Natural solution to botrytis developed

Deep within the laboratories of Reims University a professor called Christophe Clément is working on a longterm solution to the spread of botrytis in Champagne vineyards without using fungicides.

botrytis grapes

Botrytis infection on grapes

As first reported in the December issue of the drinks business, the research centres on promoting a response in the plant that will prevent a fungal infection, rather than treating something that has already taken hold.

“We have two different kinds of technology,” begins Clément. The first of these involves the use of natural molecules that stimulate the vine’s defence mechanisms to an infection such as thickening cell walls. Called “elictors”, they originate from bacteria, and Clément is currently trialling collections of bacteria to find the most effective.

The second technique is called “biocontrol” and sees the application of natural beneficial micro-organisms that can be taken up from the roots and diffuse in the vine to help it protect itself against diseases, as well as stimulate growth.

Christophe Clement

Christophe Clément is Professeur de Physiologie Végétale at the Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne

Clément says he’s had 100% success in the laboratory with these techniques, but only 30% success when these same approaches are applied in the field. Explaining the disparity he says, “There are so many parameters in the vineyard that can stress the plant, and these make it hard to increase the level of defence mechanisms enough to resist the attack of botrytis.”

However, he believes that in the near future Champagne growers should be able to use elicitors and micro-organisms in combination with fungicides, helping reduce the region’s reliance on sprays yet further.

Phytochemical and pesticide use in France:

• Viticulture represents 2-3% of the cultivated area in France and 30-50% of the chemicals used for agriculture in the country.

• Of the pesticides used in viticulture, 50% are fungicides, 35% are herbicides and 10% are insecticides, with the remaining 5% used for raticides among other more niche treatments.

Source: Chrisophe Clément/ Unité de Recherche – Vignes et Vins de Champagne (URVVC)

5 Responses to “Natural solution to botrytis developed”

  1. Tom Stevenson says:

    Excellent piece and it makes a change to hear good news!

  2. Davide Togni says:

    Another good news from Mr Clément’s URVVC team !
    Yet, I’m still so sad because, as usually, the Champagne’s vinegrowers and theirs consultant, will completely ignore the results of the University of Reims.

    • Tom Stevenson says:

      Totally agree Davide. They will agree with the findings then ignore them, just as so many consultants agree that Champagne’s premox problems are due to inadequate SO2, but so many growers irresponsibly use lower and lower sulphur without adjusting their winemaking regime for idealistic reasons and the consultants are too frightened to say “boo”. What will be the reason why they will ignore this potentially green way to protect against botrytis? The non-scientific idealists will claim the technology of elicitors and biocontrols is “unnatural”, while the absentee landlords just don’t care how much chemicals their hirelings dump on the vineyards, so we will end up with botrytis being rife in parts of the vineyards, while chemicals poison other parts. There is, however, a growing number of growers and houses who are both scientifically well grounded and concerned about the environment. Hopefully they will demonstrate the benefits of Professor Clément’s hard work.

  3. Jan Meneley says:

    We have in registration at EPA the biofungicide Prestop. Very good control of Botrytis in greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers, ornamentals. Has not been tested in vines. I will contact Clement to see if he knows about Prestop since it originates from Europe.

  4. Tim Martinson says:

    Have been hearing about promotors and elicitors for years. Am a big skeptic. Thin skins and tight grape clusters (bunches) plus moisture = berry splitting and berry to berry spread of botrytis. Good luck with this.

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