As the world grapples with the challenges of climate change, the viticultural sector is increasingly seeking innovative and sustainable solutions to reduce its environmental impact without losing productivity. Piwi cultivars have emerged as a promising option in this endeavour.
Researchers of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) are exploring fungus resistant grapevine cultivars at the Institut Viti-Vinicole.
PIWI cultivars, short for "PIlzWIderstandsfähig" in German, are a group of grapevine varieties that are resistant to major fungal diseases. Unlike traditional grapevine varieties, which often require extensive pesticide use to protect against diseases like powdery and downy mildew, PIWI cultivars carry resistance genes from American or Asian Vitis species. These resistant cultivars were developed to reduce the need for pesticide treatments in vineyards, making them a sustainable and environmentally friendly choice for grape growers.
Climate change is altering traditional growing conditions for grapevines. PIWI cultivars offer a climate-resilient option for grape production. Some of them seem to be better prepared to withstand extreme weather events and changing climate conditions, ensuring a stable grape harvest in the face of climate challenges. Another significant contribution of PIWI cultivars to climate mitigation is the reduction in pesticide usage. Traditional vineyards often rely on synthetic pesticides to supress fungal diseases. PIWI cultivars' resistance minimizes the need for such chemicals, promoting a more sustainable viticultural system.
Additionally, PIWI cultivars have the potential to enhance biodiversity in vineyards. With fewer pesticides being used, the ecological balance in the vineyard environment can be improved. This may lead to the proliferation of beneficial insects, soil microorganisms, and other wildlife, creating a more resilient and balanced ecosystem.
PIWI cultivars face several market barriers such as a lack of information on the risks and opportunities of growing PIWIs on the side of the vine growers and a lack of information about the wine quality and environmental benefits on the side of the consumers that is currently hindering their adoption. As a Research and Technology Organization, LIST works towards comprehensive research and development activities to characterise the suitability and chances of these grape varieties for local climate and soil conditions. LIST's expertise in viticulture can facilitate the adoption of new, well-adapted PIWI cultivars that meet the demands of both growers and consumers.
PIWI cultivars represent a promising avenue for climate mitigation in agriculture. Their resistance to fungal diseases has the potential to reduce the reliance on pesticides, to lower the carbon footprint of grape production, and to enhance biodiversity in vineyards. Moreover, these potentially more climate-resilient varieties offer stability in a changing climate.
The Institut Viti-Vinicole is an administration under the Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development.