New test from Pershore College researchers being used by global wine industry to reduce wastage

Researchers at Pershore College have helped create a new crop-side test which is being used by the sparkling wine industry to help keep the fizz bubbling for longer and save bottles going to waste.

They have developed the tests in partnership with Mologic and now tests are being trialled by the wine industries in France, Australia and New Zealand.

The antibody tests detect low levels of pathogen in fruit and can also identify Botrytis in wine grapes – also known as grey mould.

Duration and visual appearance of sparkling wine fizz is directly linked to bubble quality. Increasing infection of wine grapes with Botrytis leads to a decrease of bubble quality.

Tests will allow producers to determine whether and, if present, how much of the produce is infected with Botrytis. Wine grapes are considered of reduced quality between 5-10% and of low quality at >20% Botrytis infection.

Wider agriculture will also benefit from the tests as they can reduce crop and post-storage harvest losses by helping producers to make informed, early intervention decisions to prevent polycyclic disease epidemics and post-storage rots.

The development of the tests was funded through Innovate UK and other partners include Berry Garden Growers and horticulture researchers at NIAB EMR.

Professor Roy Kennedy, who has led on the project for Pershore College from the Agri-Tech Research Centre, said: “We run a series of external research projects at Pershore College and have been experts in developing tests for the crop production industry for over 20 years.

“Working in partnership with Mologic we have validated these tests at our state-of-the-art Agri-Tech Research Centre and been able to explore the extent they can be used.

 “They detect Botrytis during the wine pressings process and this means that producers are able to determine quality early in the process – replacing the previous estimations made with a refractometer.

“We’re still exploring how these tests could work with other crops and it is hoped that they will be of similar benefit to different areas of agriculture and crop production.”

Students who enrol on the Agri-Tech course at Pershore College will be given the opportunity to work with the tests, building them and trialling them on different types of crops to further expand their use in industry.

Those who enrol on the course will also be given opportunities to work with the French wine industry.

Dr Alison Wakeham, from Mologic, added: As for the treatment of human diseases, early intervention is key for the health of our crops, livestock and fisheries.

“We understand that agriculture is an industry where profit margins are low and, therefore, diagnostic technologies tests must be low cost, easy to use, and provide representative sampling to enable direct decision making.

“Developed with these factors in mind, BotrytisAlert, facilitates a better informed and earlier intervention to address many of the crop losses caused by this infection.”

To find out more about Agri-Tech courses at Pershore College visit www.wcg.ac.uk/agritech and for more information on the tests go to www.botrytisalert.co.uk