ASEV-ES Honors Wayne Wilcox

Group elects officers during annual meeting

by Linda Jones McKee
Tim Martinson presents Dr. Wayne Wilcox of Cornell University with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the annual meeting of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section in Dunkirk, N.Y.
Dunkirk, N.Y.—At the banquet held June 25, the American Society for Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section (ASEV-ES) presented its Outstanding Achievement Award to Dr. Wayne Wilcox, professor and associate chair in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology of Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Wilcox, who received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of California, Davis, joined Cornell’s faculty in 1984 to work with tree fruit and berry crop growers. He assumed the responsibility for leading Cornell’s grape pathology program in 1994, and since then, his research and extension work has focused on educational programs for grapegrowers, winery owners and others on the identification, biological aspects and management of infectious diseases on grapes and grapevines.

As Wilcox explained in Appellation Cornell in 2013, “You can’t grow grapes in a climate like ours without controlling diseases, and you can’t stay in business without doing so efficiently. Changes in climate, cultivars, industry standards, available fungicides and economics keep this a moving target. My colleagues and I are trying to provide information to growers that will help them figure out how to hit it.”

In his conference presentation “Mold & Mildews, Spots & Rots,” Wilcox first reviewed the three basic principles of integrated control of major grape fungal diseases: the need to understand the biology of the pathogen, when it is active and what cultural practices favor or disrupt the pathogen; susceptibility of the host, including when the host is not susceptible as well as when any peak periods of susceptibility occur; and characteristics of the fungicide for the disease, whether it is active on the surface or is a penetrant, a protectant or an eradicant, its efficacy and persistence.

According to Wilcox, the “big five” grapevine fungal diseases in New York are powdery mildew, downy mildew, black rot, Botrytis bunch rot and Phomopsis cane and leaf spot. He then looked at powdery mildew from the standpoint of the basic principles and the work that he and his lab had done over the years specifically with that pathogen. For example, the disease was observed to be most severe in places with high humidity (such as near bodies of water) and also when the grapes were shaded and not exposed to sunlight. The practical implications of research work on humidity, sunlight exposure, UV exposure and leaf temperature were that training systems promoting light exposure should help to reduce disease pressure.

Wilcox believes there is still work to be done to understand the biology of Botrytis, the host environment, water stress response, what happens with looser clusters and which sprays will work. Other diseases have become of greater concern, specifically sour rot, which Wilcox defined as “the big one, if you have it,” and trunk diseases, which are a “huge problem in the juice grape industry. You can manage it by renewing trunks, but growers don’t want to lose production of those spare trunks,” he said.

Wilcox received the ASEV Best Viticulture Paper Award in 2012 for his research correlating powdery mildew severity with canopy density, and was given the same award again this year for his research into the persistence of sulfur spray residues during ripening and winemaking.

Scholarships, awards and officers
The Eastern Section awarded seven student scholarships this year. Recipients included Nicholas Basinger from North Carolina State University, Claire Burtch of Cornell University, Laura Homich and Gal Kreitman, both from Pennsylvania State University, Benjamin Loseke of the University of Nebraska, Marlena Sheridan from Penn State University and Brigette Williams of Missouri State University. In the student paper competition, Jennifer Kelly from Brock University won the award for the best student enology paper, titled “Appassimento Wine in Ontario: Characterizing Brock Isolate Yeast.” Megan Hall of Cornell University won the award for the best student viticulture paper for a talk about the “Sour Rot Etiology and the Development of Management Strategies.”

The officers of Eastern Section for 2015-16 were announced at the annual business meeting. Stephen Menke, associate professor of enology at Colorado State University, moves to the position of chairperson; Harlene Hatterman-Valenti, professor of plant sciences at North Dakota State University, will be chairperson-elect; and Jim Willwerth, Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute scientist at Brock University, will become treasurer. Four directors were elected: Denise Gardner of Penn State University and Chris Gerling of Cornell University were elected to two-year terms, while Gill Giese, winemaker and viticulturist at Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, N.C., and Justin Scheiner of Texas A&M University were elected for one-year terms.

The dates and site for next year’s annual conference for the ASEV-Eastern Section have not yet been determined. More information will be available at asev-es.org.

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