Amajor advance in viticulture research was achieved last August when the Pinot Noir grapevine genome was sequenced by a French and Italian public consortium, said Dr. Kerry Ringer during grape industry talks held in Washington State. This is only the second woody plant and the first fruit crop to be sequenced.
The importance of having a public group perform the work is that it’s all public information and the sequencing data is available on-line, she said.
While benefits from the grape genome project might not be readily apparent today or tomorrow, Ringer believes growers will see big strides made in the future in identifying genes responsible for disease resistance and drought tolerance.
Identifying genes involved with drought tolerance will be important in helping grapevines survive climate change, she added.
"We can also use the information from the genome to fine-tune –agriculture," Ringer said.
But there are also immediate benefits from the grape sequencing.
"Right now, we can measure a lot of phenolic compounds in grapes, but by using genome information, we can actually see the very moment when these compounds are made, rather than waiting for them to accumulate in the berry," Ringer said.
She added that scientists should be able to identify the genes that are involved in berry shriveling. There are human health implications as well. Researchers will be able to learn even more about the –beneficial antioxidant resveratrol, including how the grape makes it.