Certification & Foundation FAQ

Before you buy, sell, plant or trade grapevines, tree fruit or hops we recommend you read this “Frequently Asked Questions” section to gain a better understanding of certified, foundation, and quarantine terminology.

Producing a single vine, fruit tree or hop (plant) that is tested and free of a long list of pathogens (viruses and virus-like organisms) that degrade the quality and quantity of production is a very time and resource consuming process. It is too expensive to produce acres of plants with material that has been tested to this standard. To make disease control practical, a plant of each clone is subjected to the complete pathogen elimination and testing procedure. These plants are called ‘Foundation’ plants. They are then propagated by nurseries following a protocol defined by each state to minimize re-infection. The plants produced this way are called ‘Certified’ plants.

The label of ‘Certified’ is the result of a healthy plant being propagated using procedures to minimize infection and disease spread, and this process is legally defined by each state’s Department of Agriculture. In this process, a ‘Mother Block’ is planted at a nursery with plants obtained from a ‘Foundation’ program. State regulations govern the details of how ‘Mother Block’ planting is done and specifies acceptable plant sources, block isolation distances and other operation parameters. Plants from the ‘Mother Block’ are propagated to produce ‘Certified’ plants. If a plant is grafted onto rootstock, both the scion and the rootstock have to meet these standards to qualify as ‘Certified’.

Planting ‘Certified’ material helps prevent the introduction and/or spread of many unwanted diseases. Unlike insects and many fungal diseases, the viruses, viroids, phytoplasmas and bacteria addressed by certification programs cannot be controlled by chemical sprays after plants are infected. Once disease is established, it is difficult and costly to eradicate. Planting ‘Certified’ plants is the best insurance for a healthy and profitable farm.

‘Foundation’ plants are the original source of a nursery’s ‘Mother Block’. Each vine in a ‘Mother Block’ can be traced back to a single vine ‘Foundation’ source. Minimum standards for a ‘Foundation’ vineyard, orchard or hop yard (planting) are determined by Washington State Administrative Code (WAC) and the National Clean Plant Network-Grapes, Fruit Trees and Hops programs. For example, in Washington, ‘Foundation’ grapevines come from grapevines established and maintained by the Clean Plant Center Northwest (CPCNW) at Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center. ‘Foundation’ material can also come from other equivalently defined ‘Foundation’ sources as determined by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

The CPCNW provides Foundation plants to participating certified nurseries or other customers. This Foundation stock meets or exceeds the quarantine and certification codes in the clean plant stock programs of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The CPCNW acquires selections for inclusion in the Foundation program, performs the necessary procedures to clean up or ensure that the material is free of regulated pathogens, maintains stock records, and evaluates varieties to ensure they are true-to-type.

A ‘Quarantine’ is a restriction on the transportation of plant material across specified boundaries. Washington State has a quarantine on planting stock coming in from other states and territories in the USA. Quarantine rules and mandates for Washington are found in WAC 16-481 and WAC 16-483. Washington, Oregon, New York, and Idaho have quarantines specific for grapevine, fruit tree and hop pests.

A federal quarantine regulates plant imports from other countries. Foreign-originating planting stock must satisfy the federal quarantine rules, with either accepted phytosanitary

Plant material can be purchased from outside of the USA, but all federal importation and phytosanitary requirements must be met. ‘Certified’ grapevines from an approved program in Canada do not require a ‘foreign import station’ for entry into the USA. In Washington, this stock can be directly planted into a commercial vineyard, but if it is destined to be propagated and distributed, a permit is required. A permit for this activity can be obtained from USDA-APHIS-PPQ.

Certified plant material can be purchased from outside of the state, but the stock must meet the recipient state’s quarantine requirements. The certification programs in California and Oregon are recognized by Washington. NOTE: While these certification programs are recognized, they may not have the same list of regulated pathogens as required of Washington State Certified Nurseries. It is important to know which certification program your planting stock has gone through, in order to understand to which disease agents the material is certified free.

Unfortunately, non-certified plant material can be purchased at nurseries and retail outlets. For example, Washington State quarantines only grapevines coming into the state; nurseries and growers can propagate vines from sources other than registered ‘Mother Blocks’. Sale of this material is legal within Washington state boundaries. Sales to other states are legal only if the material complies with the quarantine regulations of the recipient state.

Selections considered for inclusion in the foundation plantings go through a selection process. To begin the process: (1) a proposal for a variety/clone is submitted to the CPCNW; (2) the CPCNW presents proposals to a selection committee of industry members for approval or rejection; (3) CPCNW acquires the selection and completes requirements (pathogen elimination and testing) for inclusion in the ‘Foundation’ plantings. Proposals for inclusion are open to all, but due to limitations on acquisition funding and propagation space, not all requests will be honored. This process occurs annually.

The National Clonal Germplasm Repository is a federally administered program whose entities collect, maintain, characterize, and distribute many types of plants. Its purpose is to preserve diversity. The repository does not offer certified plants and thus ready accessibility is limited to research purposes if they are unable to satisfy state quarantine requirements for general entry.