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Completed Projects

Development of rapid and sensitive molecular diagnostic tools to detect trunk disease pathogens from environmental and plant materials

  • Date Completed: 2016-06-30
  • Project Supervisor: Billones-Baaijens , Dr Regina

Dr. Regina Billones-Baaijens travelled to Canada in March – June, 2016 to undergo training on new molecular techniques and conduct collaborative research with Dr. Jose R. Úrbez Torres at the Summerland Research and Development Centre (SuRDC), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Summerland, British Columbia. This travel was financially supported by a National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) Research Fellowship Grant; a Wine Australia Travel Bursary with in-kind contribution from SuRDC. The output of this travel will contribute to one of the objectives of a current Wine Australia-funded project, SAR1205 ‘Practical management of grapevine trunk diseases (GTD)' and the newly approved project, SAR1601 'Grapevine trunk disease management for vineyard longevity in diverse climates of Australia'. These projects aim to ascertain spore dispersal of GTD pathogens and to determine the climatic conditions that favour the release of these pathogens. The new project also aims to quantify levels of GTD pathogens in nursery propagation material and determine different stress conditions that trigger disease expression in vineyards. The three month collaborative research period at SuRDC included hands-on training on (a) DNA macroarray; (b) Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR); and (c) specificity test and qPCR optimisation of Eutypa dieback (ED) and Botryosphaeria dieback (BD) multi-species primers developed for the GTD project (SAR1205). The DNA macroarray and ddPCR are rapid and specific tools for the identification, detection and quantification of plant pathogens. The training at SuRDC has resulted in enhanced skills in the development of rapid and accurate molecular tools for the detection and quantification of GTD pathogens in the environment. In addition, experience was gained to optimise and troubleshoot molecular assays that will fast track the analyses of spore trap samples collected for the spore trapping studies in Australia. The skills gained in Canada will allow researchers at the NWGIC to adopt these DNA-based diagnostic tools for future GTD research subject to the availability of equipment. The transfer of technologies between Canadian and Australian researchers builds on collaboration established through previous exchanges between the countries by Drs Urbez Torres and Mark Sosnowski (SARDI) and will contribute to the development of control strategies for grapevine trunk diseases that is considered a serious threat to the sustainability of both wine industries.

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Rapid molecular DNA identification method for the European invasive grapevine moth Lobesia botrana

  • Date Completed: 2016-02-01
  • Project Supervisor: Tay, Dr Wee Tek

The European Grapevine Moth (EGVM), Lobesia botrana, has been identified by the grape and wine industry as an exotic pest threat of high priority. Present throughout Europe and North America, it can cause significant harvest losses by feeding on grapevine flowers and fruit. This project developed a robust, rapid and easy-to-use molecular identification method for L. botrana, based on PCR and RFLP analysis of mitochondrial genes. In addition, a method for extracting DNA from the moth at all stages of its lifecycle (egg, larva, pupa and adult) was developed. These procedures were combined to form a new National Diagnostic Protocol for molecular identification of the European Grapevine Moth Lobesia botrana, which currently awaits review. Once nationally endorsed, this protocol will allow identification of EGVM in the event of an incursion and facilitate a rapid response by the grape and wine sector.

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Information Seeking and Research Adoption (Bridging Funding)

  • Date Completed: 2016-04-24
  • Project Supervisor: Given, Professor Lisa M

This report presents findings from a qualitative study of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority’s “mentoring circles” in Barossa and McLaren Vale. Focus group interviews were conducted with members of both groups in June 2015 to explore participants’ experiences with group-based mentoring during the circles’ first year of activities. The study results demonstrate the benefits of diverse group membership (i.e., a range of ages, backgrounds, and organisational contexts) and a strong mentor to guide participants’ thinking about a range of business decisions. The benefits to participants’ personal and career development, including the extension of personal industry networks, are key outcomes of the group-based mentoring activities.

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ClimWine 2016: Sustainable grape and wine production in the context of climate change – Travel 2016

  • Date Completed: 2016-04-25
  • Project Supervisor: Edwards, Dr Everard

Everard Edwards presented a paper entitled “Multi-seasonal effects of warming and elevated CO2 on the physiology, growth and production of mature, field grown, Shiraz grapevines” at the ClimWine 2016 conference in Bordeaux, France. He also presented a poster, “Multi-seasonal effects of warming and elevated CO2 on grape and wine composition of mature, field grown Shiraz grapevines”. Attending the conference provided an excellent opportunity for the author to develop a broad understanding of the latest thinking in Europe on how the wine industry is dealing with climate change as the meeting had a wide range of speakers from economists, through viticultural and oenological researchers to industry representatives. There was significant interest in the Wine Australia-funded work presented, due to its unique capacity to combine both climate warming and elevated CO2 impacts in a single experimental system. In addition, the author's presence in Europe was utilised to make additional visits to existing research collaborators at INRA Bordeaux and potential future collaborators at SupAgro Montpellier, France and the Hochschule Geisenheim University, Germany. A report on the symposium will be provided to the Australian and New Zealand Grapegrower and Winemaker for future publication.

