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TitleThe Vineyard Yeast Microbiome, a Mixed Model Microbial Map
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSetati, ME, Jacobson, D, Andong, U-C, Bauer, FF
JournalPLoS ONE


Vineyards harbour a wide variety of microorganisms that play a pivotal role in pre- and post-harvest grape quality and will contribute significantly to the final aromatic properties of wine. The aim of the current study was to investigate the spatial distribution of microbial communities within and between individual vineyard management units. For the first time in such a study, we applied the Theory of Sampling (TOS) to sample gapes from adjacent and well established commercial vineyards within the same terroir unit and from several sampling points within each individual vineyard. Cultivation-based and molecular data sets were generated to capture the spatial heterogeneity in microbial populations within and between vineyards and analysed with novel mixed-model networks, which combine sample correlations and microbial community distribution probabilities. The data demonstrate that farming systems have a significant impact on fungal diversity but more importantly that there is significant species heterogeneity between samples in the same vineyard. Cultivation-based methods confirmed that while the same oxidative yeast species dominated in all vineyards, the least treated vineyard displayed significantly higher species richness, including many yeasts with biocontrol potential. The cultivatable yeast population was not fully representative of the more complex populations seen with molecular methods, and only the molecular data allowed discrimination amongst farming practices with multivariate and network analysis methods. Importantly, yeast species distribution is subject to significant intra-vineyard spatial fluctuations and the frequently reported heterogeneity of tank samples of grapes harvested from single vineyards at the same stage of ripeness might therefore, at least in part, be due to the differing microbiota in different sections of the vineyard.

Excerpt from Introduction:

Organic and biodynamic farming systems have been shown to enhance soil fertility and increase biodiversity [19][21]. In wheat plantations, microbial diversity has been found to be highest in biodynamic areas, followed by organically farmed and finally conventional plantations [19]. Although organic and biodynamic systems are globally becoming of increasing economic interest to wine producers, their impact on general vineyard health and wine quality has been the subject of relatively few studies. In particular, the impact of these practices on the vineyard ecosystem (including microbial diversity) is poorly understood.

The current study was aimed at evaluating microbial diversity associated with grapes obtained from conventional, biodynamic and integrated pest management vineyards, with a focus on epiphytic yeasts. The study also appears to be the first to assess intra-vineyard variability of microbial diversity. The data confirm previous results (on other crops) that biodynamic farming leads to a higher microbial diversity. It also shows that this diversity is unevenly distributed within individual vineyards, thus highlighting the importance of sampling multiple locations in the vineyard to assess the biodiversity of the ecosystem. From a wine making perspective, the data suggest that spatial fluctuations in microbial diversity might have a significant impact on downstream processes and analyses.