Vitifutur aims at bringing research and practice together. How can we translate the knowledge generated through research into specific applications? This is our main goal in the project, because it is the only way to give relevance to this knowledge. This conversion has many facets; for instance, our research findings form an integral part of the recommendations on cultivation of grape vine. This enables us to face the spread of pathogens more efficiently and to prevent the development of resistance.
However, we always keep the general public in mind. After all, what is the use in all our efforts for a more sustainable viticulture, if no one wants to buy the product in the end? As a consequence, a scientific evaluation of the general public’s opinion of sustainable viticulture is an integral part of Vitifutur.
The breeding of fungi-resistant grape varieties (Piwis) is a scientific success story. The smart use of natural biodiversity enabled us to create new varieties that require the use of very little or even no pesticides at all.
Of course, the greatest invention has little value if no one buys the final product. The history of Piwis is one of many political and legal obstacles: during National Socialism it was prohibited to perform research on those varieties, because European varieties were distorted with “American blood”. In the 1970s it was established Europe-wide that quality wine may only be produced from the variety Vitis vinifera; in some counties the cultivation of Piwis was even banned. It was not until 2008 that France relaxed this general ban and approved 20 new varieties.
Ultimately, the view that these grape varieties, who’s DNA often consists of 90% or more of the DNA of Vitis vinifera, are actually to be considered Vitis vinifera prevailed.
However, the acceptance of Piwi varieties is still an issue, as many consumers prefer traditional varieties and are initially skeptical about new varieties and names.
Events such as „The Best of Piwis“, which is organized by the project partner WBI, help to improve the acceptance of Piwi varieties among the general public, and at the same time provide a picture on how the consumers evaluate these wines. Anonymous wine tastings may reveal interesting trends – those who are not very fond of Pinot noir, judge the Piwi Cabenet cortis as the finer (and more expensive) variety. A strategy that uses these individual differences can certainly help to tap into new markets, especially among younger people.
The first step to developing new marketing strategies for Piwi varieties is a scientific evaluation of the consumers’ acceptance of Piwis. As a start, it is evaluated how widespread Piwi varieties are in the Upper Rhine region in the first place and in what form they are marketed. In a second step, hypothesis that are based on this newly-gained knowledge are tested empirically in interviews with experts from the wine industry. The results of these surveys give important clues for successful marketing strategies of Piwis.
Vine varieties (Vitis vinifera), which have been cultivated in Europe for thousands of years, are infected time and again by highly specialized pathogens, causing considerable losses of quality and yield. Among these pathogens, the vine peronospora (Plasmopara viticola), also known as downy mildew of the grapevine, stands out for its distinct virulence. High average temperatures and frequent rainy periods foster the rapid spread of the pathogen. In some years, these epidemics, which are difficult to control, have occurred as early as spring. The climate-change related increase of warm periods and heavy rainfall events enhance the risk of serious epidemics with considerable economic damage. In light of the highly susceptibility of the classical European vine varieties to peronospora, and the increasing frequency of epidemics, innovative methods to secure quality and yield are urgently needed. One way to achieve this is by cultivating grape varieties that are highly resistant to vine peronospora. In this subproject, several research institutions are working together to promote viticulture with resistant grape varieties through scientific work, practical innovations and transfer of knowledge.
Our research aims at getting a deeper understanding of resistance mechanisms in grape vine. This newly-gained knowledge consequently serves as basis for breeding work. For this purpose, early stages of infection of the vine peronospora at potential crossing partners are characterized and the interaction of the pathogen with its host plant is analysed. The dynamics and effectiveness of the resistance mechanisms are evaluated in the laboratory and under practical conditions. A close cooperation between the partners from basic university research and applied viticultural research allows the use of the latest microscopic, biochemical and molecular biological methods. Our research will help to identify grape vine strains with improved resistance to vine peronospora as candidates for breeding work, while maintaining high standards of product quality.
The cultivation of resistant grape varieties requires new management systems. It is particularly important to protect the quality and yield of the vine from infestion with peronospora under conditions of high infestation pressure caused by specific weather conditions. Furthermore, there is a risk of resistance erosion during extensive epidemics. Therefore, novel crop protection strategies need to be developed and evaluated. The evaluation of these sustainable management systems as well as plant protection strategies of sustainable crop protection strategies with resistant vine varieties is carried out in close cooperation with the wine-growing industry. In order to do so, yield vineyards with resistant varieties are used to determine the level of resistance, the health of the foliage wall and grapes, as well as yield and quality. The data will be scientifically analyzed and results regarding management systems and strategies will be presented to the wine-growing industry.
A prerequisite for a successful sustainable viticulture with resistant grape varieties is that these new varieties are accepted by the wine industry as well as wine consumers. In order the wine industry to decide to cultivate these varieties, the most important criteria are reliable resistance, stable yields and high quality as well as marketing potential. Only if wine consumers accept and demand resistant varieties, it will be possible to establish the cultivation of these varieties in the wine industry. Therefore, scientifically based surveys in the wine industry on the acceptance of resistant grape varieties create the preconditions for the introduction of the varieties into practice and their placement on the market.
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