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Effects of Ascophyllum nodosum extract on Vitis vinifera: Consequences on plant physiology, grape quality and secondary metabolism

Salvi, Linda, Brunetti, Cecilia, Cataldo, Eleonora, Niccolai, Alberto, Centritto, Mauro, Ferrini, Francesco, Mattii, Giovan Battista
Plant physiology and biochemistry 2019 v.139 pp. 21-32
Ascophyllum nodosum, Vitis vinifera, abiotic stress, anthocyanins, biosynthesis, chlorophyll, climate change, coumaric acids, drought, flavonols, grapes, growing season, leaves, phenology, photosystem II, plant extracts, ripening, secondary metabolites, stomatal conductance, stress tolerance, sugar content, vines, viticulture, water potential, wine quality, Mediterranean region
Seaweed-based extracts have been recently employed as sustainable tools to improve abiotic stress tolerance and increase grape quality. However, the effect of these extracts on secondary metabolism compounds, that are fundamental for grape and wine quality, is still scarce. In the present study, the effects of foliar treatments with an Ascophyllum nodosum extract on physiological and biochemical parameters of Vitis vinifera (cv. Sangiovese) were investigated. We hypothesized an enhancement in the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites in berry skins and in leaves in response to these treatments, effective in improve grape quality and help vines to cope with abiotic stresses. Gas exchanges, chlorophyll fluorescence and midday stem water potential on leaves treated with A. nodosum extract and non-treated control leaves, were monitored over two growing seasons at three phenological stages: full véraison, mid maturation and full maturation. In addition, anthocyanins, flavonols and hydroxycinnamic acids were quantified both in berry skins and in leaves. The foliar treatments with A. nodosum increased photosynthesis and stomatal conductance in treated compared to control plants. Furthermore, extract-treated vines were able to maintain the potential efficiency of photosystem II close to the optimal value even during the hottest periods. No effect of A. nodosum extract treatments was observed on stem water potential. A. nodosum applications delayed berry ripening, leading to a lower sugar content and a higher anthocyanin content in treated berry skins. Interestingly, treatments also affected the content and the partitioning of secondary metabolites in berry skins, as anthocyanins and flavonols contents were higher in treated compared to control plants, while the ratio of methoxylated to non-methoxylated anthocyanins was lower in treated than in control vines. Furthermore, A. nodosum extract-treated plants also had higher content of flavonols and hydroxycinnamic acids both in berry skins and in leaves and showed a reduction in the biosynthesis of methoxylated anthocyanins, which are usually accumulated in grapes under environmental constraints. Considering the challenges posed by climate change in the Mediterranean basin, the use of seaweed extracts might represent a sustainable tool to mitigate the increasing severity of drought, often associated to heat-waves, on the viticulture sector.