Sour rot is characterized by increased volatile acidity (VA) in ripe grapes. VA is associated with spoilage organisms and wineries may reject grape crops based on their concentration of acetic acid. Our research associated Hanseniaspora uvarum, Gluconobacter oxydans, and to a lesser extent, Gluconobacter cerinus and Acetobacter malorum with sour rotted grapes in the Niagara Peninsula, designated viticultural area, Ontario, Canada, and the pathogenicity of these organisms was confirmed by laboratory assays. Only G. oxydans was shown to penetrate around the site of pedicel attachment to the grape. The yeasts required further wounding. Candida zemplinina was also associated with the sour rot microbial community. This species showed variable pathogenicity by strain and most strains were not highly pathogenic. C. zemplinina gained dominance in the microbial population of grapes only after sour rot symptoms were observed, indicating a succession which was studied in laboratory assays. There was a correlation between temperature, moisture, and berry ripeness and the development of sour rot when conditions were monitored in a Vitis vinifera cv. Riesling vineyard over four years, and this was confirmed in laboratory assays. Disease management options are limited since sour rot is caused by a complex of yeasts and bacteria, with symptoms developing just as grapes approach maturity. Post-veraison treatments for sour rot were investigated. Wineries routinely add potassium metabisulphite (KMS) to the surface of fruit in bins and to grape juice to kill spoilage organisms. Replicated field trials were conducted in V. vinifera cv. Riesling in 2010 and 2011 to determine the efficacy of KMS at different concentrations and pre-harvest timings as a fruiting-zone spray. Potassium bicarbonate (Milstop) was also evaluated for its efficacy against sour rot. Plots were rated for incidence and severity of sour rot and VA (g acetic acid/L juice). KMS treatments at concentrations above 5 kg/1000L and Milstop sprayed at the label concentration of 5.6 kg/1000L were able to reduce the severity of sour rot compared to untreated control plots which had a severity above 50% (2011). KMS was able to reduce VA to below the winery rejection threshold of 0.24 g acetic acid/L when sour rot severity reached 12% in untreated plots (2010). When tested in the laboratory in disk diffusion assays conducted on yeast peptone dextrose agar, KMS at a concentration of 10 g/L had the greatest efficacy against G. oxydans and H. uvarum. Grape incubation assays showed the potential of KMS acidified with tartaric acid to reduce sour rot symptoms. Acidification did not show as much potential in field trials, calling for further research.
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