Improvement of Cold, Drought and Salt Tolerance of Grapevines

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University of Nevada wine vinyard on Valley Road, Reno.

Grapes and wines have major impacts on the economies of California, Washington and Oregon. There is an emerging grape and wine industry in Nevada which has the potential for a very large economic impact on the state and the local grower. Threats to a robust and productive viticulture and wine industry in Nevada include a harsh climate with extreme cold and drought conditions combined with saline soils that afflict many of its regions. Recent advances in plant biotechnology have led to the discovery of an important family of transcription factors called DREB/CBF that act as master regulators of gene expression that regulate abiotic (and biotic) stress tolerance in plants. In this project, we isolate and test the function of these transcription factors to determine whether or not they can improve the stress tolerance of grapevine as has been shown to occur in other plant species. In addition, we will analyze the mRNA and protein expression patterns in these grapevines using technologies that have been optimized in our laboratories to identify other genes that might contribute to abiotic and biotic stress tolerance. Finally, we will evaluate the degree of stress tolerance displayed by these grapevines under greenhouse and field conditions. An increase in stress tolerance of grapes will greatly improve the viability of an emerging viticulture and wine industry here in Nevada. This research will lead to the development of more stress tolerant winegrapes in Nevada vineyards. More stress tolerant vines will allow for a more robust and economically viable grape and wine industries in Nevada. These industries will do much to diversify the economy, increase tourism and improve the quality of life in the rural and agricultural areas of Nevada.


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