Tackling the Grape Industry's Big Nuisance—Powdery Mildew
Powdery mildew (PM) resistance consistently ranks as a top research priority facing the United States grape industry. PM is the most significant grape disease in California—and likely worldwide—in terms of expenses for control and losses in quality and yield. However, traditional methods for breeding PM-resistant cultivars frequently results in reduced fruit quality. Winemakers report that poor sensory attributes and color are major challenges to using PM-resistant hybrids, particularly the presence of high acidity, low tannin and color stability, and off-aromas.
VitisGen2—led by Bruce I. Reisch, School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture, and his many collaborators—was launched to address this problem by developing new grape cultivars with high fruit quality and resistance to PM. The VitisGen2 team is building on previous developments of novel economic, phenotyping, and genomics knowledge and tools related to new grape cultivars. They’re also translating these innovations into new applications for improving grape breeding programs and managing existing vineyard plantings.
The project consists of multiple teams—with collaborators from the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Food Science, the School of Integrative Plant Science, the Institute of Biotechnology, and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service. These teams bring expertise and pursue questions in the economics of introducing new traits, high-throughput evaluation of those traits, as well as the genetics and breeding of the new cultivars. Collectively, the work is using advanced plant breeding and genomics approaches to improve grape characteristics and enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of grape production. This will potentially save the United States grape industry millions each year and improve the quality of American grapes and grape products.