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217: Combating Climate Chaos with Adaptive Winegrape Varieties

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Erratic weather like deluge rain, longer falls, and patches of drought disrupt vinifera’s adaptation to long-sustained winters. Jason Londo, Associate Professor of Horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell AgriTech explains how big weather changes in the Pacific North East can cause vines to wake up earlier posing a risk to freeze or frost damage. By researching acclimation and deacclimation, Jason is working to breed and select varieties for enhanced cold resistance, drought resistance, pest resistance, plus good fruit quality. In the future, to reduce inputs in vineyards and increase economic sustainability we need to put the right grape in the right climate.

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Transcript

Craig Macmillan 0:00

Our guest today is Jason Londo. He is Associate Professor of horticulture in the School of integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell agritech. We're gonna talk about some pretty cool stuff today. Thanks for coming on the show. Jason,

Jason Londo 0:11

Thank you for having me.

Craig Macmillan 0:12

Your work tends to center around identifying things like climate induced disorders, developing medication methods, improving resiliency and sustainability of crops like apples and grapes. How did you become interested in that that's a pretty interesting area.

Unknown Speaker 0:26

Originally, I was mostly interested in how plants adapt to stress just in general plants, because they're stuck to the ground that the seed lands on they are forced with so many complicated life's challenges, that it's really amazing what a plant can do in the face of stress. And so my curiosity has always been trying to figure out those strategies. But climate induced part of it is sort of reality striking into my passion, right? We know the climate is shifting, and it is shifting those stresses in a way that our plants can't necessarily respond in the same way that they used to, particularly because of the rate of climate change. So that's how I got interested in this topic, just trying to figure out how plants work when they're stressed out.

Craig Macmillan 1:13

And you're interested in plants in general. And then now you're focusing on specific crops, right?

Jason Londo 1:18

Yes, indeed, I started out originally working on endangered mints. If you can imagine that. Then I worked on rice. Then I worked on canola and I landed and fruit crops. And so yeah, lots of lots of diversity in those systems. All those plants have different stresses.

Craig Macmillan 1:35

They're all different families. I mean, he really jumped around.

Jason Londo 1:37

Oh, yeah. One of the coolest things about working in plant stress is plants across different clades evolved different ways of handling maybe the same stress. And you can learn a lot about sort of the limitations of stress response and the advantages and opportunities when you work across a lot of different systems. And so it makes for a tricky CV, because my publications kind of snake all over the place. But from trying to figure out the next strategy or figure out the next experiment, I feel like it's a real positive to have that background.

Craig Macmillan 2:13

I want to go back for a second because I think this is an important topic. And you mentioned clade. What is a clade? And how does that apply to looking at plant stress?

Jason Londo 2:24

And its most basic a clade is a group of plants that belong to the same sort of evolutionary history, and without getting into the real jargony. And the fights between what makes a species and what doesn't make a species. The basic concept is an evolutionary group. And so when I talk about plant stress strategies and differences between clades if we think about rice, it's a monocot. And so it has a completely different evolutionary lineage from most of our dicot fruit crops. Canola is a dicot it's a mustard. Both rice and canola are typically annualized, maybe sometimes there's a perennial version, when we talk about fruit crops, we're talking about, in my case, grapes and apples, Woody perennials, so dicot species that persists for many, many years. And so the strategies that are successful for for getting through a stressful situation can vary very much by those different life histories.

Craig Macmillan 3:24

We're kind of talking about stresses in general, what are particular stresses on things like apples and grapes that you're looking at.

Jason Londo 3:29

So in my program, it has a climate adaptation focus. And we all know that the main drivers behind climate change are temperature and precipitation. And here in the northeast, we do have a benefit in that we've got some room to get warm before it gets uncomfortable. And we have plenty of rain. But what we're seeing here is big changes in our winter weather shifts in our phonology. So the spring is coming earlier, the fall is coming later. And then we're also having big changes in precipitation. So little patches of drought, deluge, rain, and so very different from California, where things may be drying out. We're drying out, but in a very episodic sort of pattern. And the systems here are not built on drought management. They're not built so much on water logging either, although we do use tiling in the fields to Drain off excess water. And so when we're talking about climate impacts, here are primarily talking about temperature and shifts in precipitation.

I know that you've been looking at cold hardiness. What has been the pattern? What's the change that's happening in the Northeast as far as cold goes?

Yeah, so most of my career, as a as a PI has been in cold hardiness and cold stress response in grapes. I spent 10 years at the USDA as a geneticist, particularly diving into this topic, and even in those 10 years years I've seen a major shift in the intensity of our winters they are getting much more mild, but they're also coming very erratic. And so we're having large swings in temperature. I'm sure your listeners are familiar with the concept of a polar vortex we've had enough of them. Now, that is pretty common. When you take a perennial crops like grape, and you put it through winter, it's it's adapted to a long, sustained winter, not a real chaotic, episodic type winter where it gets warm and cold and warm than cold. The the complex molecular components of what tells the grape that it's safe to wake up don't function as well when you have those erratic temperatures. And so we're seeing, in general more mild, which is good for baseline cold hardiness, but also an uptick in sort of chaos. And that's not good for for any form of cold hardiness. And it particularly affects late winter, because the the plants wake up. As they're coming into spring, they respond to heat. And when you have weird weather in that really late winter, early spring, they can wake up too early and then suffer a lot of freeze damage or frost damage if they happen to break bud.

Craig Macmillan 6:11

What is the mechanism around freeze damage? I've interviewed some folks from like Michigan and Iowa and Ohio, we don't have freeze damage in California very much Washington, obviously. What are the parameters there? How cold for how long? And what's the actual mechanism of damage to the volume?

Jason Londo 6:29

Yeah, great questions. Very complicated questions.

Craig Macmillan 6:35

That's why we're here.

Jason Londo 6:35

Yeah, yeah. All grapes gain cold hardiness in the winter, regardless of where they are, it's a part of going dormant and making it through winter. The biggest changes that we see in the vine is that the buds will isolate from the vasculature. And so the little connections that come from the xylem and the phloem, into the bud, they actually get clogged up with pectins. And so you have to think of the bud is sort of like a little island tissue, it's not connected to the cane during winter. Once the bud does that it's able to gain cold hardiness and traverse winter. And that process is called acclamation. And so the buds gain a greater and greater ability to survive lower and lower temperatures. We don't know exactly how all of it works. But it's a mixture of making more sugars and making more Ozma protectant inside the buds so that water freezes at lower temperatures and also controlled dehydration. So the more you can dehydrate a tissue, the less likely ice crystals will form in pure water. But and we don't know how they do this. And it's quite magical if you think about it, but they're able to suck out all of this internal water so that it is less and less likely for water to freeze inside the cell. If they can keep the ice crystals from forming inside the cell. We call that cold hardiness that they they are surviving freeze damage, we can measure the temperature that reaches that defense. And you've had other speakers on your show that have talked about cold hardiness. It's called differential thermal analysis. And we basically measure the precise temperature where the water freezes through some tricks of thermodynamics, that cold hardiness failure point changes throughout the whole winter, and it changes by the location that the grape is growing in. What we do know about the system is that it takes oscillating temperatures to gain cold hardiness. So it has to get warm than cold warm than cold, warm than cold and progressively colder in order to ramp down and gain cold hardiness, then it has to stay cold for the cold hardiness to sort of hang out at the maximum cold hardiness. And that maximum cold heartedness is going to differ by region. So here in New York, something like Chardonnay will reach a maximum cold hardiness of maybe negative 27 Celsius. I cannot do the Fahrenheit conversion,.

