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Washington State University postdoctoral fellow Pradeep Shrestha collects sap from a pressurized grape peduncle.

Washington State University postdoctoral fellow Pradeep Shrestha collects sap from a pressurized grape peduncle.

Though Washington is the number-two wine-producing state in the nation, Washington State University scientists struggle to secure national research dollars.

Washington has obtained federal funding for its plant improvement program and Foundation Block, but has not done as well securing –funding for research projects.

Most of the research money from the Viticulture Consortium, a federal research grant program administered through the University of California and Cornell University, and from the American Vineyard Foundation, funded by industry contributions, seems to go to California and New York. Although the consortium didn’t receive federal formula funding in 2007, some $1.8 million was appropriated through USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service in 2006.

Kevin Corliss, member of the Wine Advisory Committee and vineyard operations manager for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, wants to see Washington receive more research money from the consortium. Corliss has heard similar complaints from wine industry representatives from other states who also have a hard time getting projects funded.

"We need to do a better job competing for federal dollars," Corliss said. "California just waxes us, but they do put in a lot of state money into research. Look at the millions of state and industry money they’ve put into research on the glassy-winged sharpshooter and Pierce’s disease."

Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, noted that national research money seems to be for more crosscutting issues, not just regional or Northwest issues. He added that Washington is represented at meetings where national research priorities are discussed, but the competition is much tougher at the national level.

"We’re just a small player, and we don’t have the presence that other states do," observed Dick Boushey, a grape grower from Grandview, Washington, and co-chair of the Wine Advisory Committee. "The Vit Consortium West [UC] and Cornell [Vit Corsortium East] got a big chunk of money. We just don’t do very well at getting national money."

Boushey added WSU is hiring a new director of the viticulture and enology program to succeed Dr. Ray Folwell who retired, and the job description will include searching for outside research grant money. He said that the industry has been successful receiving USDA Risk Management Agency grants through the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers, with much of it funding projects related to helping growers and wine producers manage risk.