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CRISPR-2: first applications for virus resistance and drought tolerance

by | Mar 28, 2023 | Viticulture

Project number:

FShip GenUS 21-01

Project title:

Grapevine CRISPR-2: first applications for virus resistance and drought tolerance

Project leaders:

Vivier, M & Burger, J


South African Grape and Wine Research Institute, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University and Department of Genetics, Stellenbosch University

Start date:


Co-funded by: 

The project is co-funded by the Department of Science and Innovation

Project description:

This project aims to provide proof of the principle of gene manipulation, specifically genome editing, as an approach to developing grapevine plant material (both scion and rootstock) that can better withstand drought.

Grapevine drought tolerance is a critically important aim toward sustainable production of quality grapes and derived products. Still, it is a difficult scientific quest due to the multitude of plant and environmental factors that interact and ultimately shape the response of a given rootstock and scion variety to limiting water conditions. When selecting rootstocks, one of the first parameters considered is drought tolerance. However, the information gained from studying the modulating effect of the below-ground rootstock on the above-ground scion’s water response presents a complicated picture that shows that the scion also contributes to local responses, specifically in aspects of stomatal opening and closure.

This project emphasises developing the first practical applications for the CRISPR technology recently established in the grapevine. In response to industry needs, researchers decided to concentrate on drought tolerance in both scion and rootstock cultivars since drought is one of the most serious conditions negatively impacting grapevine production in South Africa.

In a best-case scenario, the efficacy of CRISPR technology to address these real-life issues will be demonstrated, albeit still as a proof-of-concept, and it will contribute to future research in this field.

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