Craig Macmillan 9:00

That's fine. That's fine.

Jason Londo 9:03

But say, say negative 27 Fahrenheit, whereas in California, it may not gain more than negative 20. And that's because it just doesn't get pushed. As you go through winter. You go through a whole bunch of other stuff with dormancy chilling our requirement, and that changes the way that the bud responds to temperature. And you enter a phase called Eco dormancy, which is now resistance to freezing based on how cold the vineyard is. And so when you get warm spikes in late winter, when the buds are eco dormant. They think those are a little preview that it's springtime and so they lose their cold heartedness really quickly they start reabsorbing that water, and they'll freeze that warmer and warmer temperatures. And so that's really the most dangerous time in this sort of climate chaos. When you think about winter that late winter period is when the vines are reacting with their adaptive complex for 1000s of years. When it started to warm up. It meant it was spring and now they're starting To think, okay, spring is coming. But we're still in February in New York, maybe in. In California. It's more like it's January and you're getting a warming event. And they all move right towards bud break. And then of course, they can get hit pretty hard by a leak freeze or a frost.

Craig Macmillan 10:15

Yeah, exactly. I'm guessing this varies by variety.

Jason Londo 10:19

Yes, very much. So, vinifera varieties are typically less hardy than the North American adapted varieties, the, the hybrid varieties is often gets used. I don't particularly like the word hybrid. But these cold climate grapes that have been bred by University of Minnesota and Cornell, they tend to have greater maximum cold hardiness. But they also tend to wake up in the spring much faster. And that's partly because of the genetic background that those hybrids were made from. When you breed with species that come from the far north, like Vitis riparia, those species are adapted to a very short growing season, which means as soon as it's warm enough to start growing, they go for it to try to get through their entire cycle. So now we're starting to see that there are some potential issues with climate change when we think about hybrid varieties that use those those northern species, and that they may be more prone to frost damage in the future.

Craig Macmillan 11:15

Oh, really, that's I wouldn't have thought that I would have thought the opposite. So obviously, we have different species. So we have some genetic differences between what I'll call wild grapes or native grapes, the Oh, invasive plant itis vinifera that has been thrown around. What can we learn by looking at the genetics of native North American varieties?

Jason Londo 11:38

from a cold hardiness perspective,

Craig Macmillan 11:40

cold hardness, just in general drought resistance, pest resistance?

Jason Londo 11:44

Well, in general, they're a massive resource for improvement, which depends on who is who's calling a species species. But there may be up to 20 Different wild species in North America. And each of those wild species has a different evolutionary trajectory that has given it the ability to create adaptive gene complexes, that could be useful in viticulture, as we have shifting climate, away from what maybe vinifera likes, hot and dry into further northern latitudes, you know, that if the California industry has to start moving up in latitude or up in altitude, we start integrating different stresses that maybe those vines haven't been exposed to in their evolutionary history, you know, from Europe. And so these wild species just have these potentially novel genes, potentially novel pathways where genes are interacting with one another, that give vines a greater plasticity. And so this concept of plasticity is if you take an individual and you put it in environment a, and it grows to size 10, but you put it in environment B and it grows to size 20. The difference there is the plasticity between those two environments. And we really, if we want sustainable viticulture, what we want to encourage is using cultivars that have maximal plasticity. So as the environment shifts around them, they're still able to give you the same yield the same sugars, the same quality, you know, within a within an error bar anyway, they're the most resilient over time. And incorporating traits and pathways that come from wild grapes can help build that plasticity in the genetic background coming from the European great.

Craig Macmillan 13:23

So we're talking about crosses, we're talking about taking a native plant and then vinifera crossing to create something new. You had said that you don't know you don't care for the word hybrid. Why not? That's interesting to me.

Jason Londo 13:35

Because it has a negative connotation in the wine drinker. realm, right people think of hybrids as lower quality as not vinifera, so lesser. And I think I'm not an enologists. I'm not a viticulturalists. So I want to be careful on whose toes I mash. But if we're talking about sustainability of a crop through an erratic climate, we can do a lot with vinifera we can we can mitigate climate change a lot with vinifera, but at some point, the inputs may become too much to make it a sustainable crop and then we need to be able to move to adapted varieties. And we can adapt the wine quality from vinifera to climate chaos, by breeding and and selecting for enhanced cold resistance, enhanced drought resistance, enhance pest resistance, and good fruit quality. That's a little bit of a soapbox. But when people say hybrid, it's like lesser, but it's, in my opinion, it's more we're taking something great. And we are increasing its plasticity across the the country across the growing zones. We are giving it a chance to grow in more regions reach more local communities create a bigger fan base. So I get really my hackles got up because there is amazing hybrid based on Climate adapted based wines, and winemakers. And when we use the word hybrid people just automatically in their mind shifted into lesser. And I think that's unfortunate. I think it's something that we need to work actively as an industry against, because a lot of those particular disease resistance traits are coming from wild germ plasm. That is not in the European grape. And we just can't solve all our problems with that one species.

Craig Macmillan 15:30

So the kinds of traits that we're talking about these environmental adaptations, or acclamations, these will be polygenic trades, how do you find these? I'm assuming that you're looking for those specific genetic information to say, Yeah, this is the plant that I want to use in my my breeding program. What does that look like? How do you do that?

Jason Londo 15:49

So the approaches are very similar to when you're working on single locus traits. And so disease resistance and fruit color are good examples of traits that often can be found in single locus examples, again, would be fruit color, or sort of run one disease resistance, there's a whole bunch of different disease resistance was like polygenic traits can be found the same way, you have to make a cross between two different grapes that have different phenotypes. And so that might be a drug sensitive, and a drought tolerant individual. And you plant out a whole lot of baby grapes 200, 300 progeny from that cross, and then you score them with phenotypes. And with polygenic traits, it's a lot harder to find them sometimes, because in that group of, say, 300, babies, you're not looking for the movement of one gene. In that background, you're looking for maybe the movement of five to 10 different genes. And that means instead of getting a light switch kind of trait, red or white fruit, you're getting a little bit more drought resistant, a whole lot more drought resistant, but there is a gradient, right? When you have a gradient for a phenotype, you need a lot more grape babies in order to get the statistical support to say, hey, this piece of the genome right here, this makes a grape, a little bit more drought resistant. And over here, this piece of the genome does the same thing. And when you put them together, they either add up one plus one, or sometimes they multiply two times two, you use the same approaches, it's typically a little trickier. And you got to kind of do a couple extra years of screening. But it's the same basic playbook to track down those different traits. And we have to do a lot of different phenotypes for drought response, you might be looking for the ability to root deeper, have bigger root masses, you might be looking at bigger hydraulic conductance in the trunk, you might be looking at betters to model control. You might be looking at pyres to model density or lowers to model density, you could be looking at thicker or thinner leaves. So you can imagine if there's lots of ways to be more drought resistant. There's lots of genes that help you in that pursuit. You need a lot of baby grapes in order to find all those little pockets where those genes come together and give you a statistical shift and in the phenotype.

