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SAGWRI: Postgraduate Opportunities in 2025

Adaptation and resilience of grapevine to limiting water

Several projects are available for PhD and Masters level studies from 2025 in a multidisciplinary programme titled: “Adaptation and resilience of grapevine to limiting water”. The programme is funded by SA Wine and the Water Research Commission and would be ideal for students interested in topics such as crop science, viticulture, plant physiology plant biology, molecular biology, biotechnology and plant environmental stress responses.

The following three projects, with confirmed bursaries, are available:
Masters level study: Physiological analysis of grapevine water relations (Contact person: Dr Philip Young –

This study investigates the adaptability and resilience of grapevine to water limitation. This will be tested both in a potted vineyard planted with multiple rootstock-scion combinations. Different scenarios of water limitation will be generated to test (i) the impact of the timing and (ii) the severity of the water limitation, as well as (iii) the ability of the vines to adapt to the limitation and recuperate after successive drought scenarios. Plant physiological measurements as well as continuous logging of soil moisture will be implemented to evaluate the plant responses, which could include molecular responses as well.

Masters level study: A grape-to-wine analyses of the impacts of prolonged water constraint and the adaptive mechanisms used by grapevines to build water stress resilience (Contact person: Prof MA Vivier –
This project has as aim to elucidate the mechanisms that grapevine plants implement when they are subjected to prolonged water constraint. The study will use a model vineyard that was established and characterised over the past three seasons, with the experimental design and parameters now fully validated. The main objective that will form part of the study is to evaluate the ability of cultivar/rootstock combinations to adapt to water constraint and investigate the metabolic mechanisms underlying the mitigation. The study will follow a grape-to-wine analysis and will provide scope for students interested in the study of climate change impacts on woody perennial crops over seasons.

PhD level study: Profiling of epigenetic stress memory responses in grapevine plants undergoing water stress (Contact person: Prof MA Vivier –
The physical structure of plant DNA (specifically chromatin) can change in response to stresses and these epigenetic changes will modify the way the genetic information is used by the plant, leading to stress memories and adaptation to subsequent stress events. When specific epigenome features can be linked to the phenotype and environmental (stress) conditions, it is possible to start to investigate the role of the epigenome and epigenetic control linked to the stress factors. In this project we want to evaluate whether we can find proof that young grapevines, representing different scion-rootstock combinations, display changes in their epigenetic markers when the plants are exposed to water stress conditions.

Please send a CV, as well as a cover letter (as soon as possible) to Prof MA Vivier ( to indicate your interest in this opportunity.
Please note that if you are interested in PG study at SAGWRI; you must apply via the Stellenbosch University portal. You will find all the necessary information and important dates and deadlines at How to apply (

Contact person for the project: Prof MA Vivier: Director of SAGWRI (

General contacts for SAGWRI:
Prof MA Vivier: Director of SAGWRI
Mr Charl Newman: Postgraduate Admin officer

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