Epiphytic Microbiome of Grapes Berries Varies Between Phenological Timepoints, Growing Seasons and Regions
Extensive research into the microbial ecology of grapes near harvest, with a primary focus on yeasts, has improved our understanding of some components of variation that influence grapevine terroir. Metagenomic tools enable a broader exploration of the plant microbiome and components of variability due to such factors as year, location, management, and phenological stage. In 2014, to characterize the microbial changes of the grape surface over the course of the growing season in the Finger
... in the Finger Lakes region of New York, we examined the epiphytic microbiome of grapes at five key phenological stages: pea-sized, bunch closure, Veraison, 15 Brix and harvest. This experiment was repeated in two subsequent years in the Finger Lakes, New York in 2015, and in Tasmania, Australia in 2016, to examine variability of regional terroir. We found significant shifts in taxa presence and relative taxa abundance between phenological timepoints, and determined that the epiphytic microbiome differed significantly not just between regions but also within a single region from one year to the next. These findings call into question the role of the phytobiome in the expression of terroir, as the phytobiome is dynamically responding to its environment, within and between years and locations. On the berry surface in particular, these dynamics are complicated by weather and management. Understanding that the grape surface microbiome is consistently changing may influence how we manage the berry epiphytic microbiome, potentially affecting disease management and vinification decisions.