Grapevine xylem embolism resistance spectrum reveals which varieties have a lower mortality risk in a future dry climate

Wine growing regions have recently faced intense and frequent droughts that have led to substantial economical losses, and the maintenance of grapevine productivity under warmer and drier climate will rely notably on planting drought-resistant cultivars. Given that plant growth and yield depend on water transport efficiency and maintenance of photosynthesis, thus on the preservation of the vascular system integrity during drought, a better understanding of drought-related hydraulic traits that have a significant impact on physiological processes is urgently needed. We have worked towards this end by assessing vulnerability to xylem embolism in 30 grapevine commercial varieties encompassing red and white Vitis vinifera varieties, hybrid varieties characterized by a polygenic resistance for powdery and downy mildew, and commonly used rootstocks. These analyses further allowed a global assessment of wine regions with respect to their varietal diversity and resulting vulnerability to stem embolism. Hybrid cultivars displayed the highest vulnerability to embolism, while rootstocks showed the greatest resistance. Significant variability also arose among Vitis vinifera varieties, with Ψ12 and Ψ50 values ranging from -0.4 to -2.7 MPa and from -1.8 to -3.4 MPa, respectively. Cabernet franc, Chardonnay and Ugni blanc featured among the most vulnerable varieties while Pinot noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon ranked among the most resistant. In consequence, wine regions bearing a significant proportion of vulnerable varieties, such as Poitou-Charentes, France and Marlborough, New Zealand, turned out to be at greater risk under drought. These results highlight that grapevine varieties may not respond equally to warmer and drier conditions, outlining the importance to consider hydraulic traits associated with plant drought tolerance into breeding programmes and modeling simulations of grapevine yield maintenance under severe drought. They finally represent a step forward to advise the wine industry about which varieties and regions would have the lowest risk of drought-induced mortality under climate change.

Authors: Laurent J. Lamarque1,2, Chloé E.L. Delmas3, Guillaume Charrier4, Régis Burlett1, Ninon Dell’acqua3, Jérôme Pouzoulet5, Gregory A. Gambetta5 and Sylvain Delzon1

1Université de Bordeaux, INRAE, BIOGECO, Pessac, France
2Département des Sciences de l’Environnement, Université du Québec, Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada
3SAVE, INRAE, BSA, ISVV, Villenave d’Ornon, France
4INRAE, PIAF, Université Clermont Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France
5EGFV, Univ. Bordeaux, Bordeaux-Sciences Agro, INRAE, ISVV, Villenave d’Ornon, France


Keywords: drought, Vitis, hydraulics, P50, regions at risk, ontogeny

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