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Troy, N.Y. -  9/18/2017

LRC Collaborating With Cornell on $6.5 Million Grant From USDA to Develop the Next Generation of Grapes

GrapesThe Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is collaborating with Cornell University on a $6.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Specialty Crop Research Initiative to develop the next generation of grapes. The project, VitisGen2, is a collaboration of 25 scientists from 11 institutions who are working in multidisciplinary teams to accelerate development of new grape varieties that are more flavorful and sustainable.

The LRC will be partnering with Drs. Lance Cadle-Davidson of the USDA Agricultural Research Service and David Gadoury of Cornell University to create an automated phenotyping system, which will quantify the amount of plant pathogens, such as powdery mildew, found on grape leaves. The system will incorporate novel lighting and image processing techniques to dramatically improve diagnostic and assessment speeds. In partnership with U.S. grape breeders, the research team will use the phenotyping system for genetic analysis of resistance to these pathogens. One outcome of VitisGen2 will be new grape varieties with natural resistance to common pathogens.

The team is also looking at ways to track the plant pathogen population, allowing researchers to determine which pesticides are most effective at specific times of the season, thereby reducing pesticide spraying and increasing its efficacy.

The overall goal of the project is to develop high-quality grapes that can be grown at lower cost and adapt easily to a range of geographic regions and climates, all with less environmental impact.

The work has the potential to save millions of dollars annually for the U.S. grape industry—in excess of $100 million in California alone, according to Dr. Bruce Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics at Cornell, who co-leads the project with Dr. Cadle-Davidson.

Looking to the future, the VitisGen2 teams aim to expand the use of high-throughput DNA and plant evaluation technology to improve the quality of wine, raisin and table grapes, as well as rootstocks. VitisGen2 is using genome sequencing to identify markers within numerous genes of interest to better understand which genes are controlling priority traits.

Ultimately, VitisGen2 will bring greater efficiency to grape growing, which is an intensive, comprehensive and costly process.

Further Reading
Cornell-led project to improve grapes gets big boost
Cornell Chronicle – September 2017 


About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC has been pioneering research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, and energy efficiency for nearly 30 years. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. LRC researchers conduct independent, third-party testing of lighting products in the LRC's state of the art photometric laboratories, the only university lighting laboratories accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP Lab Code: 200480-0). In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.”