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Strategies for resilient grapevines
in the scope of climate change

    Photo: Ursula Brühl, JKI

The challenges

Climate change is a major challenge for the future viability of viticulture in the Upper Rhine region, as the increase in average temperature is associated with climate extremes such as increased UV radiation and the sudden change between drought and extreme precipitation events. In addition to direct damage to the grapes, the consequences for viticulture are also increased infestation pressure from grapevine diseases in particular vine peronospora (Plasmopara viticola) and Botrytis bunch rot (Botrytis cinerea). In order to meet these viticultural challenges in an eco-friendly manner and to increase the proportion of organically cultivated areas, an extended conversion to resistant grape varieties adapted to climate change is essential.

However, for grape varieties, that belong to the so-called PIWI grape varieties, and the existing breeding material for innovative grape varieties with combined resistances there is a lack of spatially and temporally high-resolution, cross-location data sets on berry skin stability as a basis for sustained grape health even under unfavourable weather conditions, as well as for maintaining disease resistance in the expected weather extremes.

Grauschimmelfäule (Botrytis cinerea) Grape with strong Botytris bunch rot caused by Botrytis cinerea | Photo: Katja Herzog, JKI

What we do

The aim of the WiVitis project is to strengthen the cross-border cooperation between science and viticultural practice in order to increase the sustainability of viticulture and adapt to the challenges caused by climate change. A multi-year and combined evaluation of PIWIs and breeding material with regard to various grape characteristics enables the further development of valid forecasting models (e.g. VitiMeteo) for grape health, makes it easier for viticultural practice to select varieties on the basis of site characteristics and thereby increases the introduction of new grape varieties into practice.

A comprehensive evaluation of PIWIs and breeding lines from the preliminary and main tests (=next PIWI generation), which have multiple resistance to mildew fungi makes it possible to estimate the resilience of grapes to weather extremes and to reduce the risk of vine peronospora and grape Botrytis. An induced temperature increase on potted grapevines will be used as an example to show the effect of a temperature increase caused by climate change on susceptibility to mildew fungi and Botrytis. The development of molecular markers for the early identification of breeding material with high Botrytis resistance is intended to provide an important building block for vine breeding.

Who WiVitis benefits

The most important target group for the implemented activities as part of the project are people involved in winegrowing practice. These are primarily the responsible managers of wineries and winegrowers' cooperatives who decide on the selection of varieties for new plantings. The project is also aimed directly at the organs of the wine industry that control the availability and cultivation of varieties. These include vine nurseries, official viticultural advisors and decision-makers in viticultural administrations, viticultural policy institutions as well as regional and national viticultural associations. The transfer of knowledge to the next generation is achieved by involving lecturers at vocational and technical colleges and universities. The target group of consumers and the population in the Upper Rhine region will be directly informed through current information and research reports on the website, short portraits and events about the potential of PIWIs as one of the most important ways of increasing sustainability in viticulture. In this way we contribute to further strengthening the relevance and image of PIWIs and reduce barriers by bundling knowledge and experience. WiVitis is a contribution to increasing sustainability in viticulture and adapting to climate change.

Weinberge in der Südpfalz Photo: Xiaorong Zheng, JKI


In the WiVitis newsletter, which is published twice a year, you can inform yourself about the current status of PIWI research, PIWI events and discussion forums.

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Julius Kühn-Institut Siebeldingen (JKI)
Institut für Rebenzüchtung


Katja Herzog
+49 6345 41 124

Scientific portrait
The Institute for Grapevine Breeding Geilweilerhof is one of the 18 research institutes of the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) and thus part of the departmental research in the portfolio of the german Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In addition to providing political advice to the Federal Government and the preservation and development of vine genetic resources, the third core task is vine breeding. The tasks and research of the institute are focussed on the development of the scientific basis for the breeding improvement of grapevines in order to ensure a diverse, efficient and environmentally and consumer-friendly cultivation against the background of climate change and the conservation of resources. To date, the institute has played a key role in the development of new sources of resistance and has developed a number of innovative methods to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the breeding process as part of its breeding research. These include, e.g. digital high-throughput methods of trait recording and the combination (pyramidisation) of different resistances to powdery and downy mildew using molecular markers. Furthermore the institute is increasingly concerned with issues relating to the influence of climate change.

