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Last update: May 2021

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Launch of the transfer of the collection of the CRB Vignes de Vassal

INRAE CRB Vignes C. Marchal
The Vassal vine collection of the RARe plant pillar represents a unique heritage in the world. The genetic resources include more than 8,500 accessions from over 50 countries. Several factors led INRAE to organize the transfer of this collection, first of all taking into account the medium-term environmental risks. The major asset of this project lies in the grouping on a unique place (Pech Rouge) of research and experimentation activities "from vine to wine" (from genetic heritage to oenological elaboration) thus offering coherence and visibility on its themes.

Philippe Mauguin, CEO of INRAE, launched this Wednesday, August 31 the transfer of the collection of vines Vassal to the site of the experimental unit of Pech Rouge, alongside Thierry Bonnier, Prefect of the Aude, Didier Codorniou, Mayor of Gruissan, First Vice President of the Occitanie / Pyrenees-Mediterranean Region, Hélène Sandragné, President of the Departmental Council of the Aude and Didier Mouly, President of the Grand Narbonne..

he Vassal vine collection represents a unique heritage in the world. Faced with the challenges posed by climate change and the agro-ecological transition, it constitutes an essential resource for varietal improvement and an unprecedented scientific resource. This transfer project aims to protect the collection and enhance its value by integrating it into a coherent set of research and experimentation "from gene to bottle" on the Pech Rouge site. The project will run until 2032 and is supported by the State, the Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée Region, the Aude Departmental Council, the Greater Narbonne Agglomeration Community and the commune of Gruissan.

The Vassal genetic resources collection includes more than 8,500 accessions from over 50 countries. The genetic resources conserved are used in national and international research projects concerning varietal improvement to face vineyard diseases or climate change or the study of the genetic and molecular bases of these characteristics of interest to the industry. This conservatory constitutes a cultural and historical genetic heritage that is unique in the world, as a large part of these varieties are no longer cultivated today and some are only present in the collection.
The vineyard collection is located on the Vassal estate in Marseillan (Hérault) on the sandy coastline that separates the Thau Lagoon from the Mediterranean Sea. This site allows for the cultivation of vines free-standing, i.e. on their own roots, as the sands are free of major pathogens (phylloxera, etc.).
Several factors led INRAE to organize the transfer of this collection, first of all taking into account the medium-term environmental risks (rising sea level and soil salinization). After expertise, the choice fell on the INRAE unit of Pech Rouge on the site of the Massif de la Clape in Gruissan (Aude), where an area will be dedicated to the establishment of the collection in the open ground.
The major advantage of this project lies in the grouping together on a single site (Pech Rouge) of research and experimentation activities "from vine to wine" (from genetic heritage to oenological development), thus offering coherence and visibility on its themes. The experimental unit is located on a 163-hectare estate (including 40 hectares of vines) dedicated to research and experimentation in viticulture and oenology. It has a large experimental infrastructure, with a staff of 25 and a strong integration in the MUSE Montpellier University of Excellence i-site with the key initiative "Montpellier Vine and Wine Sciences", which includes 15 research structures, 400 scientific staff and a network of partners and federating tools.

1. An ambitious project

The transfer of the Vassal collection is an ambitious project that aims to perpetuate and consolidate its position as a world reference biological resource center (BRC) and to reinforce the visibility of the new ensemble for international research.

It includes :
- the selection of accessions to be conserved (two accessions per variety will be maintained for an estimated total of about 6500 accessions);
- securing the collection against sanitary and environmental risks by creating a safety duplicate in greenhouses on other sites;
- the sanitization of the plant material against the main viruses most damaging to the vine (short-nuke and leafroll), its grafting and the regeneration of the grafted collection in the vineyard.
The sanitation and grafting are made compulsory by the fact that the material is planted on a non-sandy soil.

2. Transfer schedule
  • September 2022 - March 2023: preparation of the plots, then rest of the land for a minimum of 12 months.
  • Spring 2025: planting of a first batch of 1,500 healthy accessions (5 plants per accession).
  • From 2026 to 2032, planting in four waves of accessions requiring sanitation. Virus-affected accessions will be sanitized by apex micrografting or cryotherapy. Each wave will take place over 3 years.
  • Safety duplicate of the collection: in parallel with the transfer to plots, a safety duplicate will be implanted in the form of cuttings in an insect-proof greenhouse on a secondary site near Montpellier from 2024.
3. Preservation of the environnment

INRAE is committed to supporting the deployment of the project with environmental actions. INRAE has financed several studies, including one on the Aleppo pine forests of the Massif de la Clape and one for the implementation of a regional action plan for the humble atractyl. INRAE will also finance and coordinate environmental measures such as the restoration of open to semi-open environments on the Massif de la Clape in order to promote the development of various species of flora, insects, reptiles and avifauna. The various actions will take place throughout the project to transfer the collection and beyond (at least until 2052) and involve many partners: Office National des Forêts (ONF), Parc naturel Régional (PNR) de la Narbonnaise en Méditerranée, Conservatoire du Littoral.
This project benefits from the financial support of the Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée Region, the Aude Departmental Council and the Greater Narbonne Agglomeration Community (total budget of 5,136 k€, including 2,609 k€ from the CPER, and 2,527 k€ of INRAE's own funding).

Contact :

  • Press office (e-mail)
  • INRAE Occitanie-Montpellier Communication Department (e-mail)