Clean Vines to Grow in New Davis Vineyard

Foundation Plant Services unveils new resources and new winegrape selections

by Jon Tourney
Foundation Plant Services UC Davis
FPS current facility in Davis, built in 1994, will be expanded with an adjacent new 5,600 square-foot building
Davis, Calif.Foundation Plant Services (FPS), the National Grapevine Importation and Clean Stock Facility located at the University of California, Davis, is developing a new 20-acre vineyard to meet the new national standard for grapevine foundation material established by the National Clean Plant Network. Personnel from FPS, which also serves as the source and repository for California certified grapevine stock material, discussed the project and provided updates on operations, facilities and new grapevine plant materials at the FPS Annual Meeting held at UC Davis last week for commercial grapevine nursery representatives, viticulture researchers, consultants, growers and FPS staff.

The 2008 Federal Farm Bill authorized $20 million to create a new National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). The funds are to be spent over four years to establish and improve centers in the United States for ensuring the availability of disease-free fruit trees, grapes, citrus and berries that can be supplied to commercial nurseries and growers. Since 2008, FPS has received nearly $3 million in federal funding, which has been used to upgrade and purchase new laboratory and testing equipment, upgrade growth chambers and greenhouses and hire additional staff to expand the grape importation, quarantine, testing and plant propagation programs.
Deborah Golino FPS UC Davis
Dr. Deborah Golino
FPS director Dr. Deborah Golino reported that additional staff and equipment have enabled FPS to expand introductions and the availability of new grapevine materials in recent years. "Over the years, we accumulated plant material through donations from a variety of sources that went into our 'garage' that often had to wait due to time and priority constraints. With NPCN funding, we now have staff to clean up and make these materials available," Golino said.

FPS has also processed more new imported grape materials in recent years. Grape materials in the FPS collection include not only wine variety selections (clones), but also rootstocks, table and raisin grape selections and materials of value as breeding stock with potentially beneficial characteristics. 

FPS is also in the planning process to construct a $3.8 million new 5,600 square-foot building adjacent to the current FPS facility in Davis, built in 1994. The new structure will provide expanded office space for staff, information technology and program operations. It’s being funded in part from a 2009 gift of $1 million from Trinchero Family Estates of Napa Valley.

New FPS vineyard being developed
FPS production manager Mike Cunningham discussed activities begun this year to develop a new foundation vineyard on part of a 1,600 acre parcel of farmland known as Russell Ranch, four miles west of the UC Davis campus. UCD acquired Russell Ranch in 1990 to provide agricultural and environmental research and study sustainable ag practices. A 100-acre parcel of Russell Ranch has been designated for FPS to establish a new vineyard, and NCPN has provided support for the project.

The property is isolated from current UC Davis vineyards and commercial vineyards, and the site has never been planted to grapes, so it is expected to be free from diseases and pathogens. The site also has tested negative for Agrobacterium, a pathogen found in some California soils that can lead to crown gall disease in grapevines. FPS began site work on 20 acres in late summer with soil ripping, fumigation and planting of a grain crop for the winter. Irrigation and trellis systems are still to be installed along with fencing. The site will be planted in spring 2011 with both scion variety selections and rootstocks, focusing on the most economically important grapevine materials in this initial vineyard block.

An existing barn on the site will be repaired and upgraded to house vineyard equipment dedicated for use at the site. The vineyard will be planted with materials generated from the FPS laboratory using microshoot tip tissue culture, the best method available to produce material as free as possible from disease. FPS' new sample processing and testing equipment will also enable more efficient and accurate testing for a wider range of virus and disease pathogens, under the testing scheme known as "Protocol 2010," to comply with the new NCPN standards. Golino summarized, "We will be able to create a world-class collection of clean plant material that doesn't exist elsewhere."

New grape selections
FPS plant introduction and distribution manager Cheryl Covert discussed new grape selections (clones) released with "provisional" status, which have completed disease testing with negative results but still require professional identification to attain "registered" status. These include both public and proprietary selections for 2010-2011. Actual availability and delivery of new materials depend upon demand, when the plants are ordered and other factors. Some mist propagated plants will be available for delivery in summer 2011. It normally takes about two years for newly-planted vines to produce adequate wood for dormant cuttings.

Some highlighted new selections include:
• Four new imported Rhône selections: Clairette Blanche, Picardan, Picpoul Blanc and Terret Noir, brought to FPS through a cooperative effort with the partners of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles—Robert Haas and the Perrin Family in France—taken from vines at the Perrins' Château de Beaucastel estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These are currently available through Novavine Nursery, and will become available in the FPS public collection in 2012 and 2013

• New imported selections of the German white varieties Ehrenfelser and Rauschling, and seven additional clones of Riesling.

• Portuguese and Spanish imported clones from Jorge Boehm, viticulturist and owner of Viveiros Plansel S.A. in Portugal, which markets his clones under the PLANSEL trademark—include white varieties Fernao Pires, Loureiro, Macabeo, Trincadeira, Verdejo and Xarello; and red varieties Alfrocheiro, Graciano, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Caiada, and Touriga Nacional.

• Other new selections of Spanish and Portuguese varieties are the white Airen (Spain's most planted grape) and Pedro Ximenez; Spanish reds Juan Garcia, Mencia and Prieto Picudo, and nine new clones of Tempranillo.

• Fay Rouge, a domestic red wine variety bred by grower and private winegrape breeder Fay Triplett of Ceres, Calif.

Lists of available registered grape materials, provisional materials and other information can be found at the FPS website.

NGR website expands

Covert also announced improvements and additions to the National Grape Registry website maintained by FPS. The NGR website provides detailed information about varietals, selections and rootstocks, including background and source information, varietal synonyms and nurseries that carry available plant material. A new addition to the site is "Vines in Progress," a list that currently has more than 350 selections, with descriptions of varieties and clones in the process of testing and virus elimination which will be available in the future.

Covert said, "We often get questions about what's in the pipeline, so now we can tell people this is a good place to look." Materials on the current list include selections of Croation varieties such Crljenak kastelanski (Zinfandel), Plavic mali, Babic, Debit, Dobricic, Glavinusa, Pribidrag, Skrlet and Zlahtina, imported with cooperation from the University of Zagreb and with support from Ridge Vineyards, which will have exclusive use of some of these selections prior to their availability in the FPS public collection.

Another new feature being added to the NGR website will be photos of clusters, shoot tips and leaves, which will be posted to accompany descriptions of selections. The photos are expected to be of use to ampelographers and grapegrowers seeking to locate a particular clone. It will take several years to obtain and post the photos, beginning with the most economically important selections.


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