Craig Macmillan 18:10

So you're able to identify these are you using something like qualitative trait?

Jason Londo 18:13

Exactly. Quantitative trait loci?

Craig Macmillan 18:16

Yes, exactly. So that helps speed the process up a little bit. Maybe.

Unknown Speaker 18:20

Yeah, so so QTL mapping, quantitative trait loci mapping is the probably the dominant way that we map traits. There's another way called GWAS, genome wide association studies, is built on the same concept where you have a big enough population of either grape babies or in the case of GWAS its diversity. So you'd say, let's say you had 200 Different Vitis riparias instead of 200. Babies, the principle is the same. You are looking for across all of those vines, statistical association between a specific part of the genome and a phenotype to like make it really simple. In 200 babies, grape babies, you want to have enhanced drought resistance. You let's say we take a measurement of carbon isotope concentration and so that carbon isotopes tell you how often the stomates are open, right? So you do an experiment. And you drought stress your plants, and you use carbon isotopes as the phenotype and you say, Okay, this group of 75 individuals, they all shut their stomates right away, and this other group of 125, they kept their stomates open. So then in those two groups, you look at all the genetic markers that are in the background, right, which are like little signposts across the genome. And you say, in this group of 75, which genetic markers do we see over and over and over again, outside of statistical randomness, right? And what that will give you a peek a QTL peak, if you're lucky, right, I'll give you a cue to help you can say hey, right here on chromosome four, every single baby in that pool has a has this set of markers, these five Mark occurs. So there must be a gene, somewhere near these five markers that contribute to closing your stomates. And so then extrapolate that out whatever trait you want to look at how whatever phenotype method you're using, maybe it's not carbon isotope, maybe it's leaf mass, maybe it's node number, I don't know, whatever that screening process is, the concept is the same. You have big enough population, a good genetic marker background, and a phenotype that you can measure. And you can find the statistical associations.

Craig Macmillan 20:32

And actually, that reminds me of something, how many chromosomes do grapes have?

Jason Londo 20:36

Well, bunch grapes have 19 muscadine\. grapes have 20.

Craig Macmillan 20:39

That's a lot. Which means that there's a lot of genetic variation in the genome of these plants, then.

Jason Londo 20:47

Yeah, if you think about, I mean, grape is sort of a funky beast, because a lot of these varieties that we grow, they're all They're all of the arrays, we grow our clonal. And some of them are 1000s of years old, the same genetic individual from 7000 to 10,000 years ago, we still have around today, in that process, it's it's changed, right? There's mutations that happen in the field all the time. And so even thinking about genetic clones and thinking the idea of Chardonnay being around that long, it's changed in those 7000 years, just naturally. So when you think about comparing two different clones, or two different cultivars, or clones, there's something like 43,000 Different recognized genes in vitis vinifera, that number I can give you in the different wild species, because it varies by species, but roughly 40,000 at those 40,000 genes in a in a single individual, you can have up to two different copies, right. So you could have essentially 80,000 different alleles, then you go across, I don't know, what do we have 12,000 recognized cultivars or something like that? There are something like 60 Grape species. And so now imagine the amount of potential variation you have across that entire gene pool. And so yeah, the genetic diversity within the crop as a whole is incredible. There's a lot of room for improvement. And there's a lot of room for climate adaptation. Just takes a lot of grape babies to figure it out.

Craig Macmillan 22:12

And that brings us something else. And that is the the idea of mutation. One of the issues, I think that is a stumbling block, and you mentioned it, there is the consumer, if it's not Cabernet Sauvignon, can't call it Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm not as interesting, which is something that I think we need some help from the marketing world with. Because I agree with you very much. I think if we're going to have wine in the future, we're going to have to start thinking about things other than just the cultivars that we have. Now, can you do the same kind of work with but mutation? Can you take a cane grew from a button, plant that out and look for differences between the same plant?

Jason Londo 22:53

Yeah, so you're basically talking about clonal selection clonal selection is practice worldwide by different regions, always with this eye towards making something that we currently have a little bit better or a little bit more unique, right, somatic mutations, random mutations occur in the genetic background all the time. And they often occur in response to stress, which is a really interesting angle, if you think about climate stress. So these mutations happen all the time in the background. Frequently, they will land on pieces of DNA that don't do anything that we know up. I don't want to say that no DNA is unimportant, that there are sections that we don't believe are that important. We call these non coding regions are sometimes introns. When you have a mutation in that area, sometimes there's no effect on the vine at all. And that's happening all the time in the fields. Right now. If you think about all the 1000s to millions of cab sauv vines that are growing in the world, we like to think of them even if you pick a single clone as the same genetic individual. And that is, that's simply not possible. There's so much background mutation going on in those parts of the DNA that don't give us any change in phenotype. There's no way it's all the same. We'd like to simplify it. We'd like to simplify it for our drinking behavior, as well as you know, like our sanity. But yes, you can select for clonal variation. And clonal variation happens all the time when those changes happen to land in a gene producing region, exon or perhaps a promoter or, or even in a transposable element to make a piece of DNA jump around the genome, we get a new clone, you can purposely create clones as well. So it happens naturally, but you can create clones on your own and mutational breeding is something that gets used in a lot of crop species in grapes it doesn't get used as often because it's modifying the base plant, right? So if you take Chardonnay and you want to increase his disease resistance, if it doesn't have a gene that you can break or change that would give it more disease resistance, then you can't create a clone with more disease resistance, right? You're working with a big a base plant that has limitations, but we have So we have a population where this was done it was it was done actually by the USDA by Dr. Amanda Garis. She no longer works for the USDA, but she worked here in Geneva. And they did a project where they took the variety of vignoles, which has a very compact cluster and tends to get a lot of rot. And they took a bunch of dormant canes with the buds, and they put it in a high powered X ray machine at the hospital and blasted it with X rays. What X ray damage does to DNA is it causes breaks between the double strands so all of our DNA and all our genes are wrapped up in in double stranded DNA. And when you do DNA damage with X ray mutagenesis, you break the two strands. And then when they heal themselves back together, it's often imperfect. And so they'll often lose a couple base pairs like there'll be a little piece get that gets nipped out. When you put those two pieces back together and repair, if that landed in exon, you can sometimes change the protein that would have been made by that exon or completely knocked the gene out in its entirety. Creating a clone, you're just doing it faster than nature is doing it on its own. We do it with a hospital X ray machine. And so with this method, they created about 1000 clones of vignoles. And they've made I think 10 selections out of that group that have bigger, looser clusters, so the berries are further spaced out. So they don't get damaged, they don't get as much rot. And I think those are now starting to make their way out into trials. There's an example of a very directed approach to creating a clone to fit fit a very specific viticultural problem that may or may not work for climate adaptation because of the polygenic aspect that you brought up before. Because if you break one gene and a poly genic, adaptive complex, it may not be enough to shift the entire physiology into a recognizably different pattern, it could work to make them less resilient, because you could break something that's really important. But breaking something that's important, but works out for you in the long run is just playing that randomizer lottery a little bit further. So it's doable. It can happen in nature, it can happen on purpose in our hands, but it is trickier for certain traits.

