading to high quality wines, sometimes they can be overpowered by indigenous Hanseniaspora uvarum or Candida yeast species that can produce high levels of acetic acid and spoil the wine. What has been lacking for Ontario is a cost-effective way to isolate and identify the natural yeasts from these fermentations and allow wineries to culture the yeast they are interested in by utilizing the services of local yeast companies (e.g., Escarpment labs). This approach allows the winery to select their own natural yeast to better control natural fermentations in future vintages. This not only allows the wineries to tell their microbial terroir story for wine marketing purposes but also enables more consistent fermentation for a higher quality wine.

OGWRI funded our project in 2022-23 to simplify the process to identify yeast species, and strains within the Saccharomyces cerevisiae and S. uvarum species, using high throughput sequencing (HTS) technology.  We have been successful in utilizing this technology to identify yeast to species level but due to the shortened 6 month time of the project last year from Sept to February, more time is required to apply this technology for strain differentiation through microsatellite genotyping. This second element is critical for wineries as many have used commercial S. cerevisiae strains in the past.  

Spotted lanternfly monitoring and risk assessment

Principal Investigator: Dr. Debbie Inglis

Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and Brock University

Project summary: Niagara is at high risk of SLF infestations due to the presence of favored host plants, including grapes and the invasive tree-of-heaven.  Aggregations (swarms) of nymphs and adults damage plants directly by feeding on plant sap, and indirectly by excreting large amounts of honeydew (sugary waste) that promotes the development of sooty mold and interferes with photosynthesis. Reports of economic injury in Pennsylvania have occurred in commercial vineyards, where swarm feeding has resulted in yield loss, decreased sugar content in harvested grapes, and weakening and death of vines.  Although SLF has not been detected in Ontario, it is a matter of time before this pest establishes itself within the province.  There are no pheromones available for monitoring SLF, so field detections rely on passive traps and surveys of preferred hosts.

Early detection of SLF is critical to the success of response efforts. 

Education and awareness programs are important, but on-the-ground efforts are critical for identifying populations in high-risk agricultural areas including the Niagara region.  Limited monitoring of high-risk areas in Ontario was conducted by OMAFRA staff in 2018 but there is no capacity for an ongoing program.   

Genomic analysis of wild V. riparia cultivars and development of a genetic test for their true-to-typing

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ping Liang

Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and Brock University

Project summary: Fifteen selections of wild V. riparia collected from across southern Ontario have been chosen to be propagated at the CGCN Clean Plant Propagation Programme at Brock University. In addition to virus testing of this material prior to propagation, unequivocal identification is also necessary since all fifteen are virtually identical from an ampelographic point of view.

This project will investigate various molecular means of identifying these selections from each other and the standard rootstock Riparia Gloire de Montpellier (RGM). Preliminary findings are that high throughput DNA sequencing (HTS) approach for whole genome sequencing (WGS) can provide comprehensive catalogue of the genetic differences among species and clones, but this needs to be thoroughly tested to find stable markers for each selection and RGM. This requires a dedicated study.

These selections are an important part of an ongoing rootstock study, aiming to find improved yield and production stability for highly vigorous sites that are also prone to winter injury, mainly located on the Norfolk Sand Plains. In addition, the development of these techniques for identification can then be applied to the other grape materials within the micropropagation facility at Brock University to ensure trueness-to-type at the cellular level.

Use of Glycoside hydrolases to combat gray mold on grapes

Principal Investigator: Dr. P. Lynne Howell


Project Summary: Botrytis cinerea, a necrotrophic fungus causing gray mold, is considered one of the most prevalent fungal pathogens not just in grapes but also other fruit crops affecting over 200 plant species. Infection of grapes occurs mainly pre-harvest in wine grapes while grapes are hanging on the vine but can also occur post-harvest for grapes used in appassimento drying techniques leading to spoilage and significant economic losses to the grape and wine industry. Synthetic fungicides are currently used to eliminate the fungus, but spray choices are becoming more limited, and the use of synthetic sprays are increasingly being discouraged due to their impact on the environment and human health. There are currently no sustainable alternatives on the market to combat these infections.

Most bacterial and fungal infections are caused by the pathogen adhering to biotic or abiotic surfaces where they aggregate and encase themselves in a protective matrix. These matrix-encased microbial communities are called biofilms. Formation of biofilms allows the pathogen to persist longer and develop tolerance to regular antimicrobial agents. We propose the use of enzyme biologics to combat B. cinerea grape infections. These enzyme biologics are glycoside hydrolases, which specifically cleave the glycosidic linkages of the sugar polymer or exopolysaccharide component of the biofilm. We have previously demonstrated that these enzyme biologics can both inhibit the formation of biofilms and break down the protective extracellular matrix of preexisting bacterial and fungal biofilms. We have successfully used the glycoside hydrolases in animal models to inhibit lung, wound and device related infections with human pathogens. Our preliminary in vitro studies have shown that exopolysaccharides of B. cinerea biofilms can be targeted by our panel of glycoside hydrolases. Results from this study will establish the efficacy of these glycoside hydrolases in inhibiting gray mold infections on wine grapes. These enzyme biologics have the potential to serve as a more environmentally friendly solution to inhibiting Botrytis infections and could possibly be used for infection control in other areas in the wine industry such as in sour rot infections in the vineyard or to prevent biofilm formation in hoses, pumps or bottling equipment in the winery.

Laboratory trials of two entomopathons on Grape Mealybug, Pseudococcus maritimus

Principal Investigator: Dr. Malkie Spodek

Co-partners: Dr. S. Poojari (CCOVI), Dr. B.M Vemulapati (CCOVI), Dr. W. McFadden-Smith (OMAFRA)

Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and Brock University

Project Summary: In this study we will evaluate the mycoinsecticidal efficacy of two commercially available entomopathogenic fungii (EPF), Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium brunneum on an insect pest in vineyards, the Grape Mealybug, Pseudococcus maritimus (GMB) (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Damage to the plant is caused due to the feeding activity and virus transmission ability of GMB. The mealybugs’ honeydew excretion facilitates the growth of sooty mould on the leaf surface that lowers the photosynthetic ability of the plant. GMB is the most common insect vector of Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3) in North America. There is a great concern due to the rising GMB population resulting in a faster spread of GLRaV-3 in vineyards of the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario and the Okanagan Valley, BC. In Ontario, GMB vector is controlled mainly using the synthetic insecticide, Movento (spirotetramat active ingredient).

This research will be laboratory-based with the possibility of vineyard trials in the future. Application of biological control methods against pests on crops using antagonistic microbial species and (or) plant-based metabolites could greatly reduce the residual footprint of harmful chemical pesticides in soils and the produce. The fungal biocontrol agents included in this study exhibit the potential to represent a new and sustainable plant protection strategy for the control of GMB infestations in grapevine nurseries and vineyards.