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Surry Community offers grape pests, diseases and disorders class

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DOBSON — Beginning and experienced viticulturists may benefit from a 16-week course at Surry Community College entitled “Grape Pests, Diseases and Disorders” which is set to begin Jan. 13 and runs until May 12.


The 16-week course will meet Monday nights for a three-hour, weekly lecture taught by Ashley Myers, SCC Science Division Chair who has a master’s degree in plant pathology from North Carolina State University and has performed graduate research focusing on Pierce’s disease.


“Myers’ background in grape pathology as an extension specialist, along with her wine-growing experience in the Yadkin Valley, allows the course material to be directed to the real needs of our grape growing area. The course is taught from the perspective of the vineyard owner who combats seasonal pest and disease issues while focusing on quality wine production and vineyard cost savings,” said Dr. Jami Woods, vice president of curriculum programs at SCC. “Knowledge gained in the course will be immediately applicable. It is also very unique to have an instructor at a community college who is specialized in grape pathology.”


The course provides an introduction to pests and diseases of wine grapes and focuses on identification of the major pests and diseases and methods for control. Nutritional disorders and freeze/frost mitigation will also be covered. Students will be trained in safe pesticide handling and application; calibration of application equipment; and how to make economical and effective control choices. Upon completion of the class, students obtain the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Private Pesticide Applicator’s License.


“Any viticulturist should take this class because it focuses on applications that even experienced growers can benefit from reviewing such as easy, field methods of identification; latest news on pesticides releases; and practical information on calibration and pesticide handling,” Myers said. “We are hoping to attract anyone to this course who wants more information about growing wine grapes on the East Coast, whether they are current students, former students, vineyard managers, vineyard owners, or winemakers looking to expand their knowledge. There is something in the course for everyone.”


Myers, a native of Yadkin County, attended North Carolina State University where she majored in biological sciences. Immediately upon receiving her Bachelor’s of Science, she entered into the plant pathology master’s of science program. Her graduate research focused on identifying the primary insect vectors of a prominent and lethal bacterial grapevine disease – Pierce’s disease. Myers received several industry awards during her graduate studies including the 2005 winner for the American Society for Enology and Viticulture Eastern Section Best Student Paper; the 2005 American Society of Enology and Viticulture Eastern Section Scholarship; the 2005 American Wine Society (AWS) Scholarship; and the 2004 G. Hamilton Mowbray Memorial Scholarship AWS. Her paper, “Pierce’s disease of grapevines: Identification of the Primary Vectors in North Carolina,” was published in Phytopathology in 2007.


After graduating summa cum laude with a Master’s in Science, Myers went to Virginia Tech’s Alston H. Smith Research and Extension Center as Virginia’s Grape Pathology Extension Specialist working with Dr. Tony Wolf. Her duties included monitoring the spread of Pierce’s disease in Virginia; vector identification of Grapevine Yellows disease; classifying pesticide resistant strains of downy mildew; and disease control education.


As an extension specialist, much of Myers’ time was spent visiting growers, diagnosing pest problems and developing educational information for the grape grower. She was also able to attend industry conferences in North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, New York and California wine regions to learn about topics ranging from grapevine trunk diseases to Pierce’s disease to general viticulture, enology and marketing.


Myers has worked in the North Carolina wine industry for 12 years. Her family owns Laurel Gray Vineyards, located in both the Yadkin Valley and Swan Creek American Viticulture areas. Laurel Gray has received numerous awards, including 2009 Winegrower of Excellence for the State of North Carolina and the 2013 NC Winegrowers Cup for their 2012 Estate Reserve Merlot.


Surry Community College began offering courses in Viticulture in 1999 through the Continuing Education Division and now offers a degree, diploma and a certificate in Viticulture and Enology Technology. Curriculum classes in Viticulture were first offered in the Fall of 2000 with Enology classes added in 2001.


Classroom instruction is supported by a teaching vineyard and state-of-the-art, bonded winery where students gain hands-on experience. The Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology opened in the Fall of 2010, offering enhanced learning opportunities for students. SCC won eight medals in 2013 for student-produced wine from the American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition, the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition and the North Carolina State Fair.


Persons may obtain more information about the class by contacting Ashley Myers at myersa225@surry.edu or (336) 386-3510.

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