Grapes have been cultivated and enjoyed as fruit, juice or wine since the dawn of civilisation. The sequencing of the grapevine genome in 2007 potentially unlocked the next level in research on grape husbandry. However, to maximise the impact requires extensive coordination and collaboration across the science spectrum, which is where COST Action Data integration to maximise the power of omics for grapevine improvement (INTEGRAPE) came in.
Grapevine research focuses on interactions between the genotype (the plant’s genetic makeup), the phenotype (the set of observed plant characteristics) and the environment, and requires the integration of data from a wide range of disciplines from environmental biology through genetics to genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. INTEGRAPE brought together stakeholders from across the grapevine research community in an open and international network to develop common data standards and good practices.
Professor Mario Pezzotti from the University of Verona was Chair of the Action and involved with the original sequencing of the grapevine genome. “At that time, we realised that genomics was way ahead of our biological knowledge of the vine,” he explains. “We needed to connect genomics to the biology and that was what the Action was all about: to integrate the knowledge, competences and data and make the whole research area more open.”
“There are many varieties of grape around the world and researchers largely worked with their different native varieties,” continues Mario. He explained that before the Action started each group used similar but different techniques so exchanging data was not easy.
“The most important part of the Action was getting everyone to work FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). This was a big achievement for the community.”Prof. Mario Pezzotti, Chair of INTEGRAPE
An international community
Some 43 countries were involved with the Action including major wine producers outside Europe such as Argentina, Australia, South Africa and the USA.
“Initially the Action was mainly populated by biologists and – omics researchers, with the viticulturalists initially sceptical about the potential outcomes,” says Mario. “But at the end they also came in and are enjoying the fruits of our results.”
Harnessing and exploiting as much available data as possible will support better management practices and more cost-effective breeding for improved plants that can meet significant challenges facing grape producers around the world. These challenges include the control of berry composition and maintaining yields while also limiting the use of pesticides, water and other inputs to ensure the industry can adapt to climate change and achieve environmental and economic sustainability.
Despite working largely during the pandemic, INTEGRAPE developed some very popular Trainings Schools as well as four annual conferences and three workshops and organised 33 Short-Term Scientific Missions (STSMs) allowing early career researchers to work in laboratories outside their own countries.
From INTEGRAPE to GRAPEDIA
The valuable work of the Action is continuing. At the final INTEGRAPE meeting the GRAPEDIA project was launched to deliver a Grapevine Genomics Encyclopaedia, facilitate the sharing of data, and further accelerate the development of an open international grape science culture.
The GRAPEDIA project is funded by a COST Innovators Grant (CIG), which offers community network building tools such as training schools, dissemination plans and STSMs and will assist the development of an efficient business plan to achieve commercial exploitation.
“A united European spirit was embraced by the INTEGRAPE Action, which has had a very positive effect in mobilising and connecting the next generation of researchers in this area,” concludes Mario. “The momentum will continue with the GRAPEDIA initiative that is being managed by this next generation.”
View the Action webpage
View the Network website
Follow GRAPEDIA on Twitter: @Grapediaportal