Aim: The aim of this work was to evaluate the effect of Planococcus ficus infection in red wine grapes on Aspergillus section Nigri and ochratoxin A (OTA) contamination.
Methods and Results: During 2006/2007 and 2008/2009 vintages, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties divided into two categories of grape samples (undamaged and damaged by P. ficus) were evaluated. Regardless of the grape variety and the harvest season evaluated, Aspergillus section Nigri incidence and the mean OTA concentration in damaged berries were significantly higher than that in the undamaged ones (P < 0·05; P < 0·001). The Merlot variety showed the highest level of black aspergilli contamination in damaged grapes during the 2006/2007 vintage (53·5% of infection), whereas Malbec presented the highest incidence during the 2008/2009 vintage (57·6% of infection). The Cabernet Sauvignon variety showed the highest OTA levels, ranging from 0·1 to 140 μg kg−1.
Conclusions: The presence of P. ficus in vineyards increased the risk of OTA occurrence in grapes, suggesting the need to implement insect control at preharvest stage to reduce the entry of OTA in the wine production chain.
Significance and Impact of the Study: This study is the first report on the influence of P. ficus on the potential risk of OTA contamination in grapes.