Media releases

  • Brock’s CCOVI to co-lead $6.2-million national research program supporting clean plant program for grapevines

    MEDIA RELEASE: 28 October 2020 – R0162

    A $6.2-million multi-partner funding commitment will allow Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) to support the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN-RCCV) to fast-track the certification of grapevine planting material as virus-free.

    Under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP), CLEan plAnt extractioN SEquencing Diagnostics (CLEANSED) is a jointly funded initiative between Brock, CFIA, CGCN-RCCV, University of Victoria, Université de Sherbrooke, Genome Canada, Genome BC, Genome Quebec, Ontario Genomics, Agriculture and Agri Food Canada (AAFC), Compute Canada, Conseil des vins du Quebec and Illumina.

    CLEANSED uses High-Throughput Sequencing technology with improved sensitivity to simultaneously detect multiple viruses in a grapevine. This genomic-based solution would replace more than 30 tests currently being performed on grapevines to look for diseases. This one genomic test can speed up the release of virus-free grapevine material from three years to one year or less, providing rapid access to valuable new varieties. CGCN-RCCV will use this for testing and monitoring domestically propagated vines, ensuring grape growers have faster and more affordable access to clean vines.

    “This funding will allow grape growers to rapidly improve the health of their vineyards and boost the domestic capacity in the supply of much needed virus-free grapevine plant material in Canada,” says CCOVI Senior Scientist Sudarsana Poojari, who is leading the academic team of scientists.

    The end users of the research are CFIA and CGCN-RCCV, which will implement CLEANSED to ensure Canadian grapevines start clean and stay clean. CFIA ensures grapevine imports, exports and new domestic grapevine varieties for commercialization in Canada are free of regulated viruses and all non-regulated viruses of economic concern, while CGCN will approve and commercialize CLEANSED for testing grapevines in a national domestic clean plant program.

    “The CFIA is pleased to co-lead this project that will implement genomic technologies in support of a leading-edge national ‘clean plant’ program and diagnostics at the Sidney Centre for Plant Health,” says Jaspinder Komal, Vice-President, Science Branch, CFIA. “The solid science of the project will help our grape growers to quickly access healthy plants of diverse new varieties, resulting in increased production. Such approaches will be able to facilitate adaptation of Canadian and world agriculture to climate change.”

    The research is a collaborative effort between academia, government and industry to tackle grapevine virus disease management, which has been identified as the top priority for long-term sustainability of the $9-billion Canadian grape and wine industry.

    Grape growers currently lose an estimated $23 million per year due to grapevine virus infections. In order to both replace infected material and maintain routine vine replacement and modest expansion, growers currently need access to an estimated 6.7 million affordable, virus-free vines.

    High cost and convoluted testing methods, however, have been hindering the ability of growers to obtain those vines, says CGCN Vice-Chair and grape grower Bill Schenck.

    “As growers across the country continue to deal with viruses that effect crop quality and vine health, the timing could not be more perfect than now for this project,” he says. “The industry needs to have a Canadian source of clean vines that have been tested for viruses, and a program that can show the vines are true to type.”

    He says this work will standardize and validate high throughput sequence screening protocols, allowing it to be implemented into a clean grapevine program driven by the industry it benefits.

    Mike Rott, Receptor Project Leader and CFIA Scientist, says reducing the time and cost of testing, while at the same time improving sensitivity and accuracy through CLEANSED, is “critical in a highly competitive international market.”

    CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis says this announcement is the culmination of three years of collaborative work to tackle this priority issue, including previously developed Memorandums of Understanding between CCOVI and AAFC, CFIA and CGCN to support a clean plant program for grapevines in Canada.

    “We’re always looking for rapid, sensitive cost-efficient ways to prove that plant material is devoid from disease, and the application of this research is a milestone for Canada,” she says. “Grapevine is leading the way for the first official clean plant program in the country, where we can be assured that the plants we’re propagating and putting into the ground are free from disease.”

    Brock Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon says “CCOVI consistently brings together major stakeholders in the grape and wine sector to produce breakthrough policies, programs and services in the industry, generating major contributions to local and national economies.

    “This significant grant from Genome Canada shows the confidence stakeholders place in CCOVI’s leadership, research and innovation, one example being the leading-edge CLEANSED virus detection tool.”