Craig Macmillan 27:21

So we're not going to X ray our way out of climate problems, basically, or diseases problems, right? Well, there may not be the right genetic information in the background of vinifera that even if we tried that, we'd have that set of genes that we would need, whereas we would have it in a native, native vine North American vine.

Jason Londo 27:42

And just a sheer a sheer number of breaks that you might have to make in order to shift the physiology enough to matter. These climate adaptation pathways are highly networked. They involve hormones, they involve sugar metabolism. And so if you really break something important, it's going to cause a really bad phenotype of death phenotype, you have to nudge the system enough in a specific direction to make a meaningful change. And so, given the complexity of the trade, it makes it harder. I don't want to say anything is impossible. I do think that there would be ways to make vinifera better, more plastic in the environment. I think the potential is there for vinifera to do better in a lot of climates. I don't know if directed mutagenesis is the most efficient way to do it. I mentioned is that random, right, you're breaking double stranded DNA at random, and then it's really healing and there's so many things have to work out for you to hit the right gene, have the right repair, you know, all of that sort of stuff that it's a method, but I don't I wouldn't say it's the most efficient method breeding with wild germ plasm is also a method, the key weakness there is then it's no longer Chardonnay, right from our wine drinking sort of our own personal biases on that situation. We outcross Chardonnay to make it more climate resilient. It's no longer Chardonnay. So it can't be sold as Chardonnay. And that itself creates a market pressure against changing it to something that's more resilient. And I think until the climate imparts an equal level of pain as consumer pressure, we won't get there. I don't think it's a question of if it will happen. It's a question of when.

Craig Macmillan 29:23

What kind of projects are you working on currently? You've mentioned experiments and breeding and it's now what do you what do you up to?

Jason Londo 29:29

So I have a pretty diverse program climate impacts is all season so we have a lot of winter projects. And we've covered some of that now trying to understand how Acclimation and deaacclimation work and if we can enhance it, we're working with but birth control. So if we could slow down deacclimation and delay by break, we could get around frost damage. And then I'm also working on a really big project is actually coming to an end where we've been looking at what the role of a rootstock is our mapping population concept that we talked about for QTL Mapping, we were talking about the scion, I have a project where we did that with the rootstock. And so we created a mapping population. The only part that is the grape babies is the roots. And we've grafted the same variety onto those roots. And then we're looking at how the different grape baby roots change the scions behavior. A really cool thing about this project is that we've replicated it clonally replicated it and grafted it in three different locations. So we have a vineyard in Missouri, a vineyard in South Dakota and a vineyard here in New York. And so across those three different environments, which are quite different, both in maximum temperature, minimum temperature and precipitation, we're learning so many cool things about what the roots can do to the same scion for your listeners, of course, they know grapes, so they know hopefully enough about grafting and that the rootstock and the scion are two different individuals. And they're mechanically grafted together. From a climate adaptation point of view, what you've done is you've taken an intact and adapted individual, and you've cut its head off, and then you've taken another climate adapted individual, and you've cut its legs off, and you've glued them together, and ask them to perform in the environment, which is just a wild, wild communication question. When the roots are experiencing one environment, and the shoot is experiencing another, how do they communicate? And then how does that affect our grape quality and wine quality? And so we're looking at drought response, can we increase the drought resistance of the Scion, based on the type of root it's on? Can we change the leaf nutrient profile, so the different ions that are taken up from the soil and how they're concentrated in the leaves. And of course, we don't really care about the leaves as much as we care about the fruit, the leaves are easy to work with. And we're even started working on wine quality. And so it looks like across our experiments, we might be able to optimize the rootstock and scion combinations we grow in different climates. To produce specific wind quality attributes, which is really cool.

Craig Macmillan 32:00

That is really cool. That is really cool. We're just about out of time. But I want to is there one thing on the on these topics that you would like or recommend to our listeners, or you'd like our listeners to know?

Jason Londo 32:11

Oh, well, I think their take home is is that we should all appreciate the new cultivars that come on the scene, whether they be from early regions like the the Eastern caucuses, something that we are not used to having in this country, or its climate adapted varieties that are bred in this country, and grown in these different regions. We need to do our best to open our minds not to does this grape or that grape tastes like cab sauv, or tastes like Chardonnay. But isn't it amazing what this grape tastes like period, because a lot of the the advances in resilience and sustainability that we can get out of either adopting new cultivars, shifting cultivars from climate to climate, or by using hybrid varieties in different regions, all of the benefits that we can get out of growing the right kind of grapes in the right climate, reduces inputs in the vineyard reduces inputs on the ecology. It increases the economic stability of rural communities. And it gives you pride in what the local region can produce. And I guess my take home would be is drink more adapted wines, enjoy them, figure out the nuances. Some of them are not great, but some of them are really great. drink more wine.

Craig Macmillan 33:33

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Jason Londo 33:36

So the easiest way is just to Google my name and Cornell and that will take you right to my Cornell page. There's not a lot of information on my Cornell page, and I'm a big procrastinator on my personal website. But you can find my contact information there and certainly get a hold of me directly. If there's anything of interest. I will also send you some links that you can use to take listeners to the Vitis underground project, which is the NSF rootstock project I talked about, I can send you a link to we have a cold hardiness website where we post prediction models that we've built about cold hardiness across most of the Eastern US. We hope to expand that to be nationwide once once I get a stronger computer, but I can send you some links there. Yeah, I would say that that's probably the best places to find information on me and the program here. And if people are in town to come and see Cornell Agrotech and see some of the stuff in the field.

Craig Macmillan 34:30

I would love to pay a visit. I've interviewed a number of your colleagues there and there's so much cool stuff going on. really innovative and really groundbreaking feel like we're on the leading edge of a wave that some point is going to break again. Maybe we'll be drinking wines other than the ones we've been drinking. I can see that happening. Anyway. So our guest today was Jason Londo. He's Associate Professor of horticulture in the School of integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell agritech. Thank you.

