Fungi like downy mildew reduce wine yield and impair wine quality. In conventional as well as organic viticulture grape growers usually apply copper for preventing these fungal diseases. In the ProEcoWine project funded by the EU, on behalf of five companies the Fraunhofer IGB, the University of West Hungary and Laboratoire PHENOBIO develop a novel bio-plant protection product derived from microalgae to replace copper fungicides.
Fungal diseases like downy mildew and Botrytis can cause enormous damage to grape growers all over Europe. European grape species are especially susceptible. Once the vineyard is infected, the grape grower will have to cope with immense yield losses and impaired wine quality. Current methods of treating and preventing fungi in traditional and also in organic farming involve the use of copper fungicides. Although the European Council Regulation on Organic Agriculture limits copper application to six kilograms per hectar, and German Ecofarming associations voluntarily do not exceed the amount of three kilograms per hectar, copper accumulates in the soil, and is toxic to useful soil microorganisms. Furthermore, those fungicides are not compatible with other pesticides and thus may cause phytotoxicity or destroy proteins in plant tissues causing ‘vine damage’. Besides, according to the European Council regulation the amount of copper applied per hectare and year must be reduced during the next years.
At present, there are no efficient alternatives to replace copper as a fungicide in organic viticulture. Therefore, an economical solution is required to support the development and growth of the organic market. ProEcoWine is a project funded by the European Commission formed by a trans-European partnership of three research performers, five small and medium enterprises supported by a large company and an association for organic agriculture. Coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB the project’s objective is to develop a novel bio-plant protection product to treat common grapevine fungal diseases and thus to replace copper fungicides in organic and conventional viticulture.
Algae to inhibit fungal growth
“To achieve this, researchers of the University of West Hungary are looking for microalgae species which reliably inhibit fungal growth”, project manager Siegfried Egner from the Fraunhofer IGB explains. “Then we will establish an economic cultivating process for these algae using our specially developed flat-panel airlift photobioreactor. And later on, the ProEcoWine microalgae plant protection product will be further enriched with micronutrients”, Egner says. The product will be tested by ADERA in greenhouse experiments, but also directly in the field at two vineyards in France and Spain.
The ProEcoWine project “Development of a process to generate a novel plant protection product enriched with micronutrients to replace copper in organic viticulture” is funded in the 7th Research Framework of the EU from November 2012 until October 2014 under grant agreement n° 315546. Project partners are IAU Service (Germany), A4F Algafuel SA (Portugal), März Rudolf Josef (Germany), Les Vignerons de Buzet Societe Cooperative Agricole (France), Viñedos de Aldeanueva Sociedad Cooperativa (Spain), Alfa Laval Corporate AB (Sweden), and Naturland – Verband für ökologischen Landbau e.V. (Germany). As research partners the Fraunhofer IGB (Germany), the University of West Hungary (Hungary) and Laboratoire PHENOBIO (France) participate in the project.
Source: Fraunhofer IGB