High quality grapevine and fruit production relies on optimal conditions concerning vineyard and orchard management and environmental conditions.
The Division of Viticulture and Pomology conducts research with focus on plant diversity, biotic and abiotic stresses on perennial plants, fruit quality and agronomic management systems.
In close cooperation with producers, the researchers are following the aim to preserve and enhance a sustainable high quality grape and fruit production. 

Group: Stress Physiology

Plants respond to external triggers like biotic and abiotic stresses by changing their physiology, biochemistry and morphology. The Stress Physiology group analyzes these responses on the transcriptional, metabolomical and physiological level. Astrid Forneck is the leading expert in Grape-Phylloxera interaction. Aphids affect the plant’s metabolism significantly when feeding by inducing galls on the vine. Against this background, the major fields of study in this group comprise 

  • understanding the plant based responses affecting primary and secondary metabolism
  • the sink-source allocation and carbohydrate partitioning in the grapevine 
  • understanding signaling between rootstock and scions are
  • gaining insight about the aphids’ effectors
  • defining aggressivity of the phylloxera strains 
  • screening of European grapevine populations in terms of population dynamics
  • host plant adaptation and aggressivity 

In close cooperation with growers, nurseries and the international grapevine rootstock community, new management strategies are developed to adapt strategies for phylloxerated vineyard that are affected by abiotic stresses (e.g. drought, salt).  The physiological ripening disorder Berry Shrivel (Traubenwelke) is a severe economic problem for viticulture in Austria, mainly affecting the cultivar Zweigelt. The causes of shrinking berries with low sugar content and high acidity after veraison are yet unknown. Michaela Griesser aims to understand the causes of this physiological disease by analyzing cell wall physiology and morphology of the rachis, sugar and nutrient transport mechanisms towards berries and the regulation by phytohormons. To provide a solid base of understanding, the effects on the fruit physiology of grapevine, the sink-source allocation of vines affected with abiotic stresses are studied, deploying  physiological, metabolimical and transcriptional means in field and controlled conditions. This is important as many vineyard management practices are in use without comprehensive knowledge of their implications on plant physiology in detail.  Univ.Prof. Dr. Astrid Forneck (group head) Ass.Prof. Dr. Michaela Griesser (deputy group head)

Group: Sustainable Pomology and Viticulture

The work group develops strategies and solutions for improved and sustainable quality in Pomology and Viticulture. A main goal is the characterization of vitality by physiological and metabolites and biomarkers and the long-term increase of quality in fruits. Particular attention is paid to the development of sustainable cultivation strategies for Austrian conditions including environmental issues around organic production, soil and water use, quality, energy and biodiversity.  The studies are conducted by Andreas Spornberger and Katharina Schödl-Hummel in field- and greenhouse experiments. Hereby, we monitor markers and screen the interaction of effects from management and environment. New markers, linked with quality parameters in fruits are going to be defined applying metabolomical tools. The group engages in the conservation and the utilization of genetic resources in fruit production, forest gardening and the use of edible plants in public spaces. In close cooperation with the fruit industry projects are conducted to provide solutions for risk management strategies in the field for both integrated and organic production, post-harvest, storage and technical usability of regionally produced fruits.  Ass.Prof. Dr. Andreas Spornberger (group head) Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Katharina Schödl-Hummel (deputy group head)

Latest SCI publications

Latest Projects

Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-07-01 - 2023-06-30

Phenotypic plasticity is defined as the amount by which the expressions of individual characteristics of a genotype are changed by different environments. The PlasticGrape project will study the grapevine metabolic plasticity under drought by characterizing the vine metabolism response to water stress in two climatically distinct environments (Tulln-Austria and Vipava-Slovenia). The central hypothesis of the project is that climatic variables (such as light and temperature) play a crucial role influencing the plant response to drought, in particular its metabolic reprogramming. Consequently, the same genotype would exhibit different phenotype under drought in different climatic conditions (i.e. plasticity). Although the water stress effect on grapevines has been largely studied, very limited efforts were done to understand the interaction between the water availability and other climatic factors such as light and temperature. The PlasticGrape project is specifically designed to fill this gap, shed light on the interactive effects of drought and climatic variables on the plant physiology, and strength our knowledge on the plant adaptation mechanisms to different environments as well as to possible climate change scenarios. To fulfill our objectives, a set of grapevines (cv. Pinot noir grafted onto 5BB rootstock) that was previously planted and grown in one single environment (Tulln) for two years, will be split in two different locations characterized by different climates (Tulln and Vipava, cool and warm climates, respectively). In both locations, mirrored water deficit experiments will be performed with the aim to study the interactive effects of water stress and climate on the plant physiology and metabolism. A similar experimental set-up was never implemented for any other crop before. Moreover, metabolite profiling will allow a comprehensive characterization of the plant metabolism adaptation strategy to drought and its environmental plasticity. To date, no study has addressed the genotype x environment interaction in such way. Greenhouse experiments will be also included to fully control and manipulate environmental variables. Bearing in mind that grapevine is considered a model crop for water stress studies the potential outcomes will largely impact the plant science knowledge.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-02-01 - 2023-01-31

The project VineLresp (Stress response of grapevine rootstocks to iron deficiency through high bicarbonate soil) investigates the response of iron deficiency and high bicarbonate contents in soils of grapevine rootstocks. Lime induced chlorosis is a huge problem in agronomy and also in viticulture as many viticulture areas worldwide have high lime contents. Grapevine rootstocks show different levels of adaptation to high lime contents, but the biochemical mechanisms behind are not well understood. In model plants like Arabidopsis thaliana the information on iron uptake has been increased dramatically during the last years. VineLresp aims to close the knowledge gap between grapevine and A. thaliana in terms of root exudates composition, endodermal suberization and local and system signals within the plant. Thereby we hypothesize that root exudates in grapevine rootstocks are composed of more complex biomolecules as have been described so far and that the suberization of the endodermis can be an additional factor influencing nutrient uptake. In a step-wise approach we will investigate several aspects of grapevine rootstock physiology. We will combine physiological measurements targeted metabolite analyses, RNASeq and radiotracer analyses. The novelty of our approach is the application of standardized experimetns with high end analyses on different levels and the focus on processes yet unknown in grapevine rootstocks.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2016-07-01 - 2017-09-30

The project “Berry Shrivel – an unsolved physiological disorder in grapevine” analyses the early changes during BS induction. The ripening disorder is of highly economic importance for winegrowers and especially in Austria the main red wine cultivar Zweigelt can show high incidence of BS in vineyards. The onset of BS induction starts at or short after Veraison, the start of grape berry ripening, and is leading to grapes of low quality with low sugar contents, high acidity, reduced anthocyanin content and strong off flavors. The processes and causes leading to BS induction and symptom development are still unclear. In the presented project we are following the hypothesis that BS is due to a reduced transport of assimilates towards grape berries. According to the current knowledge we are focusing on anatomical changes within the vascular system and we will establish an in vitro system to manipulate the carbohydrate support of single berries with the aim to artificially induce BS. Thereby different microscopic and molecular biological methods will be applied. Our approach is the first effort to analyze these early events during BS induction and will provide essential knowledge towards the unraveling of this complex ripening disorder affecting grape berries.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations