Sustainable Prosecco project yields disease resistant seedlings

A project launched in the Prosecco wine lands in 2017, which aims to reduce fungicide usage by 70%, has yielded over 7,000 seedlings which are naturally resistant to diseases including downy and powdery mildew.

The Glera Resistente project, a joint initiative between the viticulture and oenology division of Italy’s Council for Agricultural Research (Crea-Ve) and the agricultural body Confagricoltura Treviso, has the backing of 17 major Prosecco producers.

As reported by ilgazzettino.it, Confagricoltura Treviso has announced that it has made significant process since launching the project at Vinexpo almost two years ago.

Experiments are now starting on over 7,000 Glera seedlings which have been developed by the project. In the second half of 2017, researchers crossed the Glera grape variety with “three different resistant parents” which had resistance to Peronospora and powdery mildew.

As a result of this crossing, around 5,000 seeds were extracted from the grapes produced, from which 2,900 seedlings were grown. Later, in May 2018, scientists made new crossings with different plants which expressed a resistance to Peronospora, powdery mildew and botrytis, obtaining around 7,000 seedlings.

President of Confagricoltura Treviso and Veneto, Lodovico Giustiniani, said: “The new varieties are resistant to the main vine diseases and can therefore reduce production losses in a sustainable way and decrease the costs associated with vineyard management.

“Genetic improvement is essential for a sector like viticulture and our project will allow us to arrive at a truly bio-sustainable Prosecco, with the use of fewer chemical treatments”.

The five-year project aims to produce around 100,000 disease resistant seedlings and uses special robots in order to speed up the seedling screening process.

Similar projects are being carried out around the world. Following its meeting earlier this autumn, the French Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO) added a new category to grape varieties that will be permitted under AOC rules.

The new ‘grape varieties for climate and environmental adaptation’ category has been added to the existing main and accessory cultivars categories to allow AOCs to grow disease-resistant varieties or varieties not previously grown in the AOC under certain conditions, in a bid to adapt to the challenges of climate change.

New plantings will be limited to 5% of the land and will not exceed 10% in the assembly of the cuvées.

According to French wine journal Vitisphere incorporating the grapes into the product specifications will be controlled, limited to ten grape varieties per colour and twenty grape varieties of any colour. In addition, the third category of grape variety can be no higher than 5% of the varietal range.

In August, French wine scientists announced that they had engineered four new ‘supergrapes’ that are resistant to rot and require virtually no pesticides, which have already been accepted into the official catalogue of French grape varieties.

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