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University or 905-347-1970 

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Weekend of virtual events to explore theatre in the age of climate change

    MEDIA RELEASE: 27 October 2020 – R0161

    Activism and climate change will collide with performing arts over three days of online events held as part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series.

    Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) has teamed up with the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre to offer online performances and virtual discussions from Friday, Nov. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 15.

    Convened by DART Professors David Fancy and Karen Fricker, the weekend will include the sharing of five commissioned performances meant to inspire conversation and critical thought, as well as a live-streamed performance of Broadleaf Theatre’s award-winning production, The Chemical Valley Project, co-created by Kevin Matthew Wong and Julia Howman, and a panel discussion with contributing artists including Fancy, Wong and Santee Smith from Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.

    As part of the Walker Cultural Leaders Series, Brock University commissioned 10 regional theatre artists to create short online presentations exploring the climate crisis in relation to any area of their interest. The first five performances will be showcased as part of the November event and will include artists who are performers, designers, educators and writers. These artists have explored a multitude of themes in relation to climate change including consumerism, feminism, colonialism, COVID-19, healing, ecological grief and more. Excerpts of these works in progress will be shown followed by a Q&A session allowing the audience to engage with the performers.

    “We’re committed to manifesting Marilyn Walker’s vision and legacy of cultural leadership by bringing creative and critical attention to the climate crisis,” said Fancy. “We’re especially grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with the PAC on this series of presentations.”

    Annie Wilson, PAC’s Programming Supervisor, said the “climate crisis is going to require our collective creativity to rise to its challenges.”

    “We appreciate the chance to work alongside Brock’s Dramatic Arts Department to build this opportunity to reflect as a community on this most important issue.”

    Upcoming Walker Cultural Leaders Series events:

    Friday, Nov. 13:

    Walker Cultural Leaders Series commissioned artists — 5 to 6:30 p.m.

    Dani Shae Barkley — exploring the economy, globalization, ecological grief and the climate

    Kelly Wolf — exploring feminism and the climate

    Iain Lidstone — exploring the relationship between land and healing

    Excerpts will be followed by a discussion chaired by Michelle Mohammed.


    The Chemical Valley Project by Broadleaf Theatre, co-created by Kevin Matthew Wong and Julia Howman — 7 p.m.

    Livestreamed performance from Robertson Theatre at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Presented by the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in partnership with Brampton’s Rose Theatre, Kingston’s Grand Theatre and Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. Supported by Ontario Presents and Ontario Arts Council.


    Saturday, Nov. 14:

    The Chemical Valley Project by Broadleaf Theatre — 2 p.m.

    A second livestreamed performance of The Chemical Valley Project from Robertson Theatre at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.


    Sunday, Nov. 15:

    Land, Water, Activism, Performance: A talkback and discussion panel — 1 p.m. 

    A panel discussion moderated by Karen Fricker featuring Kevin Matthew Wong of Broadleaf Theatre; Santee Smith, Artistic Director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre; and DART Professor David Fancy. Topics will include Broadleaf Theatre’s commitment to climate-focused dramaturgy; Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Indigenous futurist dance production Skén:nen; and the upcoming Theatre Training in the Era of Climate Crisis volume and conference co-edited and organized by Fancy.


    Walker Cultural Leaders Series commissioned artists ­— 2 to 3:30 p.m.

    James McCoy — exploring fatigue and the climate; the emotional response to climate change

    Adrienne Smoke — presenting Rona” exploring colonialism, COVID-19 and the climate

    Excerpts will be followed by a discussion chaired by Michelle Mohammed.

    Tickets for The Chemical Valley Project are pay-what-you-can and are available on the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre website. There are no tickets required for The Walker Cultural Leader Series commissioned artists, and Land, Water, Activism, Performance: A talkback and discussion panel. These events will be livestreamed on the PAC and MIWSFPA Facebook pages and the PAC’s YouTube page.

    All content will be available for viewing (by ticket holders where applicable) until Sunday, Nov. 29.


    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Gillian Minaker, Marketing and Communications Officer, Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts or 905-688-5550 x4765

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University or 905-347-1970 

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    Categories: Media releases