Jason Londo 34:55

Thanks

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Erratic weather like deluge rain, longer falls, and patches of drought disrupt vinifera’s adaptation to long-sustained winters. Jason Londo, Associate Professor of Horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell AgriTech explains how big weather changes in the Pacific North East can cause vines to wake up earlier posing a risk to freeze or frost damage. By researching acclimation and deacclimation, Jason is working to breed and select varieties for enhanced cold resistance, drought resistance, pest resistance, plus good fruit quality. In the future, to reduce inputs in vineyards and increase economic sustainability we need to put the right grape in the right climate.

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Transcript

Craig Macmillan 0:00

Our guest today is Jason Londo. He is Associate Professor of horticulture in the School of integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell agritech. We're gonna talk about some pretty cool stuff today. Thanks for coming on the show. Jason,

Jason Londo 0:11

Thank you for having me.

Craig Macmillan 0:12

Your work tends to center around identifying things like climate induced disorders, developing medication methods, improving resiliency and sustainability of crops like apples and grapes. How did you become interested in that that's a pretty interesting area.

Unknown Speaker 0:26

Originally, I was mostly interested in how plants adapt to stress just in general plants, because they're stuck to the ground that the seed lands on they are forced with so many complicated life's challenges, that it's really amazing what a plant can do in the face of stress. And so my curiosity has always been trying to figure out those strategies. But climate induced part of it is sort of reality striking into my passion, right? We know the climate is shifting, and it is shifting those stresses in a way that our plants can't necessarily respond in the same way that they used to, particularly because of the rate of climate change. So that's how I got interested in this topic, just trying to figure out how plants work when they're stressed out.

Craig Macmillan 1:13

And you're interested in plants in general. And then now you're focusing on specific crops, right?

Jason Londo 1:18

Yes, indeed, I started out originally working on endangered mints. If you can imagine that. Then I worked on rice. Then I worked on canola and I landed and fruit crops. And so yeah, lots of lots of diversity in those systems. All those plants have different stresses.

Craig Macmillan 1:35

They're all different families. I mean, he really jumped around.

Jason Londo 1:37

Oh, yeah. One of the coolest things about working in plant stress is plants across different clades evolved different ways of handling maybe the same stress. And you can learn a lot about sort of the limitations of stress response and the advantages and opportunities when you work across a lot of different systems. And so it makes for a tricky CV, because my publications kind of snake all over the place. But from trying to figure out the next strategy or figure out the next experiment, I feel like it's a real positive to have that background.

Craig Macmillan 2:13

I want to go back for a second because I think this is an important topic. And you mentioned clade. What is a clade? And how does that apply to looking at plant stress?

Jason Londo 2:24

And its most basic a clade is a group of plants that belong to the same sort of evolutionary history, and without getting into the real jargony. And the fights between what makes a species and what doesn't make a species. The basic concept is an evolutionary group. And so when I talk about plant stress strategies and differences between clades if we think about rice, it's a monocot. And so it has a completely different evolutionary lineage from most of our dicot fruit crops. Canola is a dicot it's a mustard. Both rice and canola are typically annualized, maybe sometimes there's a perennial version, when we talk about fruit crops, we're talking about, in my case, grapes and apples, Woody perennials, so dicot species that persists for many, many years. And so the strategies that are successful for for getting through a stressful situation can vary very much by those different life histories.

Craig Macmillan 3:24

We're kind of talking about stresses in general, what are particular stresses on things like apples and grapes that you're looking at.

Jason Londo 3:29

So in my program, it has a climate adaptation focus. And we all know that the main drivers behind climate change are temperature and precipitation. And here in the northeast, we do have a benefit in that we've got some room to get warm before it gets uncomfortable. And we have plenty of rain. But what we're seeing here is big changes in our winter weather shifts in our phonology. So the spring is coming earlier, the fall is coming later. And then we're also having big changes in precipitation. So little patches of drought, deluge, rain, and so very different from California, where things may be drying out. We're drying out, but in a very episodic sort of pattern. And the systems here are not built on drought management. They're not built so much on water logging either, although we do use tiling in the fields to Drain off excess water. And so when we're talking about climate impacts, here are primarily talking about temperature and shifts in precipitation.

I know that you've been looking at cold hardiness. What has been the pattern? What's the change that's happening in the Northeast as far as cold goes?

Yeah, so most of my career, as a as a PI has been in cold hardiness and cold stress response in grapes. I spent 10 years at the USDA as a geneticist, particularly diving into this topic, and even in those 10 years years I've seen a major shift in the intensity of our winters they are getting much more mild, but they're also coming very erratic. And so we're having large swings in temperature. I'm sure your listeners are familiar with the concept of a polar vortex we've had enough of them. Now, that is pretty common. When you take a perennial crops like grape, and you put it through winter, it's it's adapted to a long, sustained winter, not a real chaotic, episodic type winter where it gets warm and cold and warm than cold. The the complex molecular components of what tells the grape that it's safe to wake up don't function as well when you have those erratic temperatures. And so we're seeing, in general more mild, which is good for baseline cold hardiness, but also an uptick in sort of chaos. And that's not good for for any form of cold hardiness. And it particularly affects late winter, because the the plants wake up. As they're coming into spring, they respond to heat. And when you have weird weather in that really late winter, early spring, they can wake up too early and then suffer a lot of freeze damage or frost damage if they happen to break bud.

Craig Macmillan 6:11

What is the mechanism around freeze damage? I've interviewed some folks from like Michigan and Iowa and Ohio, we don't have freeze damage in California very much Washington, obviously. What are the parameters there? How cold for how long? And what's the actual mechanism of damage to the volume?

Jason Londo 6:29

Yeah, great questions. Very complicated questions.

Craig Macmillan 6:35

That's why we're here.

Jason Londo 6:35

Yeah, yeah. All grapes gain cold hardiness in the winter, regardless of where they are, it's a part of going dormant and making it through winter. The biggest changes that we see in the vine is that the buds will isolate from the vasculature. And so the little connections that come from the xylem and the phloem, into the bud, they actually get clogged up with pectins. And so you have to think of the bud is sort of like a little island tissue, it's not connected to the cane during winter. Once the bud does that it's able to gain cold hardiness and traverse winter. And that process is called acclamation. And so the buds gain a greater and greater ability to survive lower and lower temperatures. We don't know exactly how all of it works. But it's a mixture of making more sugars and making more Ozma protectant inside the buds so that water freezes at lower temperatures and also controlled dehydration. So the more you can dehydrate a tissue, the less likely ice crystals will form in pure water. But and we don't know how they do this. And it's quite magical if you think about it, but they're able to suck out all of this internal water so that it is less and less likely for water to freeze inside the cell. If they can keep the ice crystals from forming inside the cell. We call that cold hardiness that they they are surviving freeze damage, we can measure the temperature that reaches that defense. And you've had other speakers on your show that have talked about cold hardiness. It's called differential thermal analysis. And we basically measure the precise temperature where the water freezes through some tricks of thermodynamics, that cold hardiness failure point changes throughout the whole winter, and it changes by the location that the grape is growing in. What we do know about the system is that it takes oscillating temperatures to gain cold hardiness. So it has to get warm than cold warm than cold, warm than cold and progressively colder in order to ramp down and gain cold hardiness, then it has to stay cold for the cold hardiness to sort of hang out at the maximum cold hardiness. And that maximum cold heartedness is going to differ by region. So here in New York, something like Chardonnay will reach a maximum cold hardiness of maybe negative 27 Celsius. I cannot do the Fahrenheit conversion,.

