New research tackles issues of 'rot' in wine grapes

Costly 'grey mould' the centre of promising wine grape research


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COSTLY: Charles Sturt University (CSU) Professor Chris Steel is at the coalface of new research that promises to determine thresholds of botrytis or grey mould contamination in grapes. The research assesses just how much of this costly rot is too much.

COSTLY: Charles Sturt University (CSU) Professor Chris Steel is at the coalface of new research that promises to determine thresholds of botrytis or grey mould contamination in grapes. The research assesses just how much of this costly rot is too much.

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Research determines how much 'bunch rot' is too much.

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THE sinking feeling that comes from seeing one "furry grey" strawberry in a punnet is something consumers know well.

But imagine having that same "furry" fungus or rot in million dollar wine grape vintages.

And it is the type of rot that doesn't just affect one bunch of grapes, it can quickly spread throughout broader growing regions.

Despite the current dry conditions the effects of fungus in horticultural crops are a bane to the rural industry.

Bunch rot costs the Australian wine grape industry millions at the farm gate and can also adversely affect the colour of wine at the consumer end too.

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And while current research is focused on the wine industry the effects of bunch rot spread to many other horticultural crops such as tomatoes or strawberries.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) Professor Chris Steel is at the coalface of new research that promises to determine thresholds of botrytis or grey mould contamination in grapes.

The research assesses just how much of this costly rot is too much. 

Professor Steel explained that this "grey mould"  can impact both yield and wine quality and the flavour (of affected grapes) can taint the end product too.

"Growers have to decide when and if they harvest impacted fruit, and at the winery it can lead to the downgrading or possible rejection of fruit," Professor Steel said. 

He said making this decision was good for economics because costs of production were high within the wine grape industry.

For this vintage, the new research will be extended to include Cabernet Sauvignon grapes too.

Wine Australia general manager of research, development and extension, Dr Liz Waters, said bunch rot comes at a significant cost for growers and wine makers. 

She said the project was exciting because it would help to determine how much bunch rot is too much, so that an objective measure can be set to assist growers and winemakers in their decisions at harvest.

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