Microbes play key roles on crop nutrient availability via biogeochemical cycles, rhizosphere interactions with roots as well as on plant growth and health. Recent advances in technologies, such as High Throughput Sequencing Techniques, allowed to gain deeper insight on the structure of bacterial and fungal communities associated with soil, rhizosphere and plant phyllosphere. Over the past 10 years, numerous scientific studies have been carried out on the microbial component of the vineyard. Whether the soil or grape compartments have been taken into account, many studies agree on the evidence of regional delineations of microbial communities, that may contribute to regional wine characteristics and typicity. Some authors proposed the term “microbial terroir” including “yeast terroir” for grapes to describe the connection between microbial biogeography and regional wine characteristics. Many factors are involved in terroir including climate, soil, cultivar and human practices as well as their interactions. Studies considering “microbial terroir” greatly contributed to improve our knowledge on factors that shape the vineyard microbial structure and diversity. However, the potential impact of “microbial terroir” on wine composition has yet not received strong scientific evidence and many questions remain to be addressed, related to the functional characterization of the microbial community and its impact on plant physiology and grape composition, the origins and interannual stability of vineyard microbiota, as well as their impact on wine sensorial attributes. The presentation will give an overview on the role of microbiota as a terroir component and will highlight future perspectives and challenges on this key subject for the wine industry.
Wine terroir describes the collectively recognized relation between a geographical area and the distinctive organoleptic characteristics of the wines produced in it. The overriding objective in terroir studies is therefore to provide scientific proof relating the properties of terroir components to wine quality and typicity. In scientific circles, the role of climate (macro-, meso- and micro-) on grape and wine characteristics is well documented and accepted as the most critical. Moreover, there has been increasing interest in recent years about new elements with possible importance in shaping wine terroir like berry/leaf/soil microbiology or even aromatic plants in proximity to the vineyard conferring flavors to the grapes. However, the actual effect of these factors is also dependent on complex interactions with plant material (variety/clone, rootstock, vine age) and with human factors.
The contribution of soil, although a fundamental component of terroir and extremely popular among wine enthusiasts, remains a much-debated issue among researchers. The role of geology is probably the one mostly associated by consumers with the notion of terroir with different parent rocks considered to give birth to different wine styles. However, the relationship between wine properties and the underlying parent material raises a lot of controversy especially regarding the actual existence of rock-derived flavors in the wine (e.g. minerality). As far as the actual soil properties are concerned, the effect of soil physical properties is generally regarded as the most significant (e.g sandy soils being associated with lighter wines while those on clay with colored and tannic ones) mostly through control of water availability which ultimately modifies berry ripening conditions either directly by triggering biosynthetic pathways, or indirectly by altering vigor and yield components. The role of soil chemistry seems to be weakly associated to wine sensory characteristic, although N, K, S and Ca, but also soil pH, are often considered important in the overall soil effect.
Recently, in the light of evidence provided by precision agriculture studies reporting a high variability of vineyard soils, the spatial scale should also be taken into consideration in the evaluation of the soil effects on wines. While it is accepted that soil effects become more significant than climate on a local level, it is not clear whether these micro-variations of vineyard soils are determining in the terroir effect. Moreover, as terroir is not a set of only natural factors, the magnitude of the contribution of human-related factors (irrigation, fertilization, soil management) to the soil effect still remains ambiguous. Lastly, a major shortcoming of the majority of works about soil effects on wine characteristics is the absence of connection with actual vine physiological processes since all soil effects on grape and wine chemistry and sensorial properties are ultimately mediated through vine responses.
This article attempts to breakdown the main soil attributes involved in the terroir effect to suggest an improved understanding about soil’s true contribution to wine sensory characteristics. It is proposed that soil parameters per se are not as significant determining factors in the terroir effect but rather their mutual interactions as well as with other natural and human factors included in the terroir concept. Consequently, similarly to bioclimatic indices, composite soil indices (i.e. soil depth, water holding capacity, fertility, temperature etc), incorporating multiple soil parameters, might provide a more accurate and quantifiable means to assess the relative weight of the soil component in the terroir effect.
A pedological study was carried out from 2009 to 2017 in Beaujolais vineyard, to improve physical and chemical knowledge of soils. It was completed in 2016 and 2017 by the current study, dealing with microbial aspects, in order to build a reference frame for improved advice in soil management. Microbial biomass was measured on representative plots of the six most common soil types identified in Beaujolais and, for each soil type, on plots with different levels of the main impacting parameters: total organic carbon, pH, cation exchange capacity, extractable copper. A total of 59 soil samples were collected. Confirming the results of various trials carried out in Beaujolais over the past 20 years, the results of the present study showed that the soils were still alive, but exhibited a large variability of biological parameters, which appeared dependant on both pedological and anthropic factors. Therefore, a good interpretation of biological parameters and advice for vine growers must rely on a pedologically-based referential with differentiated main driving factors. For example, the control of pH is of primary importance in granitic soils and in no way organic matter addition can improve soil quality if pH is too low. Conversely, in calcareous soils, biological parameters are more directly affected by direct or indirect (cover crops for example) inputs of organic matter. The use of biological parameters, such as microbial biomass, is of great potential value to improve advice on agro-viticultural practices (soil management, fertilization, liming, etc.), basis of a sustainable wine production on fragile soils.
Impact of long term agroecological and conventional practices on subsurface soil microbiota in Macabeu and Xarel·lo vineyards
There is a growing trend on the transition from conventional to agroecological management of vineyards. However, the impact of practices, such as reduced-tillage, organic fertilization and cover crops, is not well-understood regarding the soil microbial diversity, and its relationship with the soil physicochemical properties in the subsurface depth near the rooting zone. Soil bacterial diversity is an important contributor towards plant health, productivity and response to environmental stresses. A field experiment was conducted by sampling subsurface soil bacterial community (NGS and qPCR) near to the root zone of Macabeu and Xarel·lo vineyards, located at the Penedes. 3 organic (ECO) and 3 conventional (CON) vineyards, with more than 10 years of respective management were sampled (n=5 each plot). ECO practices did not affect bacterial and fungal abundance but increased significantly the ammonium oxidizing bacteria and alpha-diversity (Inv.Simpson). Interestingly beta-diversity was significantly affected by the management strategy. ANOSIM-tests revealed a significative effect of the management (ecological vs conventional) and plot, on the soil microbial structure (ASV abundance). Main phyla depicted were Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Acidobacteria, whose relative abundances were not affected by the management. EdgeR assay revealed a significant increase of Cyanobacteria and decrease of Gemmatimonadetes and Firmicutes phyla in ECO. Interestingly, the grapevine variety was not correlated with the soil microbial community structure. Mantel-test revealed an important correlation (Spearman) of some physicochemical parameters with the soil microbiota structure, in order of importance: texture, EC, pH Ca/Mg, Mg/P, K+, Mg2+, Ca2+, SO42-, and OM. N-NH4 and NTK, which were higher in the ECO managed soils, did not correlated significantly with the soil microbiome population. The results revealed the importance of combining a deep physicochemical characterization of each replicate with the microbial diversity assessment to gain better insights on the relationship between soil microbiome and vineyard management.