Fundamental and applied research performed with innovative techniques target today’s topics such as grapevine physiology of under climate change stresses (biotic and abiotic), fruit physiology and quality, fruit grapevine breeding, organic viticulture and fruit growing as well as  precision viticulture.

In close cooperation with producers our researchers pursue the goal of sustainably securing and improving high-quality wine and fruit production.



Latest SCI publications

Latest Projects

Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2023-04-01 - 2026-03-31

Susceptibility of grape berries to stressors such as drought or heat changes according to the stress intensity and duration, but also depending on the berry developmental status at stress occurrence. For example, grapes in the herbaceous phase are more susceptible to drought stress than berries in the ripening stage. Drought and heat stress, which are predicted to increase in frequency and magnitude due to climate change, share a common effect in increasing the production of cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) in plant cells. While ROS are produced basally as signaling molecules, and plants have adapted mechanisms to detoxify them, stressful conditions increase their production. Given the economic importance of Vitis vinifera for the wine industry in Austria (and worldwide), it is important to understand how ROS metabolism interacts with other metabolic pathways active at the different stages of berry development, and therefore the effects of the timing of ROS-inducing stress factors. The inability to detoxify ROS may cause changes in berry metabolism and development that affect harvest quality, such as by increasing lipid oxidation, membrane damage, and subsequent cell death, the latter of which can cause symptoms such as berry shriveling in extreme cases. The project will explore the different strategies that grape berries could adopt to counteract an increase in ROS molecules produced in response to stressors, including the boost of the antioxidant pool (or de novo biosynthesis of antioxidant molecules) and the modification in the expression of ROS scavenging enzymes. The ROS scavenging capacity of developing grape tissue will be quantified by enzyme activity assays and gene expression analysis. Damage in berries caused by ROS will be quantified following drought and heat imposition in terms of the extent of lipid oxidation, cell death and changes in berry composition.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2023-03-01 - 2026-02-28

Winegrape production is one of the most economically important agrosystems in Europe. Grapevine has a large breadth of genetic diversity at the rootstock, variety, and clone levels. Unfortunately, very little of this diversity is currently utilized and its potential role in abiotic stress response has not been properly quantified. This leaves growers with the open-question of which is the best tool(s) to adapt their vineyards to specific environmental challenges (e.g. heatwaves, drought, waterlogging, etc). At the scientific level, it is essential to understand the genetic plasticity of rootstocks, varieties and clones (and their interactions) to further adapt and improve the current planting material and to preserve the genetic diversity of grape varieties used across Europe. Standards for physiological traits need to be defined, and the influence of the diverse genetic backgrounds to the value and flexibility of these traits under different environmental conditions needs to be understood. With this in mind, project DiverGrape has been designed including partners from four European countries with varying environmental and vineyard conditions. The partnership will exchange pre-doctoral and postdoc researchers using a standardized methodological approach based on both eco-physiology and metabolomics tools to quantify the contribution to environmental response of: i) clonal variation within given local varieties, ii) rootstock material for a given variety and ii) the interaction between rootstock and scion. Taking advantage of existing vineyards with a variety of genetic material located in different European viticulture areas, the partnership will quantify how environment drives grapevine plasticity to specific climates. The results obtained through project DiverGrape will provide grape growers with the knowledge to optimize the existing grapevine genetic diversity in order to adapt their vineyards to more extreme climate situations.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2022-09-01 - 2023-08-31

The project aims to reveal the possible mechanisms of stress reduction in plants by zeolite clinoptilolite (the most abundant natural occurring zeolite) observed by empirical data. The central hypothesis of the project is that the fine zeolite clinoptilolite particles when sprayed onto the plant leaf surface form a light particle film, that is able to maintain leaves cooler (light colour reflecting radiation) and reduce heat stress, while aiding the plant's stomata to optimally gain carbon for photosynthesis (i.e., increased water use efficiency). By setting an experiment under controlled conditions, the project aim to fully understand the mode of action of the zeolite clinoptilolite in order to develop concrete application recommendations for farmers for the specific problem of heat and drought stress in viticulture. Considering all the above, the project will (i) generate an understanding of natural zeolite´s (clinoptilolite) mode of action on grapevines leaves under drought (ii) determine the clinoptilolite application impact on grapevine ecophysiology under environmental controlled conditions (iii) determine the clinoptilolite capacity to improve grapevine performance under drought (iv) clarify the possible mechanisms involved in the stress relief capacity of clinoptilolite when applied on grapevine leaves under drought (v) assess the eventual capacity of zeolite in aiding grapevine functionality recovery after drought To do so, the project will setup an experiment under greenhouse-controlled conditions on potted grapevines to impose drought on plants previously treated with clinoptilolite or not. The experiment will encompass the entire grapevine growing cycle (ca. 6 months) and a frequent monitoring of eco-physiology parameters such as the rate of gas exchange, PSII photochemistry efficiency, and plant water status.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations