Researcer: Prof J.T. Burger - 10 Jun 2016

Since the discovery of Grapevine yellows in local vineyards eight years ago, research made significant progress in the understanding of this disease. The etiological agent was identified as Aster Yellows (AY) phytoplasma and the biological vector as Mgenia fuscovaria, reliable diagnostic tools were developed, local genetic variants characterized and the incidence and spread of the disease was determined. There is however still no proven scientific solution to the disease. This preliminary study proposes to investigate the so-called “recovery phenotype” (RP), which has been reported in several other phytoplasma-infected plants and also seems to be at work in local AY-infected grapevines.

Recent studies monitored the AY presence in infected vines that were cut back six years prior to testing, in an attempt to prolong the economic lifespan of the plant. These plants were found to still be symptomless after two years of being cut back and no AY phytoplasma was detected in them. It appears that certain physical or physiological interventions can lead to disease remission, but the mechanism of this recovery phenotype is unknown. It is also proposed that identified bacterial endophytes could act as natural biocontrol.

This project aims to further investigate and gain an understanding of this remission mechanism and recovery phenotype, in the hope of ultimately identifying a practical management procedure that can be implemented in affected vineyards to prolong the productive lifespan of such vineyards. Research can then focus on optimising the parameters of the management procedure.


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