Wonderful Nurseries Lives Up to Its “Growers First” Reputation
Innovation and expansion have set the recent tone for Wonderful Nurseries, the largest grapevine nursery in North America for both wine and table grapes. Ideally situated in Wasco, California, on the edge of the southern San Joaquin Valley, Wonderful Nurseries prides itself on its reputation for personal attention, outstanding selection, and the cleanest grapevines in the industry.
Breakthrough Products and Processes
Known for its “Growers First” philosophy, the nursery is part of The Wonderful Company, a privately held $4.8 billion global entity committed to offering high-quality, healthy brands, ranging from fruits, nuts, and flowers, to water, wines, and fresh juices. Among the company’s iconic brands are Fiji Water, JUSTIN Vineyards, Paramount Citrus, POM Wonderful, Wonderful Orchards, Wonderful Almonds & Pistachios, and Landmark Vineyards.
Reflecting its parent company’s same unflinching commitment to success, Wonderful Nurseries has quickly moved forward, adding a new $25 million high-tech greenhouse, a state-of-the-art in-house testing laboratory, and the largest new plantings of 2010 Protocol mother blocks in the industry to effectively safeguard against disease and infestation.
Breakthrough products continue to spring forth, such as the nursery’s new tall dormant vines and its revolutionary new Root Sock delivery system that eliminates pots and trays in the fields, while saving labor time and costs.
“We are totally committed to our ‘Growers First’ philosophy,” says Dustin Hooper, Wonderful Nurseries Director of Sales. “In order to fulfill that mission, we have put ourselves on the cutting edge of innovative technology and processes. That means always moving forward, always pushing the envelope to give our grower partners the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer and never settling for the status quo.”
Building Blocks of Innovation
The visionary greenhouse, built on the property within the past year, features an 8 million vine capacity at 4 million vines per pass. It also operates an advanced clean process in which all potential entry points are protected with 0.3 mm² screening. There is also positive/negative air pressure of all areas with outside access preventing insect entry at all doorways and connecting buildings. Specialized lighting systems, bottom bench heat, and automated irrigation, in combination with other elements, ensure a controlled, optimal growing environment, and reduce growth times up to four weeks. The multi-faceted greenhouse focuses on zero material waste and modular flexibility to expand as needed.
One of the key elements of Wonderful Nurseries’ innovation push is its new in-house testing laboratory, located 20 minutes from the nursery in nearby Shafter. Directed by highly respected Dr. Tefera Mekuria, Ph.D., this advanced internal lab uses qPCR (Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction), the most sensitive and precise commercial vine testing technology available. The lab will test and process over 100,000 samples in 2017 alone.
The lab has been ISO17025:2005 certified by A2LA for pathology testing for grapevine viruses, Pierce’s Disease, Red Blotch and powdery mildew using the latest FPS testing protocols from UC Davis for currently known viruses and strains of viruses. This advanced laboratory, the only certified vine testing lab in North America, can also perform ranch block analysis for in-depth detail on your vineyard health status and is offering its lab services to its valued grower partners. Fungal and bacterial testing services are available as well.
“The lab certification is just one more step in providing advanced technology that greatly improves the state of the industry,” notes Wonderful Nurseries Director of Quality Brad Kroeker. “This expertise and scientific innovation shows that quality is an overriding priority for us.”
Meeting FPS Protocols
Following strict protocols established by Foundation Plant Services (FPS), University of California Davis, the lab has instituted built-in safeguards to optimize the cleanliness of the entire operation. Every testing step, for example, is conducted in a different analysis room to avoid any cross contamination.
Says lab director Mekuria, “We are striving to establish ourselves as the leading resource for qualitative testing with faster turnaround, increased sample sizes and uncompromising attention to detail. First and foremost, that means ensuring a pristine testing environment.”
Greener, Cleaner Technology
All of the company’s new innovations have been designed for eco-friendly operation, through technologies such as water reclamation, material recycling, and 100% use of reusable plastic bins and trays. The plastic bins and trays provide an added benefit over wood, which is harder to sanitize and, because of its porosity, can house pathogens that can be passed on between production lots. This potential problem has been taken out of the equation at Wonderful Nurseries where all of the plastic is cleaned and sanitized in a new, advanced steam sanitation room, which is part of the elaborate new greenhouse operation. In fact, Wonderful Nurseries has invested more than $1 million in its sanitation technology alone.
New Ideas Bearing Fruit
The company has also taken the initiative in creating the eco-friendly, bio-degradable Root Sock system that is globally exclusive to Wonderful’s operation. The Wonderful Nurseries Root Sock saves time and money by eliminating pots and trays in the fields; reducing labor costs and precipitating a 25% to 50% faster planting rate. The Root Sock is adaptable to all programs with potential to add fertilizer, Mycorrhizae and more, and is palletized for quick, easy unloading.
New tall dormant vines, developed with Wonderful Nurseries’ grower partners in mind, add yet another dimension that makes growing easier. These vines are immediately ready for the training wire, with no need for extra labor. Because they are more mature, the tall dormant vines possess a hardier root system, leading to a more robust yield with a reduced time to fruit production. The vines are ideal for replanting, too, since they do not get shaded out by older adjacent vines.
In a test collaboration with UCCE Viticulture Farm Advisor Larry Bettiga and Constellation Wines, Wonderful Nurseries found that tall dormant vines have proven superior to tall potted vines in root mass and first year growth. Logistically, they are easier to transport as well, especially considering that 50,000 + tall dormant vines can be delivered efficiently by semi-truck, compared to just 6,000 tall potted vines.
It’s this wide range of value-added selections that has enabled Wonderful Nurseries to maintain its loyal client base and increase market share. For instance, it has successfully planted a new ENTAV-INRA mother block of 40 acres on virgin soil, to supply its grower partner demands. Some vines will be available for 2018 planting, with larger quantities in 2019. These ENTAV-INRA licensed clones point to a nursery that continues to stay a step ahead, both in terms of technology and in addressing the changing needs of its grower partners.
Honoring the Commitment
Underlying the entire operation is a firm resolve to cultivate and deliver the cleanest vine material in the industry. In order to gain and maintain its customers’ unwavering trust, Wonderful Nurseries has set a goal of establishing new isolated mother blocks on virgin soil to supply 95% of its production needs by 2018. These mother blocks are established with 2010 Protocol Material just as it is released from F.P.S. UC Davis. Not only does Wonderful Nurseries plant these clean materials in pristine conditions, but it also utilizes its internal lab to test 100% of the mother vines annually.Even though the material is the best of the best, Wonderful Nurseries continues to screen everything with meticulous care, through 37 different QC checks throughout the process. The company has even begun growing its rootstock blocks on trellises to further decrease the risk of pests and pathogens.
It is clear that Wonderful Nurseries believes only the finest, cleanest vine products should be provided to those it serves. To that end, the company has embarked on a determined quest to utilize the most powerful and innovative ideas and technology at its disposal.
“Ours is an industry where even minor missteps can be devastating,” said Hooper. “So we are constantly vigilant, always thinking ahead and looking for ways to improve our product and our processes. At Wonderful Nurseries, we believe that excellence is the only acceptable outcome. And we continue to be a leader in that pursuit.”
To learn more about Wonderful Nurseries, visit www.WonderfulNurseries.com, or call (661) 758-4777. For more information about The Wonderful Company, its products and core values, visit www.Wonderful.com.
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