Keeping grape populations healthy

Keeping grape populations healthy

On Missouri State’s Mountain Grove campus, you can find the Center for Grapevine Biotechnology and some of the most intensive studies of Missouri’s grape crop.

Here, researchers like Dr. Wenping Qiu, director, and Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang, associate professor at the William H. Darr School of Agriculture, explore grape genetics. They want to increase the profitability of the grape and wine industry, ensure its stability and improve human health with their genetic findings.

One of the primary grapes studied at the center is Missouri’s official state grape, the Norton — which is grown at the State Fruit Experiment Station on the Mountain Grove campus. The researchers study disease resistance in order to keep the plants healthy.

“Norton, (scientific name Vitis aestivalis), the official grape of the state of Missouri, is grown in many U.S. regions where production of V. vinifera (the European grape used for most wine-making worldwide, e.g., pinot noir) requires extensive pesticide use for fungal diseases,” Hwang said. “It has been reported that Norton is hardy and resistant to several fungal pathogens including powdery mildew, downy mildew, Botrytis bunch rot and black rot.”

With some of the most recent findings, the research team hopes to expedite efforts to breed the Norton grape with the ultimate goal of improving viticultural performance and enological quality of new grape varieties well-adapted to Missouri conditions.