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article imageSoil microbes influence grape and wine quality

By Tim Sandle     Mar 27, 2015 in Science
Researchers have studied the microbial composition of a wine grapevine. The examination unearthed the fact that the microbes found in grapes, on leaves and flowers are derived from the microbes found in the plant's roots.
Researchers hope to use the collected information to help analyse how microbes affect a wine's properties. In turn this knowledge may help determine how vines can be improved year-on-year. The areas selected to grow vines are assessed using traditional methods, although there is an element of trial and error with this.
Because the bacteria in the soil have an intimate relationship with plants, and affect the health and disease resistance of the vine, understanding how the more robust vines relate to given populations of soil bacteria is important.
The first wave of research was undertaken on vines producing Merlot grapes. The research question was to see if the bacterial component of terroir (the wine's properties that are imparted by the ground its grapes are grown in.) Terroir is the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with plant genetics.
For this, a research team collaborating with winemaker Gilles Martin examined four different Merlot plants located in five different vineyards in North Fork region of Long Island, New York. At each area, samples were taken of the soil, roots, leaves, flowers and grapes.
Back in the laboratory, genetic identification methods were used to assess the different bacterial species found. Significant differences were found in different locations. Different bacterial populations led to difference qualities of grape.
Although there were differences, one thing that was remarkable as that the types of bacteria in general associated with Merlot were more similar compared with other types of grapes. This pattern became even more prevalent when samples were taken from Merlot vines located in Bordeaux, France and California.
The implications are that vineyard owners could add specific populations of bacteria to certain crops with the aim of creating healthier grapes.
The research has been published in the journal mBio. The research paper is called “Soil Microbiome Influences Grapevine-Associated Microbiota.”
More about Wine, Grapes, Merlot, Bacteria, Soil
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