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Querina (R) florina, apple variety resistant to apple scab. © INRA, LE LEZEC Marcel

Novel mechanisms for more sustainable resistance to disease

Panoramix among the pyramids (grapevine)

INRA, one of the few Institutes that focuses on the sustainable management of grapevine resistance, has joined forces with the viticulture industry to ensure that only varieties with multi-genetic resistance (gene pyramiding) find their way to market. The goal is to prevent pathogens (downy and powdery mildew) from quickly developing circumvention capacities. Researchers are also working on identifying new sources of resistance.

By Terre-Ecos, translated by Inge Laino
Updated on 04/03/2015
Published on 01/23/2015

Downy mildew caused by Plasmopara viticola. Mosaic-like spotting at end-season.. © INRA, BUGARET Yvon
Downy mildew caused by Plasmopara viticola. Mosaic-like spotting at end-season. © INRA, BUGARET Yvon

Cutting back on the use of pesticides in viticulture is a key challenge: grapevines, which make up 3.8% of French soil dedicated to agriculture, consume 20% of pesticides. “The reason for this high level of pesticide use is simple: diseases (1) that affect grape varieties currently grown in Europe were brought over from North America in the 19th century, and the vines do not have natural defence capacities against them”, explains François Delmotte, scientific co-head with François Hochereau of Panoramix (2).

Resistant varieties for 2016

There is no cure-all for reducing pesticides in viticultural systems. Nevertheless, among the options at hand, varietal resistance is undoubtedly one of the most promising. “But these varieties must meet the agricultural and oenological standards imposed by the industry”, explains François Delmotte. “INRA geneticists are working on this. Varieties resistant to powdery and downy mildew will be included in the 2016 catalogue. One of the key challenges in rolling out these new grape varieties is ensuring the sustainability of resistance”. To prevent the rapid onset of resistance circumvention, INRA has decided, in tandem with the French Institute of vine and wine (IFV), to allow only those varieties endowed with multi-genetic resistance on the market. Simultaneously, molecular biologists and pathologists are working to gain a better understanding of how pathogens adapt to resistant varieties, in order to come up with the best possible strategies to roll out these varieties. They have shown that partial resistance leads to more aggressive pathogens. Agronomists, for their part, are gathering knowledge on the best farming practices to maintain the sustainability of this system.

Bringing winegrowers on board

One of the challenges of the Panoramix project is to get winemakers to use resistant grape varieties. Sociologists are working to find ways of providing the necessary support to make this happen, and to promote varieties that require less pesticide use, but that do not have the same name as varieties currently used. In 2015, many partners will be called upon to play a role in this sociological study, and participatory workshops will be organised with winegrowers.

(1) Mostly downy and powdery mildew.
(2) Panoramix project: Design and development of sustainable viticulture systems combining disease-resistant varieties and complementary protection methods.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Francois Delmotte UMR1065 SAVE Joint Research Unit for Vine Health and Agroecology
  • Francois Hochereau UMR1048 SADAPT Science for Action and Sustainable Development: Activities, Products, Territories
Associated Division(s):
Plant Health and Environment, Science for Action and Development, Social Sciences, Agriculture and Food, Rural Development and Environment.
Associated Centre(s):
Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Bordeaux, Versailles-Grignon