Craig Macmillan 9:00

That's fine. That's fine.

Jason Londo 9:03

But say, say negative 27 Fahrenheit, whereas in California, it may not gain more than negative 20. And that's because it just doesn't get pushed. As you go through winter. You go through a whole bunch of other stuff with dormancy chilling our requirement, and that changes the way that the bud responds to temperature. And you enter a phase called Eco dormancy, which is now resistance to freezing based on how cold the vineyard is. And so when you get warm spikes in late winter, when the buds are eco dormant. They think those are a little preview that it's springtime and so they lose their cold heartedness really quickly they start reabsorbing that water, and they'll freeze that warmer and warmer temperatures. And so that's really the most dangerous time in this sort of climate chaos. When you think about winter that late winter period is when the vines are reacting with their adaptive complex for 1000s of years. When it started to warm up. It meant it was spring and now they're starting To think, okay, spring is coming. But we're still in February in New York, maybe in. In California. It's more like it's January and you're getting a warming event. And they all move right towards bud break. And then of course, they can get hit pretty hard by a leak freeze or a frost.

Craig Macmillan 10:15

Yeah, exactly. I'm guessing this varies by variety.

Jason Londo 10:19

Yes, very much. So, vinifera varieties are typically less hardy than the North American adapted varieties, the, the hybrid varieties is often gets used. I don't particularly like the word hybrid. But these cold climate grapes that have been bred by University of Minnesota and Cornell, they tend to have greater maximum cold hardiness. But they also tend to wake up in the spring much faster. And that's partly because of the genetic background that those hybrids were made from. When you breed with species that come from the far north, like Vitis riparia, those species are adapted to a very short growing season, which means as soon as it's warm enough to start growing, they go for it to try to get through their entire cycle. So now we're starting to see that there are some potential issues with climate change when we think about hybrid varieties that use those those northern species, and that they may be more prone to frost damage in the future.

Craig Macmillan 11:15

Oh, really, that's I wouldn't have thought that I would have thought the opposite. So obviously, we have different species. So we have some genetic differences between what I'll call wild grapes or native grapes, the Oh, invasive plant itis vinifera that has been thrown around. What can we learn by looking at the genetics of native North American varieties?

Jason Londo 11:38

from a cold hardiness perspective,

Craig Macmillan 11:40

cold hardness, just in general drought resistance, pest resistance?

Jason Londo 11:44

Well, in general, they're a massive resource for improvement, which depends on who is who's calling a species species. But there may be up to 20 Different wild species in North America. And each of those wild species has a different evolutionary trajectory that has given it the ability to create adaptive gene complexes, that could be useful in viticulture, as we have shifting climate, away from what maybe vinifera likes, hot and dry into further northern latitudes, you know, that if the California industry has to start moving up in latitude or up in altitude, we start integrating different stresses that maybe those vines haven't been exposed to in their evolutionary history, you know, from Europe. And so these wild species just have these potentially novel genes, potentially novel pathways where genes are interacting with one another, that give vines a greater plasticity. And so this concept of plasticity is if you take an individual and you put it in environment a, and it grows to size 10, but you put it in environment B and it grows to size 20. The difference there is the plasticity between those two environments. And we really, if we want sustainable viticulture, what we want to encourage is using cultivars that have maximal plasticity. So as the environment shifts around them, they're still able to give you the same yield the same sugars, the same quality, you know, within a within an error bar anyway, they're the most resilient over time. And incorporating traits and pathways that come from wild grapes can help build that plasticity in the genetic background coming from the European great.

Craig Macmillan 13:23

So we're talking about crosses, we're talking about taking a native plant and then vinifera crossing to create something new. You had said that you don't know you don't care for the word hybrid. Why not? That's interesting to me.

Jason Londo 13:35

Because it has a negative connotation in the wine drinker. realm, right people think of hybrids as lower quality as not vinifera, so lesser. And I think I'm not an enologists. I'm not a viticulturalists. So I want to be careful on whose toes I mash. But if we're talking about sustainability of a crop through an erratic climate, we can do a lot with vinifera we can we can mitigate climate change a lot with vinifera, but at some point, the inputs may become too much to make it a sustainable crop and then we need to be able to move to adapted varieties. And we can adapt the wine quality from vinifera to climate chaos, by breeding and and selecting for enhanced cold resistance, enhanced drought resistance, enhance pest resistance, and good fruit quality. That's a little bit of a soapbox. But when people say hybrid, it's like lesser, but it's, in my opinion, it's more we're taking something great. And we are increasing its plasticity across the the country across the growing zones. We are giving it a chance to grow in more regions reach more local communities create a bigger fan base. So I get really my hackles got up because there is amazing hybrid based on Climate adapted based wines, and winemakers. And when we use the word hybrid people just automatically in their mind shifted into lesser. And I think that's unfortunate. I think it's something that we need to work actively as an industry against, because a lot of those particular disease resistance traits are coming from wild germ plasm. That is not in the European grape. And we just can't solve all our problems with that one species.

Craig Macmillan 15:30

So the kinds of traits that we're talking about these environmental adaptations, or acclamations, these will be polygenic trades, how do you find these? I'm assuming that you're looking for those specific genetic information to say, Yeah, this is the plant that I want to use in my my breeding program. What does that look like? How do you do that?

Jason Londo 15:49

So the approaches are very similar to when you're working on single locus traits. And so disease resistance and fruit color are good examples of traits that often can be found in single locus examples, again, would be fruit color, or sort of run one disease resistance, there's a whole bunch of different disease resistance was like polygenic traits can be found the same way, you have to make a cross between two different grapes that have different phenotypes. And so that might be a drug sensitive, and a drought tolerant individual. And you plant out a whole lot of baby grapes 200, 300 progeny from that cross, and then you score them with phenotypes. And with polygenic traits, it's a lot harder to find them sometimes, because in that group of, say, 300, babies, you're not looking for the movement of one gene. In that background, you're looking for maybe the movement of five to 10 different genes. And that means instead of getting a light switch kind of trait, red or white fruit, you're getting a little bit more drought resistant, a whole lot more drought resistant, but there is a gradient, right? When you have a gradient for a phenotype, you need a lot more grape babies in order to get the statistical support to say, hey, this piece of the genome right here, this makes a grape, a little bit more drought resistant. And over here, this piece of the genome does the same thing. And when you put them together, they either add up one plus one, or sometimes they multiply two times two, you use the same approaches, it's typically a little trickier. And you got to kind of do a couple extra years of screening. But it's the same basic playbook to track down those different traits. And we have to do a lot of different phenotypes for drought response, you might be looking for the ability to root deeper, have bigger root masses, you might be looking at bigger hydraulic conductance in the trunk, you might be looking at betters to model control. You might be looking at pyres to model density or lowers to model density, you could be looking at thicker or thinner leaves. So you can imagine if there's lots of ways to be more drought resistant. There's lots of genes that help you in that pursuit. You need a lot of baby grapes in order to find all those little pockets where those genes come together and give you a statistical shift and in the phenotype.

