The European wild grapevine (Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris (C.C. GMEL.) HEGI) is threatened with extinction in Germany (threat category 1 on the German red list of vascular plants). Still in the middle of the 19th century, several thousand wild grapevines were counted in the Rhine meadows between Rastatt and Mannheim. Today there are only a few hundred plants left in the Upper Rhine region. The wild grapevine population on the Rhine island of Ketsch is the last rejuvenating wild grapevine population in Germany and one of the largest alluvial wild grapevine populations in Europe.
The BMEL funded model and demonstration project "Survival of wild grapevine Vitis sylvestris C.C. Gmel. in the Rhine meadows through targeted in situ management ”laid the foundations for securing the remaining diversity in the long term and ensuring availability as a resource for grapevine breeding. This was achieved through inventorying and morphologically as well as genetically characterizing the wild grapevines, re-planting at suitable riparian forest sites and ex situ conservation of the Ketsch wild grapevine population.
In the project "Upper Rhine VITAL - the Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris species management guideline for nature conservation practice”, a comprehensive management plan and concepts in the areas of monitoring, guiding principles, habitat-networking and awareness-raising were developed. The follow-up project "Upper Rhine VITAL - Phase II - Rejuvenation Concept Rhine island Ketsch" started in 2019. Both projects are funded by the Baden-Württemberg nature conservation fund.
Evidence of resistance to downy mildew, powdery mildew and black rot were discovered in the wild grapevine ex situ collections. The BMEL-funded project "Use of European wild grapevine genetic resources for the breeding of mildew and black rot-resistant grapevines" laid the foundation for harnessing our native wild grapevine as a genetic resource for the sustainable viticulture of the future.
Discussions are currently underway to establish genetic reserves for wild grapevine.