Contribution to the project
The JKI is coordinating the project and providing experimental plots planted with breeding material, mapping populations and genetic resources. The comprehensive data basis is to be created using the sensor-based, automated methods of high-throughput phenotyping developed and established at the institute. For example, methods for grape and berry parameters as well as for automated recording and evaluation of infection tests on leaf discs and berries against vine peronospora and Botrytis will be used.

In addition to the research areas of digitalisation, breeding and resistance research, the JKI in Siebeldingen has very well-equipped laboratories and many years of expertise in the field of molecular genetic analyses and marker development for breeding. The close networking in viticultural practice is being further expanded in WiVitis and is available for the dissemination of the processed project results. All project results will be bundled at the JKI.

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Dienstleistungzentrum Ländlicher Raum Rheinpfalz (DLR RP)
Institut für Phytomedizin, Fachgebiet Mykologie und Bakteriologie


Ruth Walter
+41 6321 671-277

Scientific portrait
DLR Rheinpfalz, currently part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Transport, Agriculture and Viticulture, is responsible for agricultural, viticultural and horticultural consulting, adult education and experimentation, applied research in viticulture, oenology and phytomedicine as well as land development and rural land organisation. With a vocational school, a technical college for viticulture and horticulture and a connection to four Rhineland-Palatinate universities of applied sciences via Weincampus Neustadt with its four degree programmes, practical training is provided in teaching, experimentation, research and consulting. Fundamental components of the research activities at the Institute of Phytomedicine include the diagnosis of pathogens, investigations into the general biology of pathogens and the physiology of grapevines, research into the defence reactions of grapevines and the development of alternative control methods.

Contribution to the project
Studies on the epidemiology of grapevine peronospora (Plasmopara viticola), powdery mildew (Erysiphe necator) and grey mould (Botrytis cinerea ) on leaves, shoots and grapes of varieties agreed in the consortium are being carried out at the Rural Service Centre Rhine- Palatinate

Depending on the stage of development resilient PIWIs are tested in comparison with susceptible traditional grape varieties. The experiments take place in the laboratory, greenhouse and field.

Logo Forschungsinstitut für<br>biologischen Landbau (FiBL)
Forschungsinstitut für
biologischen Landbau (FiBL)

Departement Nutzpflanzenwissenschaften


Scientific portrait
The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ger. FiBL) has expertise in research, consulting and practice in the areas of organic production, PIWI varieties, plant protection and microbiology. Trials for the development of plant protection strategies are carried out under Good Experimental Practice (GEP) conditions. The viticulture team works on the further development of existing cultivation systems in organic viticulture in order to improve production conditions and promote sustainability. FiBL is very well networked with the wine industry, particularly with organic farms in Switzerland, and is able to ensure good collaboration with practitioners and work with partners and institutions along the whole value chain. The national and international exchange is important here. In addition, there is a close network with PIWI International and PIWI-CH as well as good connections to growers, in particular Valentin Blattner.

Contribution to the project
FiBL collects data on the susceptibility of PIWI varieties to Botrytis and vine peronospora on the stage of grape development and surface characteristics of the shoots and bunches. Depending on the stage of development grapes of resilient PIWIs are tested in comparison to susceptible traditional grape varieties.

Plasmopara viticola will be analysed at regular intervals from the beginning of the development of the canopy until the grapes are ready for harvest. On the one hand through natural infections under field conditions at various locations and on the other hand through inoculations, and the susceptibility to infections is assessed on the basis of sporulation intensity. Tests with Botrytis are also carried out from the stage of the development of the shoots until the grapes are ready for harvest. For this purpose, shoots/clusters in the vineyards are inoculated with Botrytis at different times and the infestation is assessed until autumn. Plots and varieties or variety candidates from different breeders will be made available for sampling or berry samples. The project results are analysed according to the evaluation matrix. FIBL is responsible for disseminating the project results on the Swiss side and is involved in the creation of extended variety descriptions for viticultural practice.

