B.C. researchers identify special fungi that may protect grapevines from devastating disease | CBC News

New research from BC has identified two types of fungi that protect against grape stem disease, which is good news for the local wine industry.

Torso disease is a fungus in itself that spreads mainly through pruning wounds and causes plants to rot. It can be a costly problem for grape growers if it spreads and knocks out other plants before it can come under control, which often means using chemicals.

But this discovery would mean that growers would have a natural solution to what Hans Buchler says is a growing problem.

Buchler has been growing grapes in Oliver, BC, also known as Canada’s wine capital, for 40 years.

“When we look around in my neighborhood, we see more and more symptoms of this,” he said. “In some areas, in fact, on a very large scale, very large proportions of relatively young blocs are infected.”

Jinxz Pollard-Flamand, a researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, says fungi Trichoderma Canadense and Trichoderma Viticola replaces the fungus that causes trunk disease and has been shown to be 70 to 100 percent effective against the disease.

He and his research colleagues tested the fungi on pruning wounds, which were inoculated with trunk disease, for 21 days.

“We found that we had reduced the infection in principle,” said Pollard-Flamand.

Jinxz Pollard-Flamand, a researcher from Dawson Creek, BC, has discovered two types of fungi that can help grape growers protect their plants. (Submitted by Jinxz Pollard-Flamand)

Using Trichoderma species to fight trunk disease is not exactly new, Pollard-Flamand points out. It is used quite often in bio-pesticides, he said. However, these species were used to specifically test certain types of vines, and this work may be the basis for a natural product that grape growers can use to combat a disease that has the potential to destroy their vineyard and their business.

Pollard-Flamand said more research was needed before a product using these fungi could be made commercially available to grape growers, but Buchler said he and other grape growers in his region would be very interested in using it if and when it became available.

“It really is, really promising,” Buchler said.

“This is a kind of interesting example of how research can change the world.”

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