New research out of B.C. has identified two types of fungus that protect against grapevine trunk disease, which is good news for the local wine industry.
Trunk disease is a fungus itself that spreads primarily through pruning wounds and causes plants to decay. It can be a costly problem for grape growers if it spreads and knocks out other plants before it can be brought under control, which often involves using chemicals.
But this discovery would mean growers would have a natural solution to what Hans Buchler says is an increasing problem.
Buchler has been growing grapes in Oliver, B.C., also known as Canada’s Wine Capital, for 40 years.
“Looking around my neighbourhood, we see more and more symptoms of this,” he said. “In some areas, actually, on a very large scale, very large proportions of relatively young blocks are being infected.”
Jinxz Pollard-Flamand, a researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, says fungi species Trichoderma Canadense and Trichoderma Viticola prey on the fungus that causes trunk disease, and have proven 70 to 100 per cent effective against the disease.
He and his fellow researchers tested the fungi on pruning wounds, which were inoculated with trunk disease, over 21 days.
“We found that we had reduced the infection basically,” Pollard-Flamand said.
Using Trichoderma species to combat trunk disease isn’t exactly new, Pollard-Flamand points out. It’s quite often used in biopesticides, he said. But, these species were used to specifically test some types of grapevines, and this work could be the foundation for a natural product grape growers could use to combat a disease that has the potential to destroy their vineyard and their business.
Pollard-Flamand said more research is required before a product using these fungus species would be made commercially accessible to grape growers, but Buchler says he and other grape growers in his region would be very interested in utilizing it if and when it’s available.
“It’s really, really promising,” Buchler said.
“This is a sort of interesting example of how research can kind of change the world.”