Joining forces to tackle pests

When microscopic cracks form in the waxy layer of the grapes the microfungus can infect the grapes. (Image: Nano Imaging Lab , Swiss Nanoscience Institute University of Basel)

For many years, the Nano Imaging Lab (NI Lab) at Basel University’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute has been involved in research projects supporting sustainable viticulture. On 5 November 2018, Dr. Markus Dürrenberger, head of the NI Lab, attended a meeting of viticulture experts at the Ebenrain Center for Agriculture, Nature, and Food in Sissach. The purpose of the meeting was to exchange ideas about various Interreg projects and to establish links between the Swiss partners in a range of projects established on a trinational basis. All project partners want to tackle the greater spread of pests – due to climate change and globalization – by cultivating resistant plants and minimizing the use of pesticides and insecticides.

Detailed images provide new insights
The Nano Imaging Lab (NI Lab) has been working closely with the Staatliches Weinbauinstitut (state viticultural institute) in Freiburg, Germany, for many years and is  involved in the project Vitifutur and the planned follow-up project BoVitis. For example, electron microscope images obtained by the NI Lab provide information about when grapes become infected with the microfungus Botrytis. At the end of the ripening period, cracks form in the waxy layer covering the grapes and therefore allow infections to develop.

As well as discussing scientific efforts to investigate infections, the participants in this exchange of expertise also addressed the cultivation of resistant plant types that require far less fungicide than conventional vines. Preserving the infection resistance of these fungi-resistant (“Piwi”) wines and their acceptance among customers were also on the agenda for this first meeting between the Swiss partners in the Interreg projects Vitifutur, VitiMeteo, AgroForm, InvaProtect, and BoVitis and the viticulture commissioners of the Cantons of Basel Landschaft and Aargau.

Exchange is important
“It’s important that we establish networks in the region in order to tackle these challenges together,” says Dr. Markus Dürrenberger of the Nano Imaging Lab at the University of Basel. “At this first meeting, we discovered that our projects complement one another perfectly, but that we know far too little about each other.”

Partners of different Interreg projects plan to set up a network
(Image: Staatliches Weinbauinstitut, Freiburg, Germany).

The participants from Switzerland and from the state viticulture institute in Freiburg, Germany, now have a much clearer picture of the various activities, which range from scientific research to providing specific advice to winegrowers. They are planning to set up a network involving all of the Swiss partners in the Interreg projects and to improve the exchange of results so that the region’s wine-growing industry is equipped to face the challenges of the future.

Websites of the various Interreg projects: