The relationship between genome evolution and adaptation to stress has become increasingly important as environments change. Grapes (Vitis vinifera) are among the most important horticultural crops in the world, with over 1 million acres planted in the United States. Products of grape cultivation (table grapes, raisins, juice, wine and oil) have a value of $5.76 billion at the farm gate and an estimated $162 billion annually to the American economy. The viticulture industry has grown steadily over the past decade, but grape cultivation faces new and continuing challenges from diseases and abiotic stresses. Grape cultivation relies heavily on wild North American species for rootstocks, and that reliance is expanding. This project will allow researchers to determine the genetic composition of four wild grape species from the Southwest that are used, or have demonstrated promise, for grape breeding. The project will gather information about the ability of these species to resist Pierces Disease, it will generate new information about plant biology, genomics, and evolution, and it will make Vitis one of the best-studied botanical genera. Data obtained from this project will help worldwide grape breeding programs and will be available through a community resource, allowing the project investigators to share their research with members of the public and the wine and grape industries. They will also train and mentor undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The PIs work at public universities known for their efforts to broaden participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields and serving first generation college students.

The cultivation, sustainability and security of grapes (Vitis vinifera) rely heavily on North American Vitis species as sources of resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses. This project aims to make Vitis a leading perennial model for comparative genomics, landscape genomics and association genomics. It will also further understanding of the basic biology of resistance to Pierces Disease, which is critical for the sustainability of viticulture. Researchers will assay hundreds of natural accessions to identify plants with resistance and study the geographic distribution of resistance in nature. They will complement phenotypic assays with whole genome resequencing (WGS) data to identify signatures of local adaptation, study the phylogenomics of the genus, and associate genetic variation with climatic variables. They will also employ analyses that aim to uncover important basic information about candidate genes and the genetic architecture underlying abiotic and biotic stress responses. An additional goal is to generate reference genomes for four North American Vitis species that have been used in rootstock breeding; currently, no reference genomes exist for any North American Vitis species. These genomes will be a valuable community resource, facilitate interspecific analyses, form the basis for inferring the pace and pattern of structural rearrangements during species diversification, and aid the identification of homologous and syntenous regions between V. vinifera and its congeners.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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Gerald Schoenknecht
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University of California Irvine
United States
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