Hecker and Blankenhorn - Wine and Revolution
The breeding of so-called PiWi-Grapes (for Pilz-Widerstandsfähig, fungi resistant) can reduce fungicide load in viticultu by 3/4. Few know that this success story initiated around 150 years ago here in Karlsruhe. After his political dreams had failed, the Badenic revolutionary Friedrich Hecker emigrated to the USA. There, he became winegrower and noticed the natural immunity of American wild grapevines against different diseases and pests. During a correspondence over almost two decades he convinced Adolph von Blankenhorn, who entertained in Karlsruhe a private wine research institute to use these robust wild grapevines to contain Phylloxera, which had invaded Europe. Hecker tried, in vain, to produce proper wine from those grapes, but the seeds that he sent to Blankenhorn schickte were the starting point for the nowadays common practice to graft the grapes on so-called "American rootstocks" to suppress the insect cycle. So far, this represents the economically most successful case of biological pest control worldwide. Shortly after, a cumbersome and lengthy breeding programme tried to backcross the wild grapes with domesticated grapes to get rid of the inpalatable taste (called foxiness). This German-French joint venture survived two world wars and after a century of breeding reached its success.