A group of Washington State University researchers hope to dig to the bottom of a replant problem that's been plaguing concord grape growers for years.
When growers remove an old vineyard and replant with new concord plants, the vines frequently die within the first year, according to a news release.
At some time, nematodes and bacteria were blamed, but no one has pinpointed the cause.
Soil scientist Joan Davenport and her graduate student, Enrique Proano, want to change that.
They've also enlisted the expertise of Michelle Moyer, WSU Extension viticulturist, and U.S. Department of Agriculture plant pathologist Inga Zazada.
Until now, the one solution was growers would replant a vineyard on virgin ground or ground that hadn't been planted to vineyard for decades.
That leads scientists to suspect a soil-borne problem.
Proano has 140 young concord grape plants in pots in a WSU greenhouse in Prosser.
Virgin soil as well as samples from 14 other types are included in the study.
Proano is measuring key growth indicators.
During the 2014 season, they will move to the next phase.
If they find a problem with a soil type, they will sterilize the soil and plant again to see if it prevents replant issues.