Potential of biostimulant application to increase biotic and abiotic resilience in grapevine
The cultivation of vines (Vitis vinifera L.) for the production of table grapes and wine has depended for many decades on the intensive use of chemicals to ensure quality production. However, increasing abiotic stress due to climate change and demand for products obtained through environmentally friendly and sustainable cultivation methods have encouraged the integration of organic production into viticulture. Products labelled as biostimulants are gradually gaining interest. However, the effective use of these products is limited by insufficient understanding of their impact on plant physiology. The vine is an economically important plant in South Africa (ZA) and Switzerland (CH), and sustainable wine grape production is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for agriculture. Therefore, this project aims to better understand the impact of biostimulants on the tolerance of vines to biotic and abiotic stresses. A multidisciplinary team of winegrowers and microbiologists from South Africa, as well as plant physiologists and bioinformaticians from Switzerland and France, will collaborate in this project to assess the influence of algae extracts and plant protein hydrolysates on the resilience of vines to water stress (a major challenge in South Africa and increasingly problematic in some parts of Switzerland). A combination of field studies (ZA) and climatic chamber studies (CH) will be carried out with Vitis vinifera or microvine model plants. In South Africa, microbiome analyses, phenotypic characterisation of vines and grapes, as well as chemical analyses of grape must and wine will be carried out, while in Switzerland, transcriptomic, metabolomic and epigenetic studies will be carried out in collaboration with French colleagues. The samples for the different analyses will be shared between the researchers and the student exchanges will create opportunities for the exchange of methods and knowledge between the two countries.