©Pascal Xicluna/Min.Agri.Fr

Grapes vines are sensitive to numerous fungal and viral diseases that need to be controlled for in order to get a quality grape harvest. This are typically treated for using chemical methods, which makes viticulture the second highest user of phytosanitary products in France after cereals. Despite its effectiveness, this protection method can have undesirable direct and indirect effects on the quality of the wines, the environment, human health and the income of the winemaker. Reducing the use of phytosanitary products on grape wines is thus an answer not only to the issues of protecting human and environmental health, but also for the competitiveness of the industry. To these issues, the question of adaptation to climate change can also be added.

France’s largest national agronomic research institute, National Institute for Agricultural Research (known by its French acronym, INRA), conducts research programs aiming to improving knowledge and create resources and tools to develop innovation in the service of viticulture with low inputs, that produces quality wines, and that is adapted to the future climate. Three new wines varieties which has an aromatic profile similar to white wines of the Rhine River valley, resistant to mildew and powdery mildew, are currently being tested by the Alsace wine producing association.

Phenotis, which was launched Oct. 4 by INRA, is a unique and original experimental tool specifically designed to aid research programs on vine disease resistance, on the growth and the development stages of the wine and on the quality of grapes, and to develop new strategies in fighting viruses and their vectors.

Phenotis includes several different facilities:

  • 1,000 m² of high environmental quality greenhouses, with temperature control and automatic watering
  • A nematology laboratory
  • A building dedicated to greenhouse workers
  • A 200 m² open-air experimental area
  • An imaging lab dedicated to the relationship between vines and their pathogens
  • A chromatographic tool to study secondary metabolism
  • A suite of sensors that can be deployed by tractor in grape vines fields to automatically capture data on the vineyard