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Innovative approach to soil management in viticultural landscapes

SOIL4WINE project is aimed at improving soil management in the agriculture sector and at defining tools and methodologies aimed to support soil’s functions and ecosystem services.

SOIL4WINE is a demonstrative project that includes development of a decision support system, the testing of sustainable agriculture practices, the development of proposal for innovative policies about ecosystem services, socio-economic assessment related to the adoption of ecosystem based financial tools and monitoring activity of environmental impacts. Moreover, the project issues are directly linked to policies promoted by the European Commission - DG Environment.

The project aims to develop a system for the sustainable farming of vineyards through the testing, evaluation and demonstration of optimal management techniques for the farming system. The actions proposed will tailor land use management in order to achieve the soil ecosystems valorization and will have an additional benefit in describing and supporting terrestrial biodiversity. Project results can also give information useful to define future policy decisions.

The project foresees the involvement of main stakeholders for the development of the tools and the involvement of Regional Authority for the development of innovative policies.

The SOIL4WINE project is implemented by responsible beneficiaries that have different responsibilities according to the actions they are involved. The Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore is the coordinating beneficiary, the associated beneficiaries are Ente di gestione per i parchi e la biodiversità Emilia Occidentale, Ervet SpA, Horta Srl and Vinidea S.r.l.

SOIL4WINE project proposes a demonstration activity that will contribute to the implementation of the objectives of the EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection and of the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, as required under LIFE Environment and Resource Efficiency. The SOIL4WINE objectives are currently more closely aligned to the requirement and objectives of the LIFE Environment and Resource Efficiency fund than to any other EU funding instrument.

The objectives of SOIL4WINE are:

Objective 1. Achieve better soil management in the vineyard to decrease erosion and run-off, and to increase soil health and biodiversity. Actions: selective use of cover crops, permanent under the vine organic mulching, and revegetation of remnants and buffer zones.

Objective 2. Develop an innovative Decision tool for achieving better soil management able to guide farmers in: i) defining their specific soil and environmentally related problem(s); ii) selecting the best management solution(s); iii) implementing them in their vineyards; and finally iv) self-evaluating the results after implementation of the solution(s).

Objective 3. Test the Decision tool in vineyards to understand its strengths and weaknesses, assessing the benefits rising from the use of the Decision tool by collecting specific information/data and farmer’s feedbacks, and finally demonstrate to farmers its usability and the advantages rising from its use.

Objective 4. Determine: i) social, economic and environmental constrains of the proposed innovation; ii) soil ecosystem services in the study area and their improvements ensured by the proposed solutions; and use this information to designing innovative soil conservation policies based on PES (Payment of Ecosystem Services).

Objective 5. Promote a new participatory and promotional approach for stakeholder involvement and better knowledge transfer. Three panels of stakeholders: the “demo farmers” involved in Objective 3; the “living labs” include “external testers” to provide feedback about the Decision tool; the “exploitation” group include main stakeholders of the wine value chain to foster the future exploitation of the project results.

 

Figure 2: Soil threats: erosion in the vineyard

The project aims to demonstrate that it is possible to efficiently address the soil and related environmental problems targeted through shifting from the soil management practices currently applied in the study area to new solutions, which have been found to conserve and enhance soil heath in other viticultural areas. The proposed solutions and methods are new in the specific context of the project, in that most of the grape growers either do not know or trust them and still rely on tradition.

Good soil management as considered in the SOIL4WINE project can help to regulate emissions of three key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) from viticulture. Reducing the intensity and frequency of soil disturbance and the addition of crop residues and organic materials used for mulching may improve and/or maintain organic matter in soils (and their carbon storage capacity) and protects soil carbon sinks. Cover crop plants fix carbon from the atmosphere and, when they decompose, that carbon is returned to the soil. Preserving and maintaining non-cultivated areas (i.e. headlands around vineyard blocks and buffer strips) also increase soil carbon sinks. Cover crops might uptake nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a form used by the plants and released back into the soil after they die. This also lessens the need for synthetic fertilizers, which are often made from large amounts of fossil fuels with huge carbon emission in the atmosphere. In addition, reducing compaction improves nutrient uptake in the soil and help reducing the release of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere.

 

Published on 07/03/2017
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