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Protecting grapes from pests by boosting their natural immunity

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From protecting our most valuable works of art to enabling smartphone displays, glass has become one of our most important materials. Making it even more versatile is the next challenge. Developing new glass compositions is largely a time-consuming, trial-and-error exercise. But now scientists have developed a way to decode the glass "genome" and design different compositions of the material without making and melting every possibility. Their report appears in ACS' journal Chemistry of Materials.

As is true for any agricultural producer, vineyard owners need to prevent pathogens from harming their crops to stay in business. For many of them, this means applying synthetic pesticides. Out of concern for these substances' potential effects on water, soil and human health, some winemakers have turned to more natural methods. One approach scientists are exploring involves the use of UV-C light, which studies have shown increases grapes' production of stilbenoids. Some of these phenolic compounds have been associated with natural disease resistance. Raúl F. Guerrero from the Andalusian Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training (IFAPA) and colleagues wanted to explore how daily doses of pre-harvest UV-C light would affect grapes' stilbenoid content.

The researchers tested one set of grapes exposed to five minutes of UV-C light every day for three days before harvesting and compared them with another set of grapes that only received one five-minute dose. The latter technique had previously been optimized in grapes. The set that received multiple treatments showed an 86-fold increase in stilbenoid concentrations over the fruit that only got one application of UV-C. The three-day, pre-harvest treatment also affected texture, color and other characteristics, but the researchers say that the grapes were still of good quality.

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The authors acknowledge funding from the European Social Fund of Andalusia and the National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA).

The abstract that accompanies this study is available here.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With nearly 157,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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