Craig Macmillan 18:10

So you're able to identify these are you using something like qualitative trait?

Jason Londo 18:13

Exactly. Quantitative trait loci?

Craig Macmillan 18:16

Yes, exactly. So that helps speed the process up a little bit. Maybe.

Unknown Speaker 18:20

Yeah, so so QTL mapping, quantitative trait loci mapping is the probably the dominant way that we map traits. There's another way called GWAS, genome wide association studies, is built on the same concept where you have a big enough population of either grape babies or in the case of GWAS its diversity. So you'd say, let's say you had 200 Different Vitis riparias instead of 200. Babies, the principle is the same. You are looking for across all of those vines, statistical association between a specific part of the genome and a phenotype to like make it really simple. In 200 babies, grape babies, you want to have enhanced drought resistance. You let's say we take a measurement of carbon isotope concentration and so that carbon isotopes tell you how often the stomates are open, right? So you do an experiment. And you drought stress your plants, and you use carbon isotopes as the phenotype and you say, Okay, this group of 75 individuals, they all shut their stomates right away, and this other group of 125, they kept their stomates open. So then in those two groups, you look at all the genetic markers that are in the background, right, which are like little signposts across the genome. And you say, in this group of 75, which genetic markers do we see over and over and over again, outside of statistical randomness, right? And what that will give you a peek a QTL peak, if you're lucky, right, I'll give you a cue to help you can say hey, right here on chromosome four, every single baby in that pool has a has this set of markers, these five Mark occurs. So there must be a gene, somewhere near these five markers that contribute to closing your stomates. And so then extrapolate that out whatever trait you want to look at how whatever phenotype method you're using, maybe it's not carbon isotope, maybe it's leaf mass, maybe it's node number, I don't know, whatever that screening process is, the concept is the same. You have big enough population, a good genetic marker background, and a phenotype that you can measure. And you can find the statistical associations.

Craig Macmillan 20:32

And actually, that reminds me of something, how many chromosomes do grapes have?

Jason Londo 20:36

Well, bunch grapes have 19 muscadine\. grapes have 20.

Craig Macmillan 20:39

That's a lot. Which means that there's a lot of genetic variation in the genome of these plants, then.

Jason Londo 20:47

Yeah, if you think about, I mean, grape is sort of a funky beast, because a lot of these varieties that we grow, they're all They're all of the arrays, we grow our clonal. And some of them are 1000s of years old, the same genetic individual from 7000 to 10,000 years ago, we still have around today, in that process, it's it's changed, right? There's mutations that happen in the field all the time. And so even thinking about genetic clones and thinking the idea of Chardonnay being around that long, it's changed in those 7000 years, just naturally. So when you think about comparing two different clones, or two different cultivars, or clones, there's something like 43,000 Different recognized genes in vitis vinifera, that number I can give you in the different wild species, because it varies by species, but roughly 40,000 at those 40,000 genes in a in a single individual, you can have up to two different copies, right. So you could have essentially 80,000 different alleles, then you go across, I don't know, what do we have 12,000 recognized cultivars or something like that? There are something like 60 Grape species. And so now imagine the amount of potential variation you have across that entire gene pool. And so yeah, the genetic diversity within the crop as a whole is incredible. There's a lot of room for improvement. And there's a lot of room for climate adaptation. Just takes a lot of grape babies to figure it out.

Craig Macmillan 22:12

And that brings us something else. And that is the the idea of mutation. One of the issues, I think that is a stumbling block, and you mentioned it, there is the consumer, if it's not Cabernet Sauvignon, can't call it Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm not as interesting, which is something that I think we need some help from the marketing world with. Because I agree with you very much. I think if we're going to have wine in the future, we're going to have to start thinking about things other than just the cultivars that we have. Now, can you do the same kind of work with but mutation? Can you take a cane grew from a button, plant that out and look for differences between the same plant?

Jason Londo 22:53

Yeah, so you're basically talking about clonal selection clonal selection is practice worldwide by different regions, always with this eye towards making something that we currently have a little bit better or a little bit more unique, right, somatic mutations, random mutations occur in the genetic background all the time. And they often occur in response to stress, which is a really interesting angle, if you think about climate stress. So these mutations happen all the time in the background. Frequently, they will land on pieces of DNA that don't do anything that we know up. I don't want to say that no DNA is unimportant, that there are sections that we don't believe are that important. We call these non coding regions are sometimes introns. When you have a mutation in that area, sometimes there's no effect on the vine at all. And that's happening all the time in the fields. Right now. If you think about all the 1000s to millions of cab sauv vines that are growing in the world, we like to think of them even if you pick a single clone as the same genetic individual. And that is, that's simply not possible. There's so much background mutation going on in those parts of the DNA that don't give us any change in phenotype. There's no way it's all the same. We'd like to simplify it. We'd like to simplify it for our drinking behavior, as well as you know, like our sanity. But yes, you can select for clonal variation. And clonal variation happens all the time when those changes happen to land in a gene producing region, exon or perhaps a promoter or, or even in a transposable element to make a piece of DNA jump around the genome, we get a new clone, you can purposely create clones as well. So it happens naturally, but you can create clones on your own and mutational breeding is something that gets used in a lot of crop species in grapes it doesn't get used as often because it's modifying the base plant, right? So if you take Chardonnay and you want to increase his disease resistance, if it doesn't have a gene that you can break or change that would give it more disease resistance, then you can't create a clone with more disease resistance, right? You're working with a big a base plant that has limitations, but we have So we have a population where this was done it was it was done actually by the USDA by Dr. Amanda Garis. She no longer works for the USDA, but she worked here in Geneva. And they did a project where they took the variety of vignoles, which has a very compact cluster and tends to get a lot of rot. And they took a bunch of dormant canes with the buds, and they put it in a high powered X ray machine at the hospital and blasted it with X rays. What X ray damage does to DNA is it causes breaks between the double strands so all of our DNA and all our genes are wrapped up in in double stranded DNA. And when you do DNA damage with X ray mutagenesis, you break the two strands. And then when they heal themselves back together, it's often imperfect. And so they'll often lose a couple base pairs like there'll be a little piece get that gets nipped out. When you put those two pieces back together and repair, if that landed in exon, you can sometimes change the protein that would have been made by that exon or completely knocked the gene out in its entirety. Creating a clone, you're just doing it faster than nature is doing it on its own. We do it with a hospital X ray machine. And so with this method, they created about 1000 clones of vignoles. And they've made I think 10 selections out of that group that have bigger, looser clusters, so the berries are further spaced out. So they don't get damaged, they don't get as much rot. And I think those are now starting to make their way out into trials. There's an example of a very directed approach to creating a clone to fit fit a very specific viticultural problem that may or may not work for climate adaptation because of the polygenic aspect that you brought up before. Because if you break one gene and a poly genic, adaptive complex, it may not be enough to shift the entire physiology into a recognizably different pattern, it could work to make them less resilient, because you could break something that's really important. But breaking something that's important, but works out for you in the long run is just playing that randomizer lottery a little bit further. So it's doable. It can happen in nature, it can happen on purpose in our hands, but it is trickier for certain traits.

