SOIL-PRO-VINE: Developing natural solutions for sustainable agriculture in grape production

The European Green Deal has set out to halve the use of synthetic chemical pesticides by 2030. In this context, the SOIL-PRO-VINE project emerges as an initiative to address this challenge. The goal is to find ways to manage pests and diseases in vineyards in a more natural and sustainable way. To do this, entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) will be explored, small soil organisms that are known for their ability to biologically control pests. Recent studies have shown that the bacteria that accompany NEPs can be used to produce compounds useful in plant protection. These bacteria can act as biofactories. Furthermore, a possible association with plant roots is postulated, which could confer a certain defense capacity to plants.

The SOIL-PRO-VINE project (PID2022-136487OB-I00), led by Dr. Raquel Campos Herrera from the IN-vid research group of the ICVV, is funded by the State Research Agency within the framework of the 2022 Call for "Knowledge Generation Projects" of the State Plan for Scientific, Technical and Innovation Research 2021-2023. The research team is multidisciplinary, made up of researchers from the ICVV, the Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid) and the Jaime I University (Castellón) in collaboration with the university of ETH-Zurich (Switzerland), allowing the achievement of each of the areas addressed. In this team, a doctoral student will be integrated into the research personnel training contract plan (FPI).

SOIL-PRO-VINE focuses on the grapevine, Vitis vinifera, a crop widely grown in Spain and other arid and semi-arid regions. The project seeks to take advantage of the beneficial action of NEPs and their associated bacteria to combat threats such as insects, fungi and nematodes that affect the quality of grapes. The project has three key objectives (i) evaluate the capacity of bacteria associated with EPNs to control aerial pests and diseases of grapevines using the Lobesia botrana-Botrytis cinerea complex as a model system, (ii) study how soil organisms and its associated bacteria can manage underground threats associated with grapevines, such as Meloidogyne incognita and Armillaria mellea, and (iii) investigate how these organisms benefit the growth and quality of grapes and their relationship with vine roots.

The results of SOIL-PRO-VINE will not only be beneficial to farmers and technicians by providing more environmentally friendly methods for pest control, but could also be applicable to other crops. Additionally, this project will support the growth of organic viticulture, a growing sector that faces limitations in pest management. Ultimately, SOIL-PRO-VINE becomes a step towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly viticulture.