Accelerating Grape Cultivar Improvement via Phenotyping Centers and Next Generation Markers

Lead Authors: Drs. Bruce Reisch and Lance Cadle-Davidson, Cornell University & USDA-ARS GGRU

Grant Amount - SCRI Grant, $4,563,164 over 5 years; extended through August 2017

Known as the VitisGen Project, this research team, led by Drs. Bruce Reisch and Lance Cadle-Davidson, focuses on identifying several traits: powdery mildew resistance, low temperature responses, and fruit quality, looking to “map the way to the next generation of grapes.”

Powdery mildew affects vineyards worldwide, resulting in reduced yields, stunted growth and lower fruit quality. New resistant varieties will help to improve vineyards’ sustainability by reducing fungicide applications and preventing the development of resistance to available treatments.

Low temperatures impact the range and growing season of grapes. Improved cold tolerance and budbreak timing could allow for greater adaptability to a changing climate and the development of economically significant grape-based industries in new regions of the US.

Grape varieties that can resist disease and tolerate cold weather may be associated with undesirable aromas/flavors. Identification of varieties that have advantageous traits coupled with high fruit quality will lead to better grapes for wine, juice, raisins, and fresh fruit.

The goals of the VitisGen Project are:
• Identify high priority vine performance and fruit quality traits with documented economic value to the grape industry and to the consumer.
• Discover, identify, and improve these high priority traits using both traditional and modern biological approaches.
• Enhance communication regarding the value of improved knowledge of grape genomics, new varieties, new technologies, and the evolving needs of the grape industry and consumers.

A coordinating meeting with the project’s industry advisory council has been held in each of the past four years and another session held January 7 & 8, 2016 to discuss accomplishments and review progress.  Industry representatives have provided technical advice throughout the project, from its development through implementation. For three years, NGWI has provided support for a post-doc to help identify the genes affecting powdery mildew resistance.  In addition, in November of 2013, the NGWI Executive Committee acknowledged that there are bottlenecks in the processing of chromosome mapping data.  The Executive Committee voted to commit to provide $75,000 funding for each of the three subsequent years for a computation biologist to assist with the processing bottleneck. In the first quarter of 2014, NGWI worked to secure this level of funding, with a three-year commitment.

Grant funding for the VitisGen project ended at the end of this fiscal year 2015. A second grape industry-wide project, “VitisGen II” was submitted as a grant application under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) in 2016; however was not selected for funding. There are plans to review the project proposal and application for submission for the next SCRI application cycle starting in fall of 2016. The 2016 team report is available here.  Visit the VitisGen website for complete project information: http://www.vitisgen.org.

Theme Committee Assignment
Production Efficiency
Grant Type
SCRI Grant
Grant Amount / Funding Year
$4,563,164 in 2011
Lead Author
Drs. Bruce Reisch & Dr. Lance Cadle-Davidson
Lead Institution
Cornell University & USDA
Grant Period
5 years
$'s Per Year
$912,633