This project will provide the capability to enable gene function to be verified, which will facilitate the development of perfect markers for grapevine breeding. Gene-editing technologies that do not leave a footprint other than the altered target gene will be developed, to pyramid desirable traits in existing premium varieties faster than traditional breeding techniques.
Genetic transformation remains the only way to verify the function of important genes identified as part of the CSIRO scion and rootstock breeding projects. Verification of function allows perfect markers to be designed with a high level of confidence for use in marker-assisted selection. The CSIRO facility has the capability to develop new gene-editing technologies that allow the precise editing of genes and provides the opportunity to modify genes in elite wine varieties, without leaving any foreign DNA.
The other major resource that underpins the CSIRO plant breeding program is the grapevine germplasm collection at Irymple. A comprehensive germplasm collection is crucial to the breeding program because it provides a source of new traits such as resistance genes to pests and diseases.
Embryogenic cultures will be initiated from flowers (anthers) every year and prepared for genetic transformation with constructs that either alter endogenous gene activity or introduce genes from other wild Vitis species, such as pathogen resistance genes. The resultant transgenic plants will then be assessed to determine the function of the modified/introduced grape gene.
Maintenance of the germplasm collections (rootstock breeding and variety collections) will involve basic spraying, fertilising, irrigation, vineyard floor management and mechanical pruning.
The generation of new grapevine varieties with disease resistance properties offers the potential to reduce input costs and develop new products or new blends that are unique to Australia. The project also aims to meet stakeholder demand for rootstocks with improved tolerance to pests and abiotic stresses.