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EU co-financed WiVitis project aims to promote PIWI cultivation

In view of climate change, the international joint project coordinated at the JKI aims to promote the cultivation of fungus-resistant grape varieties (PIWIs). One focus of JKI vine breeding is Botrytis bunch rot.

The consequences of climate change will be particularly evident in the wine-growing regions of the Upper Rhine. In addition to higher average temperatures and more intense UV radiation, experts predict increasing climate extremes. Among other things, these will cause a rapid change between drought and extreme precipitation events. This will not only directly damage the grapes; there will also be a higher risk of infestation with fungal pests such as downy mildew (Plasmopara viticola) and Botrytis bunch rot (Botrytis cinerea). Fungus-resistant grape varieties (PIWI) make it possible to meet these viticultural challenges in an environmentally friendly way and to increase the proportion of organically cultivated areas in viticulture. One of the aims of the international INTERREG research project WiVitis is to increase the cultivation and popularity of PIWI vines in viticulture.

Improving PIWI variety selection for winemakers and promoting cultivation through knowledge transfer

The EU project is coordinated by the JKI Institute for Grapevine Breeding Geilweilerhof in Siebeldingen. Five other scientific partner institutions from Germany, France and Switzerland are involved, as well as four viticultural businesses in the Upper Rhine region.

The cross-border scientific cooperation intents to strengthen the proximity to viticulture practice and thus promote the sustainable restructuring of the viticulture sector. Various knowledge transfer formats and public events are planned for this purpose.

The project intents to evaluate PIWIs and breeding material with regard to various grape characteristics over several years. This enables valid forecasting models (e.g. VitiMeteo) for grape health to be further developed, makes it easier for winegrowers to select varieties and thus increases the introduction of new grape varieties into practice.

By comprehensively evaluating PIWI varieties and breeding lines from the preliminary and main tests that already exhibit multiple resistance to various mildew fungi, it will be easier to assess the resilience of grapes to weather extremes as well as downy mildew and botrytis infestation in the future. In order to be able to assess the effects of climate change-related temperature increases on the susceptibility of vines to mildew and Botrytis, a controlled temperature increase will be carried out on potted vines as an example.

Developing new molecular markers for grapevine breeding

Project-scientists will develop molecular markers as an important component for vine breeding in order to identify breeding material with high Botrytis resistance at an early stage. In addition to known physical barriers, such as a loose grape architecture, the cooperating researchers have already identified other factors against the damage caused by Botrytis cinerea: „The wax coating of the grape skin surface, the so-called cuticle, plays a key role here”, explains project coordinator Dr. Katja Herzog, „the cuticle can, for example, be water-repellent and very dense and thus form a decisive barrier against Botrytis infestation and other damage to the berry."

These and other characteristics are being studied in detail on various PIWI varieties across different countries using sensor-based, analytical and microscopic methods – which then are compared with traditional varieties and latest breeding material. The aim is to generate valid research data sets for the Upper Rhine region and promote PIWI cultivation across borders.

More information on project plans of WiVitis here: https://www.wivitis.wine-science.eu/start_en.htm

Project informationen

Duration: 01.05.2023 bis 30.04.2026

Funding: approx. 2 million €, European Union (Interreg Oberrhein | Rhine Supérieur)

Coordination: JKI Institute of Grapevine Breeding


  • WBI Freiburg
  • DLR Rheinpfalz
  • INRAE Colmar
  • FiBL Schweiz
  • NI Lab der Schweiz

Project contact:

Dr. Katja Herzog
Tel.:+49 6345 41 124
Mail: katja.herzog@  julius-kuehn.  de

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