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Chile creates powdery mildew resistant grape

Besides this great characteristic, the new grape would be a good traveller since it could bear, quiet well, the time taken to reach Asia. Progress is also being made with apples, peaches, Japanese plum and cherry.
Inside a greenhouse in Curacaví there is a rectangular table covered with green leaves. From a far they all look alike and of the same color. But as you get closer you start to see differences: some are healthy and others have white opaque spots.
At the center of the table there is a plant that stands out because its leaves are almost completely covered with a clear powder. The plant has mould, mildew, but it did not infect the nearby plants in the same way. This is, because these plants,
were developed by researchers at the Catholic University and with the Fruit Technology Consortium. They are resistant to fungus, so this would eliminate the need for fungicides. This will have an economic and productive impact.
Powdery mildew makes infects vines nationwide, but is especially harmful in the north. It affects different parts of the plant (leaves, buds and fruit) from its formation until they start to mature. When it attacks the buds, it stops their growth and maturation.
"Powdery mildew caused by Erysiphe necator, is the most important grape disease in the central and northern part of Chile. Risk of grapevine powdery mildew in relation to the development of clusters', according to an article by Paul Campbell, Carlos Bendek and Bernardo Latorre.
But research has not stopped at developing resistance to powdery mildew, they are also looking for the new fruit to have specific characteristics required by the industry. They already have a shortlist of those characteristics where they have met the expected requirements for flavor, crispness, size, lack of seeds and a good storage life after harvest, to avoid, for example, the browning of the stalk.
"We are producing grapes that, in very simple words, are good travellers which can reach their destination, particularly to Asian markets in good condition, which is the future of the industry," said Patricio Arce, a biologist and the program director
of table grape genetic improvement.
Once the varieties obtain the required organoleptic properties, besides the resistance to powdery mildew, the impacts will be multiple: from the reduction of damaged export volumes, to environmental benefits since intensive applications of different products is decreased.
"It will not be necessary to apply fungicide and this will be a major achievement for the Chilean industry, because without the application of these chemicals, production will be cleaner, more consistent with the environment and we will spend less on fungicides. It will have economical and health benefits for the people who are involved with applications," says Arce.
And the impact of the developed varieties in the country will be global.
"There are no varieties resistant to fungus in the world, except for in Chile. I think we will be the first that will generate vines resistant to powdery mildew and we're very close to doing it," says Patricio Arce.
Of course towards the end of 2011 there were announcements of progress on this issue by Australian researchers. "What they did in Australia is that they took one of these genes and are evaluating to see if they can get resistance.

There are GM plants and they are waiting to see if any of the genes, that they use confer resistance or not. Best case scenario, they get resistance. First it would be transgenics and they will have to go through all the obstacles for the transgenic plant to be acceptanced. Currently, for the grape it is not accepted and second, to achieve resistance with only one gene, the possibility of outbreaks are high. We're going to have non-transgenic plants, twice as resistant to the fungus. I think they will be much superior than those," said Patricio Arce.
And further more, the new varieties will be resistant to other diseases affecting Chilean grapes.
"Fortunately one of the genes that we use is transmitted with a resistance gene to Plasmopara viticola, so indirectly we have obtained resistance to both," said Patricio Arce. Every year they set crosses, with about 20,000 events of emasculation and pollination, to generate about 4,000 plants that go into the field, in Curacaví. Already more than 10,000 plants are ready. In six more years they expect to have three or four own varieties, and eventually transfer the findings to the varieties used in the wine production.

Source: Simfruit

Publication date: 4/5/2012


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