Israel is one of the centers of origin of the world's vineyards

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A recent study of the genetic makeup of the grapevine, published in the journal Science, suggests that the harsh climate of the Ice Age allowed grapes to be domesticated around 11 000 years ago in Israel and the Caucasus.

With climate change and emerging diseases threatening vineyards around the world, the findings could help develop strategies to protect and sustain the wine industry for future generations”,– says Elyashiv Drori, head of the Samson Family Vine and Wine Research Center at Ariel University. “Our results provide important information about the domestication and evolution of the grapevine, which is a religiously, culturally and economically important crop”.

Israeli wild vines are the source of the entire group of cultivated table grapes, he says. This initial group of vine varieties was then dispersed throughout eastern and western Europe, where it formed most of the known wine varieties.

“This is a research breakthrough in the beginning of agriculture”,– says Professor Ehud Weiss, head of the Archaeobotanical Laboratory at Bar Ilan University. “It is generally accepted that annual crops such as wheat, barley and legumes were domesticated about 10,000 years ago, and perennials – thousands of years later. The current research changes this view and demonstrates that it happened simultaneously”.

The results of the study were released at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on March 2.
Ariel researchers are now looking deeper into the characteristics of Israel's native vines to see if they have genes that are resistant to the conditions of today's changing climate.

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