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French microalgae may be the answer to key vine diseases

Published:  15 September, 2016

A microalgae found in the sea off Brittany's coastline can wipe-out key vine diseases with new scientific tests in France showing 100% efficiency in destroying Downey Mildew. The major scientific breakthrough could provide natural alternatives to the use of pesticides on vineyards.

Laboratory tests carried in Bordeaux by INRA, France's National Institute for Agricultural Research, on behalf of French company, ImmunRise Technologies, have also revealed that the microalgae is 50% efficient in destroying Botrytis and four out of the seven fungi which cause Grapevine Trunk Diseases.

"This is an innovative breakthrough in science, but also in philosophy and logic: it shows that the solutions to our problems are in nature, which is why we must protect biodiversity," Laurent De Crasto, director and co-founder of ImmunRise Technologies told

"The future of the planet could be deprived if we don't protect biodiversity," said De Crasto.

The breakthrough comes as growers in France this year have been hit by outbreaks of mildew and France's national Wine Institute (IFV) has said combating deadly vine diseases, which can affect up to 50% of yields, is now its top priority. In France, problems with vine diseases are believed to have risen after authorities banned the use of toxic sodium arsenite on vines in 2001.

The microalgae - the name of which is a closely guarded secret- produces a molecule that destroys fungi of vine diseases.

The lab tests show a molecule - which was hitherto unknown - produced by the microalgae has an immediate effect on Plasmopara viticola, the fungus that causes Downey Mildew.  Tests on Powdery Mildew were ineffective.

However, the promising lab results of tests on Downey Mildew and other vine diseases, in which the microalgae is broken down into a powder, now mean field tests will be carried on vineyards in Bordeaux and Cognac in April 2017. The microalgae used in tests were found off the coast of Brittany; its uniqueness, said De Crasto, is its ability to generate a certain unnamed molecule that combats vine diseases.

De Crasto, an oenologist, agricultural engineer and entrepreneur, who founded Wine In Tube ( in 2007, said ImmunRise Technologies was now planning to look for the microalgae off coasts of Britain and Scandinavia.

"As well as having an immediate effect on Mildew, the results are revolutionary in the sense that this microalgae has a multi-effect on fungi responsible for several vine diseases," said De Crasto.

"The microalgae and the molecule it produces is biodegradable - there is no waste involved, however we now need to stabilise the molecule so that it lasts longer," he said. Lab tests show the microalgae powder lasts between three and four days, but De Crasto said that vine growers would need it to last ten to fifteen days to ensure its efficiency on vineyards.