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Research delivers better indicators of bunch rot thresholds

Research delivers better indicators of bunch rot thresholds

In a recently completed research project, techniques were investigated to give growers more reliable tools for early Botrytis detection. The findings will allow growers to make harvest decisions around the time of harvest – or in extreme cases, if to harvest the crop at all. 

Prof Steel and his team defined thresholds for bunch rot contamination of wine grapes by measuring the amount of fungal biomass present in a batch of grapes – and then vinifying the grapes. Sensory analysis of the subsequent wine was then completed to determine thresholds for a noticeable loss of wine quality. 

Thresholdsfor for Botrytis contamination were estimated, based on the amount of fungal biomass detected in a batch of grapes. Working out how much fungus was present in a grape sample was achieved in two ways: by quantifying ergosterol, which is a fungal sterol only found in fungal cells (cholesterol is the equivalent sterol found in humans and other animals) and by measuring Botrytis antigens. Interestingly, the Botrytis antigen test uses a Lateral Flow Device, (similar to the types of devices that are used to measure other things including the COVID 19 virus) and is much more rapid than measuring ergosterol. The solutions will now be provided to winemakers to allow them to cope with situations where these thresholds have been exceeded.

The study investigated only two vintages and one grape variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, so further validation is warranted in a commercial setting. Aside from this, Prof Steel’s work compared several other methods for grey mould detection including gluconic acid assays and qPCR. Each of the techniques had limitations and advantages, so one recommendation for the wine sector is to use a combination of methods.

Measuring ergosterol provided a direct measurement of fungal biomass, but was not as specific as measuring the Botrytis antigens. Furthermore, analysis of the ergosterol content of a batch of grapes requires an analysis time of approximately two days. Quantifying how much Botrytis is present in a batch of grapes by measuring the fungal antigens is the quickest and simplest assay to perform, taking minutes rather than hours to perform.

For more information please see the full report at the following link Determining thresholds for bunch rot tolerance in wine and detection of unwanted fungal aromas

Source: Wine Australia

Published on 02/22/2022
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