Extremely hot or rainy periods can destroy entire crops, not to mention the wide variety of pests that can appear on the scene. Bugs such as the vine louse or the rust mite, fungi such as mildew, or viruses such as the “Grapevine fanleaf virus” (GFLV for short) can give the vines a hard time. The GFLV infects the grapevine and causes fanleaf disease, resulting in deformed and very yellowed leaves, smaller grapes and crop loss.
However, there will soon be a cure for GFLV infections: Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Aachen are making certain plants resistant to the GFLV by genetic engineering. “Our modified plants produce antibodies,” explains Dr. Stefan Schillberg, head of department at the IME. “These antibodies ‘recognize’ the viruses and prevent them from spreading in the plant and causing damage.” To enable the plant to produce the antibodies, the scientists have to modify its genotype and channel genetic information for the antibodies into it.