Craig Macmillan 27:21

So we're not going to X ray our way out of climate problems, basically, or diseases problems, right? Well, there may not be the right genetic information in the background of vinifera that even if we tried that, we'd have that set of genes that we would need, whereas we would have it in a native, native vine North American vine.

Jason Londo 27:42

And just a sheer a sheer number of breaks that you might have to make in order to shift the physiology enough to matter. These climate adaptation pathways are highly networked. They involve hormones, they involve sugar metabolism. And so if you really break something important, it's going to cause a really bad phenotype of death phenotype, you have to nudge the system enough in a specific direction to make a meaningful change. And so, given the complexity of the trade, it makes it harder. I don't want to say anything is impossible. I do think that there would be ways to make vinifera better, more plastic in the environment. I think the potential is there for vinifera to do better in a lot of climates. I don't know if directed mutagenesis is the most efficient way to do it. I mentioned is that random, right, you're breaking double stranded DNA at random, and then it's really healing and there's so many things have to work out for you to hit the right gene, have the right repair, you know, all of that sort of stuff that it's a method, but I don't I wouldn't say it's the most efficient method breeding with wild germ plasm is also a method, the key weakness there is then it's no longer Chardonnay, right from our wine drinking sort of our own personal biases on that situation. We outcross Chardonnay to make it more climate resilient. It's no longer Chardonnay. So it can't be sold as Chardonnay. And that itself creates a market pressure against changing it to something that's more resilient. And I think until the climate imparts an equal level of pain as consumer pressure, we won't get there. I don't think it's a question of if it will happen. It's a question of when.

Craig Macmillan 29:23

What kind of projects are you working on currently? You've mentioned experiments and breeding and it's now what do you what do you up to?

Jason Londo 29:29

So I have a pretty diverse program climate impacts is all season so we have a lot of winter projects. And we've covered some of that now trying to understand how Acclimation and deaacclimation work and if we can enhance it, we're working with but birth control. So if we could slow down deacclimation and delay by break, we could get around frost damage. And then I'm also working on a really big project is actually coming to an end where we've been looking at what the role of a rootstock is our mapping population concept that we talked about for QTL Mapping, we were talking about the scion, I have a project where we did that with the rootstock. And so we created a mapping population. The only part that is the grape babies is the roots. And we've grafted the same variety onto those roots. And then we're looking at how the different grape baby roots change the scions behavior. A really cool thing about this project is that we've replicated it clonally replicated it and grafted it in three different locations. So we have a vineyard in Missouri, a vineyard in South Dakota and a vineyard here in New York. And so across those three different environments, which are quite different, both in maximum temperature, minimum temperature and precipitation, we're learning so many cool things about what the roots can do to the same scion for your listeners, of course, they know grapes, so they know hopefully enough about grafting and that the rootstock and the scion are two different individuals. And they're mechanically grafted together. From a climate adaptation point of view, what you've done is you've taken an intact and adapted individual, and you've cut its head off, and then you've taken another climate adapted individual, and you've cut its legs off, and you've glued them together, and ask them to perform in the environment, which is just a wild, wild communication question. When the roots are experiencing one environment, and the shoot is experiencing another, how do they communicate? And then how does that affect our grape quality and wine quality? And so we're looking at drought response, can we increase the drought resistance of the Scion, based on the type of root it's on? Can we change the leaf nutrient profile, so the different ions that are taken up from the soil and how they're concentrated in the leaves. And of course, we don't really care about the leaves as much as we care about the fruit, the leaves are easy to work with. And we're even started working on wine quality. And so it looks like across our experiments, we might be able to optimize the rootstock and scion combinations we grow in different climates. To produce specific wind quality attributes, which is really cool.

Craig Macmillan 32:00

That is really cool. That is really cool. We're just about out of time. But I want to is there one thing on the on these topics that you would like or recommend to our listeners, or you'd like our listeners to know?

Jason Londo 32:11

Oh, well, I think their take home is is that we should all appreciate the new cultivars that come on the scene, whether they be from early regions like the the Eastern caucuses, something that we are not used to having in this country, or its climate adapted varieties that are bred in this country, and grown in these different regions. We need to do our best to open our minds not to does this grape or that grape tastes like cab sauv, or tastes like Chardonnay. But isn't it amazing what this grape tastes like period, because a lot of the the advances in resilience and sustainability that we can get out of either adopting new cultivars, shifting cultivars from climate to climate, or by using hybrid varieties in different regions, all of the benefits that we can get out of growing the right kind of grapes in the right climate, reduces inputs in the vineyard reduces inputs on the ecology. It increases the economic stability of rural communities. And it gives you pride in what the local region can produce. And I guess my take home would be is drink more adapted wines, enjoy them, figure out the nuances. Some of them are not great, but some of them are really great. drink more wine.

Craig Macmillan 33:33

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Jason Londo 33:36

So the easiest way is just to Google my name and Cornell and that will take you right to my Cornell page. There's not a lot of information on my Cornell page, and I'm a big procrastinator on my personal website. But you can find my contact information there and certainly get a hold of me directly. If there's anything of interest. I will also send you some links that you can use to take listeners to the Vitis underground project, which is the NSF rootstock project I talked about, I can send you a link to we have a cold hardiness website where we post prediction models that we've built about cold hardiness across most of the Eastern US. We hope to expand that to be nationwide once once I get a stronger computer, but I can send you some links there. Yeah, I would say that that's probably the best places to find information on me and the program here. And if people are in town to come and see Cornell Agrotech and see some of the stuff in the field.

Craig Macmillan 34:30

I would love to pay a visit. I've interviewed a number of your colleagues there and there's so much cool stuff going on. really innovative and really groundbreaking feel like we're on the leading edge of a wave that some point is going to break again. Maybe we'll be drinking wines other than the ones we've been drinking. I can see that happening. Anyway. So our guest today was Jason Londo. He's Associate Professor of horticulture in the School of integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell agritech. Thank you.

Jason Londo 34:55

Thanks

Nearly perfect transcription by https://otter.ai

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