Northwest Grape Foundation Service, Washington State University, Prosser
The Pacific Northwest represents a growing segment of premium wines in the U.S. and is also the leading producer of juice grapes in the U.S.
The wine and juice grape industries of the Northwest continue to implement a long-term strategy for the introduction and augmentation of disease-free grape planting stock. The industry works in close cooperation with Washington State University (WSU) through the Northwest Grape Foundation Service (NWGFS) under the auspices of the certification program by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). The NWGFS introduces to the Northwest existing and novel public and private selections of wine, juice, and table grapes and rootstocks. All acquisitions are greenhouse-grown and propagated by aseptic meristem culture. Virus and bacterial testing is performed by ELISA, PCR and biological indexing according to stringent Standard Operating Procedures, and clonal selections are then planted in both the foundation vineyard and foundation screenhouses. Tested propagation material is distributed annually to nurseries, other industry members, and research programs according to an allocation policy as stated on the NWGFS website (http://wine.wsu.edu/research-extension/plant-health/nwgfs)
Like other foundation services in the U.S., this program faces several challenges. While the site of the Foundation Block is not thought to be threatened by Pierce’s disease, winter freezes require special precautions and could even force periodic retraining of plants. The rapid increase in selection numbers demanded by the industries in the Pacific Northwest creates processing problems due to limited greenhouse space for propagation and virus indexing. Although an assessment has been installed by WSDA for all grape plants sold in Washington to support this service, the revenue generated through it and the sale of plant material from the block is insufficient to cover all operating costs. Budget cuts by WSU and the threat of federal funding being eliminated jeopardize the success of this Foundation Service.