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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Horticultural Crops Production and Genetic Improvement Research Unit » Research » Research Project #438281

Research Project: Improved Fruit, Grape and Wine Products through Precision Agriculture and Quality Component Evaluation

Location: Horticultural Crops Production and Genetic Improvement Research Unit

2022 Annual Report

This project’s overall goal is to refine agricultural management practices that growers use to improve fruit and fruit product quality. Objective 1: Determine the impacts of variety selection and production management practices on fruit and product quality components to optimize practices for superior fruit and wine production. [NP 305, Component 1, Problem Statement 1B] Subobjective 1A: Determine primary and secondary metabolites and their targeted analyses; evaluate and optimize analytical methods where insufficient data exists. Subobjective 1B: Evaluate developed quality component measurements on new or improved fruit and fruit products, and link to agricultural management. Objective 2: postponed until vacancy is filled. Objective 3: Enhance management practices for small fruit production systems by optimizing soil health, weed suppression, and the interplay between plants and ecosystem dynamics for desired outcomes.

Project objectives will be accomplished by integrating research across three core disciplines: food chemistry/phytochemical analysis, crop physiology, and plant breeding. A systematic approach, with targeted analyses of fruit quality compounds, will be utilized to predict the magnitude that environmental factors and cultural practices impart to fruit quality. This strategy will allow us to improve and define analytical methods for plant metabolite analyses that advance our comprehension of the interactions between canopy management, vine nutrient treatments, water regimes, vineyard microbiome, vine virus status, and cultivar/genotype selections have upon fruit development, fruit quality components, and vine physiology. An additional growing season will be employed, if necessary, to account for interruptions during the experimental treatment or sampling schedules.

Progress Report
We continued our investigations into fruit and soil quality improvements made through agricultural management practices. In support of Objective 1, research was conducted on a black raspberry breeding project to find a much-needed commercial replacement cultivar with greater disease resistance, high yield, and high anthocyanin levels. Exemplars were field evaluated and fruits collected. Black raspberry samples were analyzed for quality components important in perceived sweetness, acidity, and pigment. Work linking these quality components to plant traits and their associated genes is in progress. This work also highlights the actual empirical data on black raspberry sugar composition and should help repudiate the misconception that Rubus fruit are high in sugar alcohols, which are associated with discomfort from the consumption of large quantities. In support of Objective 3, soil health challenges faced by wine grape growers in the viticultural regions of Washington and Oregon were evaluated. Soil samples from 41 grower-identified “problematic” soils were collected and analyzed for pH, nutrients, salts, and organic matter. These results were shared with growers, and soil samples from these vineyards were used to initiate several research projects focused on the role of soil properties on root-knot nematode colonization of plant roots. To further the basic research aspects of Objective 3, a project to study particulate organic matter in soils was proposed by ARS scientists and funded by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. As part of this collaboration, progress was made in developing a workflow to apply deep learning tools, like those used by self-driving cars to navigate, for the automatic detection and quantification of particulate organic matter in soils. This workflow can be applied to any image data set, allowing for the identification and quantification of complex features in images. This code was further adapted to count hops, grape leaves, wheat stems, and cranberries while simultaneously extracting information like area, perimeter, longest axis length, shortest axis length, and color from each individual hop, leaf, stem, and berry in every image. These tools can help researchers and growers automate the tedious task of measuring plant growth properties when trying to quantify the influence of soil health improving practices on plant growth. Additionally, a phosphorus (P) fertilization trial was initiated to develop a predictive model for P availability in plants using solid state X-ray spectroscopy rather than traditional liquid extraction techniques. Finally, funding was secured by the ARS scientist in Prosser, Washington, to establish a vineyard to study the long-term effects of vineyard management practices on soil health indicators.

1. Detection of a new grapevine rupestris vein feathering virus in Idaho. The wine grape industry is a $6 billion business in the United States. Grapevine viruses can be detrimental to vine health, crop load ratio, fruit characteristics, and wine quality. Grapevine rupestris vein feathering virus (GRVFV) is associated with yellowing of leaf veins and decreased yield in Syrah grapes. ARS scientists in Corvallis, Oregon, with University of Idaho collaborators, conducted research on grapevine viruses in cooperation with commercial Idaho grape growers to identify a new GRVFV. A reliable diagnostic tool for detecting the variant in vineyards was developed to aid growers, by protecting them from losses through timely deployment of management strategies against the virus. This work was partially funded by Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research and Idaho State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.

2. Effects of nanomaterial on plant and soil health. Copper-based fungicides are widely used in agriculture, especially in vineyards. New nano-sized copper oxide fungicides have been developed, but concerns were raised about their potential harm to plants and soil microbes. ARS researchers in Prosser, Washington, and Davis, California, in collaboration with numerous university scientists and researchers at Advanced Light Source and Canadian Light Source, investigated the effects of nanomaterials on carrots, lettuce, and soil microbes. This research showed that these new products are generally less harmful to plants and soil microbial communities than other, more commonly used copper-based products. These results will help growers have confidence in using new nanomaterial fungicides to protect their crops.

Review Publications
Dahan, J., Thompson, B.D., Lee, J., Karasev, A.V. 2021. First report of grapevine rupestris vein feathering virus in wine grapes in Idaho. Plant Disease. 105(10):3309.
Gelardi, D.L., Ainuddin, A., Rippner, D.A., Patiño, J.E., Abou Najm, M., Parikh, S.J. 2021. Biochar alters hydraulic conductivity and impacts nutrient leaching in two agricultural soils. Soil. 7(2):811-825.
Rippner, D.A., Margenot, A.J., Fakra, S.C., Aguilera, L., Li, C., Sohng, J., Dynarski, K.A., Waterhouse, H., McElroy, N., Wade, J., Hind, S.R., Green, P.G., Peak, D., McElrone, A.J., Chen, N., Feng, R., Scow, K., Parikh, S. 2021. Microbial response to copper oxide nanoparticles in soils is controlled by land use rather than copper fate. Environmental Science: Nano. 8(12):3560-3576.