Andreia Figueiredo, principal investigator of the Grapevine-Pathogen Systems Lab at Ciências ULisboa, participates in the SHIELD4GRAPE – Breeding and integrated pest management strategies to reduce reliance on chemical pesticides in grapevine -, a recently funded project by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe programme, with a total funding of 5M€. 

We have talked to Andreia to know a little bit more about this project. Discover more below. 

What is the research question you will address within this project and is it important to be investigated?

Viticulture is the one of the agroindustries with the highest use of agrochemicals to control pest and diseases which leads to a high risk of biodiversity loss. In the project “Shield4Grape” (S4G) we aim at using innovative approaches to improve viticulture resilience to plant diseases in a context of climate change. A key point of the project will be the enhancement of the existing biodiversity of the vineyard and the identification of new resilience traits.

Traditional breeding protocols and new technologies such as gene editing, cisgenesis and mutagenesis will be used to produce new genotypes adapted to the facing challenges. Also, more sustainable pathogen control strategies will be proposed. With S4G we have the ambitious goal of having an effective contribution to the change in grapevine production strategy towards a higher sustainability.

What is the greatest added value each one of the project partners will bring into the research?

The Project partners cover the needed expertise to successfully accomplish S4G ambitious goals. Furthermore, having partners in the main EU producing regions will enable to conduct field trials in these regions that are highly involved in and committed to viticulture. Moreover, these field trials will enable to test the effectiveness of integrated pest management protocols applied to the new resilient genotypes. In the case of our research team, we will contribute with a deep knowledge on the molecular aspects of the regulatory networks beneath grapevine-pathogen interaction, using a multi-OMICS approach to uncover new players and candidates for the breeding strategies. Field trials will also be covered by our Portuguese Partners AVIP and INIAV-Dois Portos.

What does it mean for you and your laboratory to obtain  this funding?

First, it meant recognition by the European Union of the need to implement new strategies to bring viticulture to a more sustainable production. S4G can give a sound contribution to that goal. For the GPS Lab it means the possibility to continue to carry the research we have been developing for the past years and the possibility to straighten some research lines, namely on the epigenetic regulation of grapevine-pathogens interaction.

Do you think this will allow you to explore new possibilities within the research field? If so, what will they be?

Yes definitively. S4G will gather some of the most promising approaches for grapevine improvement, namely the New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) which application has been recently approved by the European Union to help to increase the sustainability and resilience of our food system (supporting the goals of the European Green Deal).