Boosting Grape Health with a Natural Plant Spray

David Palenski
20th January, 2024

Boosting Grape Health with a Natural Plant Spray

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Imagine a vineyard basking under the sun, rows upon rows of grapevines heavy with clusters of fruit, destined to become fine wine. But what goes on inside those vines (you know, the intricate processes that are way above our pay grade) is as crucial as the external conditions that nurture them. This is where plant hormones like jasmonates swing into action. They are like the secret agents within plants, triggering all sorts of important functions. Among these, one of their roles has been catching researchers' eyes: coaxing plants to produce secondary metabolites, which are key players in the saga of berry and wine quality. Now, these jasmonates aren't new kids on the block in the scientific community. They've been the stars of many lab experiments, especially in grapevines, where they've shown they can jazz up the quality of both berries and the wine they become. However, most of these experiments went to town on applying these hormones directly to the leaves. Scientists though, haven't really dug into what happens when you do this – I mean, what if something magical (or scientific, rather) happens within the leaves that indirectly makes those grapes even better? So, the green thumbs over at the Department of Agriculture Food and Environment at the University of Pisa rolled up their sleeves to crack this case. They set out to really get to grips with how jasmonates work their magic on grapevines (without the capes and wands, sadly). They wanted to know what's happening both at the leaf level, and how that ties in with the secondary metabolites in the berries – the compounds that have roles in plant defense and can influence wine aroma and flavor. Pretty neat, right? They went for a two-pronged approach, like a culinary experiment but with more science and no tasting, unfortunately. They applied a solution of methyl jasmonate—a kind of jasmonate that's easier for the researchers to handle—during what's called the lag-phase. It's a bit like halftime for grapes, where not much seems to be happening on the outside, but inside, it's all systems go. The trick was that they applied it once just to the leaves, and another time only on the clusters of berries, then sat back and compared their notes with a bunch of grapevines they just left alone (the control group, if you will). What they found was like noticing the subtle differences in two seemingly identical paintings. When they treated just the leaves with their jasmonate sauce, the leaves started acting kind of old (okay, more scientifically, the senescence mechanisms were stimulated). That means their overall function and efficiency went down. The kicker? This leaf aging extravaganza didn’t affect the berries’ development. Not one bit. However, when they showered attention on the clusters, the story changed. The jasmonate treatment held back the ripening of the berries, much like a master storyteller prolongs the suspense. The researchers suspected that this slowdown meant that the berries’ carbon resources—usually earmarked for growing—were instead diverted to creating these aromatic compounds called volatile organic compounds. And guess what? One group of these compounds, specifically the monoterpenes in their sneaky glycosylated disguises (which means they're hooked onto sugar molecules), skyrocketed. All this points to the idea that where you apply these jasmonates on the grapevine matters—like choosing between spotlighting the lead singer or the guitarist during a solo. Treating the leaves amps up leaf aging without influencing the berries, while spraying the clusters redirects the plant's energies from growing to making the substances that contribute to wine's aroma and flavor. What's the takeaway here, other than a craving for a nice glass of wine (we can't blame you)? Well, the dance of jasmonates within grapevines has broader implications. It's not just about getting more desirable secondary metabolites for better wine but also about understanding plant behavior and growth more broadly. By deciphering these intricate plant processes, we can better grasp how to manipulate, enhance, and protect the plants that give us so much—not just wine but a myriad of crops that fill our plates and cups. So, let's raise a toast to the teams like the one from the University of Pisa, who tease out the secrets of plants, lending us the knowledge to potentially make that next bottle of wine not just good but grapevine-great! Cheers to science!

FruitsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Berry secondary metabolites and leaf physiological parameters are independently regulated by exogenous methyl jasmonate application in Sangiovese grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.).

Published 20th January, 2024

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