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Viticulture solutions in focus for new scholarship recipients

RD&A News | February 2023
24 Feb 2023
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Four emerging researchers have been awarded Wine Australia research scholarships for 2023. 

The researchers from the University of Adelaide, Charles Sturt University and Queensland University of Technology will receive top-up funding towards their research into developing solutions for key viticulture challenges. 

Wine Australia awards scholarships to postgraduate students to encourage and support new researchers in the sector and are one of the ways that Wine Australia invests in the development of the next generation in the grape and wine sector.

Top up scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence, the quality of an applicant’s Curriculum Vitae, the merit of the proposed research, quality of supervision and the likelihood of the applicant’s ongoing involvement in the Australian wine sector.

The competitive application process attracts emerging researchers studying oenology, viticulture and wine business research in universities from all over Australia.

Congratulations to the Wine Australia research scholarships recipients for 2023; Callan Alexander, Dyanah Amorio, Fei Zheng and Ysadora Mirabelli-Montan.

Callan Alexander

Queensland University of Technology

Monitoring avian functional diversity in vineyards using autonomous recording units and deep learning

This project will use passive acoustic monitoring and deep learning to facilitate avian functional diversity monitoring in vineyards. This will be accomplished by deploying autonomous recording units in vineyards and adjacent vegetation in conjunction with on-ground biodiversity surveys and landscape analysis, throughout South-east Queensland, particularly in the Granite Belt region. These recorders will be deployed on a long-term basis to capture avian variation throughout the entire growing season. The deployments will be accompanied by on-ground field surveys to observe avian movements between the vines and adjacent vegetation, as well as conduct flora and condition surveys. 

This research aims to develop automated tools that will contribute to monitoring sustainability practices on a long-term basis. These tools can be used to monitor bird diversity and will also have applications for pest-suppression in the form of monitoring desirable insectivores as well as avian pests. It also aims to provide insight into management best practice for promotion of avian functional diversity, as well as provide tools for monitoring bird populations and assemblages on a long-term basis.

Dyanah Amorio

Charles Sturt University

One vine, two diseases: Interactions of different grapevine trunk disease pathogens within vines

Grapevine trunk diseases (GTDs) pose threats to grapevines. Individual vines containing more than one GTD pathogen are common in the field; however, the interaction of these pathogens within a single host is unknown. 

This research aims to determine the mechanisms for any antagonistic or synergistic interactions between Botryosphaeria dieback and Petri disease pathogen groups. The role of secondary metabolites to suppress or enhance the growth of the pathogens will be assessed. These investigations focusing on the interaction of GTD pathogens, and the impact of mixed infection will provide critical data to assist in the understanding of the disease epidemiology. This knowledge is required for the development of improved management strategies for these diseases and therefore vineyard longevity and sustainability.

Characterisation of the pathogen community is an important first step towards developing effective control practices.

Fei Zheng

The University of Adelaide

Mobile RNA signalling between rootstock and scion in grafted grapevine

Grafting is a common viticultural practice, used to improve the tolerance of grapevine varieties to environmental stresses caused by pests and diseases , soil conditions and climate. Rootstocks also affect scion traits such as yield, vigour and response to soil nutrient conditions. Although the molecular mechanisms for rootstock-scion interactions are complex and poorly understood, there is strong evidence from grapevines and other plant species that RNA transcripts can act as long-distance signalling molecules and coordinate stress responses and growth within the whole plant. In the grapevine, exchange of different RNA species has been demonstrated between scions and rootstocks in grafted plants.

This project aims to understand the molecular mechanism and signalling function of a new class of mobile RNA molecules identified in grafted grapevines. It will use established Australian rootstock varieties to identify mobile RNAs in grafted plants using a combination of transcriptome and molecular analysis and study their potential signalling function. The student will develop a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) database for multiple grapevine rootstock cultivars to use as markers for RNA movement. Beyond its use to identify mobile RNAs, the SNP database can be used in identifying and selecting gene variants that are advantageous in harsh environments such as saline soils and water-limited conditions.

Ysadora Mirabelli-Montan

The University of Adelaide

Rapid analytical methods for early detection of smoke taint in grape juice

Despite significant progress towards understanding the physiological, chemical and sensory consequences of grapevine smoke exposure, smoke taint remains a threat to the long-term economic viability of winemakers worldwide.

Volatile phenols have been identified as chemical markers of smoke taint, and the glycosylation of phenols in grapevine leaves and fruit that occurs as a biochemical response to smoke exposure provides the basis for existing analytical methods by quantitation of volatile phenol glycosides.

This project seeks to develop novel analytical capabilities that enable industry to quickly detect and quantify smoke exposure in grapes and wine – aiming to develop low cost, rapid diagnostics for smoke taint testing. Such a method will allow targeted recovery of unaffected grapes and improved management (or alternate uses) of smoke-affected grapes. In addition to recovered yields, provision of rapid screening methods as alternatives to conventional GC-MS and LC-MS/MS analyses will permit testing within the time constraints of harvest. 

See previous recipients of Wine Australia’s scholarships here

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.