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Grape Program at Foundation Plant Services

grape shoot tip

The story of the Foundation Plant Services (FPS) Grape Program at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is the history of the efforts to provide researchers and industry with healthy, true-to-variety grapevine planting stock. The grape industry has benefitted from its earliest years by the introduction of better wine, table grape, and rootstock varieties from around the world. UC Davis plant pathologists have been world leaders in technology for grape virus disease detection, identification, and therapy. UC Davis viticulturists have provided the vision and expertise to ensure that the FPS grape collection represents the great diversity of grape plant materials needed by a vital and ever-changing industry.

Severe virus disease problems in California vineyards during the 1950s spurred UC and USDA scientists to develop methods for grape virus disease detection and disease elimination. A large collection of disease-tested wine, table, raisin and rootstock grape selections was created which became the foundation for the California Grapevine Registration & Certification (R&C) Program. The current Foundation Vineyards of over 100 acres are all established on fumigated soil in isolated locations. Vines are inspected and retested regularly by FPS and CDFA. FPS is the source of all California Registered or Certified grapevines. Highly sought-after foreign grape selections are processed through quarantine for the grape and wine industries. Testing normally requires two years, but if virus diseases are found, therapy and retesting may take much longer. The FPS foundation grapevine collection has undergone a process of professional identification using both ampelographic observations and DNA analysis.

Russell Ranch Foundation Vineyard

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Foundation Plant Services (FPS) at UC Davis is the headquarters for the NCPN Grape Network and was awarded NCPN funding in 2009-2010 to develop a new foundation vineyard that meets the rigorous new NCPN standard for grapevine foundation material. The new standard was specified in a document entitled ‘2010 Protocol for Qualification of Vines for Russell Ranch’. All vines must meet two criteria to satisfy the 2010 Protocol – be generated using microshoot tip tissue culture therapy and test negative for more than 37 grapevine viruses prior to planting in Russell Ranch, a parcel of land four miles west of the UC Davis campus.

The process of identifying and testing candidate vines from the then-existing foundation vineyard (now known as the Classic Foundation Vineyard) began in 2010. The initial group that successfully met the two 2010 Protocol criteria was installed in the Russell Ranch Foundation Vineyard in July, 2011. Additional vines were added as selections from the Classic Foundation Vineyard met the new criteria and as selections new to the FPS program successfully completed testing and treatment.

The FPS Classic Foundation Vineyard was created as the foundation vineyard collection for the California Grapevine Registration & Certification Program. The selections are tested and maintained pursuant to grape regulations promulgated by the California State Department of Food & Agriculture. The new NCPN standard is slightly more rigorous than the current California standard. The Classic Foundation Vineyard still exists and contains much ‘mother vine material’ from traditional, heritage and classic clones.