Research into water stress, genetics and hybridization makes headway

Thursday April 02 2020 by Vitisphere

 Vine scorching as seen in Languedoc in 2019. Vine scorching as seen in Languedoc in 2019.

Experts and scientists unanimously agree that in some regions, particularly Occitania in southern France, water availability is constantly decreasing. “Concurrently with this phenomenon, in Occitania 15% of vineyards are irrigated and demand is increasing by 1,800 hectares per year. Access to water will therefore soon be limited, which is why alternatives need to be found quickly”, stressed Laurent Torregrosa, professor of biology and genetics at Montpellier SupAgro.

Developing new varieties

Hybridization is one of the solutions being studied and seems to have a bright future ahead. “Vines offer a substantial range of genetic diversity but viticulture has focused on the Vitis Vinifera species for its quality and yields. 80% of available species are based on just 10 varieties, hence the need to now broaden the range of grape varieties by using hybridization”, said Torregrosa.

In the long term, the issue involves combining varieties that have a higher resistance to disease, in order to reduce inputs, with varieties that can adapt to drought. “This is unprecedented. The crossing of research didn't exist twenty years ago because adapting to the climate was simply not factored into scientific work. The varieties available on the market today have therefore not been selected for their ability to adapt to water stress”, said Torregrosa.

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