Disease resistant vines: research by the University of Udine
The University of Udine has been working for 15 years with the aim of obtaining new varieties of wine grapes resistant to diseases and to reduce the use of pesticides in viticulture.
Genomics allows to scientifically determine the characteristics of vineyards. Viticulture and enology use genomics a lot, which is a particular branch of molecular biology that deals with the study of genome and uses DNA sequencing or cloning of the genes.
The selection project was founded in 1998 by the University of Udine in collaboration with the Institute of Applied Genomics (IGA) of Udine to respond to the critical situation of viticulture in Europe that is responsible for the use by as much as 65% of the fungicides used in agriculture (62 thousand tons of pesticides used per year - Eurostat 2007). The Friuli Venezia Giulia region has offered an initial contribution to start a program of crossing and selection in order to obtain new varieties of wine grapes resistant to disease and to avoid using pesticides. Over the years, the project was supported also by the Department of Agriculture.
The crossings were carried out at the "Antonio Servadei" university farm of Udine, where today there are approximately 16,000 intersections in evaluation.
The aim was to obtain a more and more effective response against diseases of the vine and an increasingly important qualitative characterization in view of the spreading of new clones.
The result of these studies are the first varieties of grapevine produced in Italy resistant to disease. These varieties make it possible to reduce significantly the costs of viticulture thanks to savings in fungicide treatments in sight of a European patent, of multiplication and inclusion in the national registry of the Ministry of Agriculture.
"The result obtained today - Raffaele Testolin, leader of the research team, remarks - is important and of great interest to producers. These are the first vine varieties resistant to diseases produced in Italy. Other countries have been working on similar projects for over a hundred years and some have obtained interesting varieties. However, the varieties already obtained have all a short cycle, mature too early and are only suitable to cooler climates of continental Europe".
Growers will be able to cut production costs significantly lowering interventions for the protection of vineyards. It is enough to say that only "this spring - Enrico Peterlunger exemplifies - in Friuli 820 mm of rain between January and May have fallen, concentrated in the last two months. Growers have already done 6-7 treatments against fungal diseases".
With the close collaboration of the Nurseries Cooperative of Rauscedo, the University of Udine has set up three plants with new experimental varieties in Grado, in the Chianti area and the Slovenian Collio region. "Other experimental plants - Gabriele Di Gaspero, current head of the project, announces - are scheduled this year in Italy and abroad. The same French wine growers have shown interest and will do an experimental plant".
"In 2013 - the head of the search services of the University, Sandra Salvador, says - a European and international patent sponsors the new selections. UniUD also is preparing the sale of rights to multiply and is preparing dossiers for the inclusion of the new varieties in the national register at the Ministry of Agriculture".