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INRAE Grand Est - Colmar
Santé de la Vigne et de la Qualité du Vin


Philippe Hugueney
+33 3 89 22 49 74

Scientific portrait
The partner INRAE-Colmar is the most important institute for breeding of new resistant grape varieties (PIWIs) in France and has internationally recognised experience in the fields of genetics and plant breeding, researching the interaction of vines with pathogenic organisms and studying the effects of climate change on viticulture. The partner has the entire infrastructure required for the cultivation of vines in greenhouses and vineyards, right through to analysing the metabolism of the vines. In the past years nine PIWI varieties have been developed new, which are resistant to downy and powdery mildew and produce high-quality wines. The close and long-standing cooperation with the wine industry guarantees optimal utilisation of the project results.

Contribution to the project
INRAE-Colmar will provide a selection of varieties of interest to the project and will be involved in phenotyping for disease resistance and in the development of a global warming simulation platform to study the response of grapes to high temperatures. This platform will allow the comparative study of PIWIs and breeding lines of the project partners.

INRAE-Colmar will carry out metabolomic analyses using mass spectrometry to characterise grape composition. Furthermore INRAE-Colmar will contribute to the implementation of the project results in the variety breeding programmes, to the production of French-language information material for viticultural practice and to the dissemination of the project results in the french wine-growing region.

Staatliches Weinbauinstitut Freiburg (WBI)
Staatliches Weinbauinstitut Freiburg (WBI)
Abteilung Biologie, Referat Phytopathologie und Diagnostik


René Fuchs
+49 761 40165-1101

Scientific portrait
The State Viticulture Institute Freiburg (ger. WBI) is a research and experimental facility of the state of Baden-Württemberg. The tasks of the institute are applied research and practice-related experimental activities in the fields of plant protection, resistance and clone breeding, viticulture and oenology. The focus is on research and development work on ecological and sustainable viticulture. The WBI is networked through co-operation with national and international universities and research institutes in the fields of phytopathology, grapevine resistance and breeding of PIWI varieties. The main focus is on grapevine peronospora, its infection mechanisms and epidemiology as well as its interaction with the host plant. Sufficient breeding strains with promising characteristics are available from the current cross-breeding work with PIWI. The musts of the products from the breeding are matured and analysed in the experimental winery at the institute. The development of new processes and wine styles in the oenology sector is intended to promote the establishment of new PIWI varieties.

Contribution to the project
Knowledge and experience are crucial on the subject of this project, particularly on the infection mechanisms and epidemiology of grapevine peronospora and Botrytis. In collaboration with the Nano Imaging Lab Basel, detailed investigations have been carried out in recent years on berry stability and the nanostructure of the berry surface, from which important findings have been derived for the resistance and resilience of the berries.

Based on the scientific and practical experience with these varieties, new breeding lines with improved characteristics and parent varieties are now ready for further cross-breeding. Areas are set aside for field studies and evaluations. Experience is available for the transfer of knowledge into practice and public relations work, and there are contacts with various media. The WBI is in active dialogue with representatives of the wine industry and the state winegrowing advisory service.

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Swiss Nanoscience Institute
Nano Imaging Lab (NI-Lab)


Marcus Wyss
+41 (0)61 207 65 26

Scientific portrait
The Nano Imaging Lab (NI-Lab) is part of the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) at the University of Basel. The SNI is a centre of excellence for nanoscience and nanotechnology. It was founded in 2006 by the Canton of Aargau and the University of Basel to promote research, education and technology transfer in the nanosciences and nanotechnology. With the help of the versatile laboratory equipment, surfaces can be precisely imaged and analysed and internal structures can be visualised down to atomic resolution. NI-Lab is equipped with various scanning electron microscopes (SEM), transmission electron microscopes (TEM) and atomic force microscopes (AFM). The NI-Lab also has focussed ion beam technology, confocal microscopes and various spectroscopic analysis options. It is also possible to image samples containing water without drying artefacts using shock freezing in the Cryo-SEM. The results of the analyses are bundled at the WBI and integrated into the evaluation matrix.

Contribution to the project
With the help of the expertise and equipment available at the Nano Imaging Lab (NI Lab), nanostructures of the berry surface can be depicted and analysed with extraordinary precision and informative value. The NI Lab contributes its many years of expertise in the field of cryo-scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM) to the characterisation of surfaces, including those of plants.

As the surface waxes of grapevines are very sensitive, only cryo-SEM can be used to analyse the surface of berries. It guarantees a high level of non-destructive visualisation of the nanostructure. With the help of the data obtained, researchers can characterise the surface properties of the berries and select suitable candidates with stable berry skins for further investigations.

Associated partners

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