The frequency and duration of drought events dramatically increased in the last years, negatively impacting on quality traits of fruit crops, such as wine-grape cultivars, that are overall more appreciated for their unique secondary metabolites rather than for high quantitative yields. Vitis vinifera is one of the most sensitive species to environmental variations and it shows a broad array of adaptation strategies, often relying on the genotype of the cultivar and/or rootstock used. It is thus of crucial importance to understand how grapevine cultivars physiologically perceive and react to adverse environmental conditions, in order to improve existing breeding platforms and facilitate the use of sustainable and best-suited agronomic practices in the vineyard.
The GRAPEFIT project was conceived to deepen the physiological and molecular mechanisms at the basis of grapevine adaptability to drought stress events either occurring over a restricted time span or long-lasting. The main objectives of the scheduled research activities will be: 1) to demonstrate whether vines in vitro regenerated through somatic embryogenesis process (named somaclones) are more prompt than the mother plants to face sudden severe water stress and/or display better physiological performances following stress relief (recovery); 2) to elucidate the molecular bases underpinning the grapevine physiological adaptation to recurrent and long-lasting water stress, in order to uncover epigenetic marks potentially associated with stress memory phenomena that could prime defense responses to climate alterations.
The expected results are: 1) production of grapevine somaclones with increased tolerance to severe drought stress; 2) selection of grapevine genotypes showing improved adaptation capacity to prolonged water stress conditions.
These outcomes will provide valuable information for orienting the choice of specific genotypes in the vineyard based on their adaptation capacity to ongoing climate changes.