Climate change brings new challenges for agriculture and society, also in our region, the Upper Rhine. Even for viticulture, this has become a problem, although our grapevines, with their deep roots are actually well prepared for the summer, at least better than many other plants. However, the new dimensions of heat and drought put even our vines in a quandary: to reduce the loss of water, they close their stomata. In doing so, however, they also lose the possibility to lower the leaf temperature to such an extent that photosynthesis remains viable. The leaves heat up and the finely tuned balance of photosynthetic processes runs out of control, creating reactive oxygen species, causing irreversible damage to the cells. The leaves turn brown and eventually fall off - the damage caused by this phenomenon known as "sunburn" in viticulture has turned into an increasing problem.
Here we start. With our research network "KliWiReSSE - climate-resilient grape varieties to secure the yield" we are looking for new ways to safeguard viticulture against the consequences of climate change. We ask the progenitor of our vines, the almost extinct Wild European Grapevine, for help. Here, we are looking for genes that help cope with heat, UV and drought stress, such that we can later cross them into cultivated vines. State-of-the-art technologies such as automated microscopy systems, non-targeted metabolomics or double haploidisation are used. The ultimate goal are KliWi vines (for climate-resistant), which should expand the success story of the PiWi vines (for fungus-resistant), which were also developed in our region. At the same time, science-based profiles of their climate resilience are to be developed for the rootstock and yield varieties occurring in the region, such that winegrowers can adapt when new vineyards are planted.