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Presentation at the 9th Annual AAWE Conference – “The use of big data to develop an understanding of the link between consumer preference, climate and demography”

  • Date Completed: 2015-06-01
  • Project Supervisor: Reed, Dr Alastair

Alastair Reed attended and presented at the 9th Annual Conference of the American Association of Wine Economists between the 27th and 31st of May 2015, in Mendoza, Argentina. This conference offered a broad scope for presentations, ranging from regional economic overviews, historical vignettes, through to intricate data-driven modelling of buying and production trends.

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Characterisation of wine avoiders and how to transition avoiders to consumers in the Australian, Canadian, US, UK and Indian markets

  • Date Completed: 2015-12-31
  • Project Supervisor: Saliba, Professor Anthony

For too long, wine companies have been promoting their wine brands to customers who already consume wine. Although important, this results in cannibalisation of brands and sharing the existing number of consumers amongst different wine companies. This report outlines that a large number of people who currently drink alcohol but avoid wine are actually aspirational about drinking wine. Recommendations are provided to assist businesses to reach these new customers, including where consumers do not like the taste. The discovery of new wine customers around the world is one of the most exciting of the last decade. The full report is available to Australian grape and wine research R&D levy payers by emailing Anne Duncan at

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Effective use of interactive media: A pathway for wine brand growth

  • Date Completed: 2016-02-28
  • Project Supervisor: Goodman, Dr Steven

This research explores how wine brands communicate to consumers via Facebook. It investigates how online communication facilitates customer engagement. The results show a large disparity between the content delivered by brands, and the times in which wine consumers are more likely to engage. While wine brands appear to post most content from 5 to 7pm, users are most likely to engage prior to midday. Similarly, the greatest number of posts are delivered on Thursdays, however Facebook fans were found to engage more over the weekend; at a time closely aligned with wine purchase and consumption The results also demonstrate a very low level of engagement among fans. On average, only 10% of Facebook fans engage with the brand. This finding indicates that brands have not been successful in facilitating high levels of engagement amongst fans; the work presented here is intended to assist wine brands increase this effect.

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Adoption of grape and wine R&D outputs. Who, what and why?

  • Date Completed: 2015-12-31
  • Project Supervisor: Hill, Megan

Extensive interview and survey data was collected and analysed using the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM2) to identify the drivers of adoption for two vineyard and two winery technologies. Perceived usefulness was a key driver for all of these technologies, with business scale and outlook (i.e. if the business was expanding, staying steady or contracting in size), attitudes to productivity, social norms and grower or winemaker age also emerging as important. It was found that grapegrowers and winemakers sought and used more sources of information when considering high involvement, important or risky technologies, than when considering more routine, low involvement technologies. Networks of other grapegrowers and winemakers were found to be key sources of information and a strong influence on the decision making and adoption of technology. A framework that ties these results and concepts together to guide the design of an extension strategy is presented.

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Organic acid metabolism and the control of grape berry acidity in a warming climate

  • Date Completed: 2015-12-31
  • Project Supervisor: Ford, Assoc Prof Christopher

The objective of this project was to identify potential targets for the manipulation of organic acid profiles in grapes, with a long-term goal of minimising the impact of climate change on grape must acidity. Transgenic grapevines were developed to better understand how acidity is regulated within berries and leaves. New metabolic models were generated from field- and chamber-based temperature experiments and from cultivars with inherently different acid profiles. These demonstrated correlative links between organic acid and amino acid metabolism. Therefore altering nitrogen supply may provide a relatively straightforward means for manipulating berry acid levels, warranting further investigation.  

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Incubator initiative: Breeding drought and heat tolerant grapevine using epigenetic tools

  • Date Completed: 2015-09-30
  • Project Supervisor: Rodrigues Lopez, Dr Carlos

Plants have acquired the ability to prime their genomes after environmental stress, enabling a faster and stronger response to future environmental cues. This is most immediately tangible for long-lived crops such as grapevine. DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism by which plants control their responses to stress. Such epigenetic memory could be used for breeding purposes. We used MC-Seq to determine the genomic regions showing DNA methylation changes in grapevines during/after heat, drought and combined heat/drought stress. A total of 13,968 genes were identified as differentially methylated between control and stressed plants. The methylation status of 233 of these genes was maintained after physiological recovery and was deemed to reflect epigenetic memory of stress

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