Thesis title: A pesticide-free viticulture? Analysis of the trajectories and controversies on varietal innovations
Supervisors: Antoine Hennion and François Hochereau (INRA – SADAPT)
The thesis is being carried out as part of the DAS-REVI project, financed by the MEDDE Pesticide Programme (2015-2018) ( (now part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Ecophyto 2 plan), which addresses the issue of the dissemination of varietal innovations in vines to reduce the use of fungicides. In this context, it is also funded by INRA’s SMaCH meta-program on plant health.
In France, viticulture has been impacted by various events requiring the use of new varieties: the health crisis in the vineyard linked to phylloxera (creation of direct producer hybrids and resistant rootstocks), an economic crisis in the sector that has spurred a desire to improve wine quality (prohibition of certain direct producer hybrids and incentives to plant so-called “improving” varieties). In parallel, the actors of the different French wine sectors have endeavored to define and protect their wines by emphasizing specificities, in particular the grape varieties used (Vitis vinifera), production techniques (pruning, mechanization, terroir), winemaking practices, or production sites, formalizing these specificities through quality approaches (AOC, IGP).
Today, viticulture is the most pesticide-intensive crop, particularly fungicides, to control two main bio-aggressors (powdery mildew and mildew). Where experiments with new agronomic practices allow a maximum reduction of 20% in the use of these fungicides, varietal innovation holds new promise for drastically reducing the use of plant protection products. New varieties with resistance to these two fungal diseases are being developed. These varieties are derived from interspecific crosses (resistance genes come from non-Vitis vinifera vines), which raises the question of the need to requalify these vines and their products (particularly in the context of quality signs where the lists of grape varieties are closed). The introduction of these varietal innovations into the French wine landscape is a long process that requires numerous tests related to the classification of grape varieties or the quality of the wines produced with these varieties, etc. Understanding this succession of tests will be at the heart of the research conducted as part of this thesis.
This thesis leads to question the introduction of new vine varieties, in connection with the challenge of “greening” agriculture, combined with the redefinition of viticultural practices and the qualification of the wines produced. This means revisiting the concept of a variety (whether or not it is resistant to cryptogamic diseases): what is a variety? How is it built? How is it defined? How is the wine made? How is it assessed? According to what criteria? This leads to focus on the practices of professionals (whether they are researchers, winegrowers, technicians of the wine industry, marketers – traders or cooperatives), as well as on the influence of consumers: how do their practices evolve in relation to grape varieties? How is a “good variety” qualified according to the professions, the terroirs, the technical processes of grape production and processing, the expected taste of a wine? More generally, how does the socio-technical wine-growing system (integrating winegrowers, advisers, merchants, legislators, etc.) approach a change in grape varieties within the framework of a highly regulated wine production and market?
 Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy