Track and trace: Next generation sequencing used to uncover pathogens in Marlborough vineyards

by | Jul 20, 2022 | News

Plant & Food Research scientists working as part of the Vineyard Ecosystems programme, have used next generation sequencing to gain an entirely new view of pathogens across 11 sample Marlborough vineyards.

Identifying  fungi causing grapevine trunk disease in vineyards is crucial work. Fungi (pathogens) that cause grapevine trunk diseases (GTDs) threaten vineyard productivity globally. They infect grapevine trunk tissues and cause deterioration and death to grapevines. Grapevine trunk diseases (GTDs) are already a threat in Aotearoa New Zealand with around 9% of grapevines in Marlborough and Hawkes Bay showing symptoms.

Using next generation sequencing, as part of the Vineyard Ecosystems programme, scientists at Plant & Food Research along with colleagues at Lincoln University, the Marlborough Wine Research Centre Trust and Better Border Biosecurity, revealed a high relative abundance and wide distribution of several well-known trunk pathogens in vineyards in Marlborough (the largest grapevine growing district in Aotearoa). The study provides an unprecedented vineyard-level view of the species of trunk pathogens present across 11 sample vineyards.

In this study the scientists were able to generate a comprehensive register of GTD causing pathogens in Marlborough vineyards. They used comparisons against a curated pathogens database to identify globally recognised trunk pathogens and their relative abundance. Additionally, the scientists discovered a range of species that appear to be native to Aotearoa, likely wood rot fungi. Given the size of this study and quantity of data collected over three years, it will provide a more comprehensive view of trunk microbiology than has previously been available.

In grapevines, GTD symptoms tend to develop over a number of years with many fungi present as latent infections before the disease emerges. Interactions between fungal species are also associated with disease outcome. This study provides insights for the wine industry into what pathogens are present and might become problematic for winegrowers in future. Early detection of pathogens could assist with interventions to prevent spreading within or between vineyards.

The comprehensive nature of this work allows for a powerful comparison to overseas studies. The large data set collected through the study will be a key resource for more detailed studies of GTD in single vines and vineyards.

The Vineyard Ecosystems programme is a joint project between New Zealand Winegrowers and the Ministry Business, Innovation and Employment Partnership Fund. Funding support for data analysis was provided through the New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge (BHNSC) and Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) Better Border Biosecurity (B3) programmes.

Research contributors
Bhanupratap R. Vanga , Preeti Panda, Anish S. Shah, Sarah Thompson, Rebecca H. Woolley, Hayley J. Ridgway, Dion C. Mundy and Simon Bulman. DNA metabarcoding reveals high relative abundance of trunk disease fungi in grapevines from Marlborough, New Zealand. BMC Microbiology. See the Journal Reference here.


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