EnViRoS - Opportunities for an Environmental-friendly Viticulture: optimization of water management and introduction of new Rootstock and Scion genotypes
Enrico Peterlunger, University of Udine ; Italy
grape, water stress, salinity stress, metabolomics, transcriptomics
Grape production is among the most economically important agricultural activities in the Mediterranean region, particularly for Italy, France and Spain. In the context of climate change and increased consciousness of the negative environmental and public health impacts of agricultural activities (e.g. pesticide application) there is an increasing emphasis on the development of sustainable agricultural approaches in viticulture. Climate change is threatening the sustainability of Mediterranean viticulture where recurrent drought events during the summer have increased the necessity of modern irrigation to maintain yields and quality. This issue is amplified in semi-arid and arid regions. Moreover, climate change is also influencing the availability of water resources, which combined with a growing world population, is increasing competition for water. Therefore, the conservation of freshwater resources through the use of non-conventional sources of water (e.g. reclaimed wastewater) for agriculture is an increasingly relevant alternative. However, this option might lead to salinity issues in the soil depending on the reclaimed water quality and the problem is amplified in saline soils. On the other hand, sustainability is also threatened by pollution. Traditional European wine grape varieties (V.vinifera) are highly susceptible to fungal diseases (powdery and downy mildew being the most important). Copper-based fungicides have been used for more than a hundred years in European vineyards. Exposure to these pesticide can result in acute and chronic illnesses for vineyard workers and surrounding communities. Pesticide reduction (or even elimination) represents a priary goal for attaining sustainability in viticulture. The EnViRoS project aims to enhance the sustainability of the grape cultivation in the Mediterranean area by exploiting newly available genotypes recently developed by breeding programs in Italy, including fungal disease-resistant cultivars and drought/salinity-tolerant rootstocks. The enhanced characteristics offered by these new genotypes against biotic (resistance to powdery and downy mildew fungal diseases) and abiotic (drought and salinity) stresses, makes them suitable to solve some of the major concerns affecting Mediterranean viticulture. However, given its actual importance, traditional V.vinifera cultivars will probably remain the major market portion in Europe in the short and medium term. The project work plan includes the optimization of the irrigation management for these varieties, as well as the study of their performance when grafted on new rootstock genotypes and subjected to water and salinity stress. We expect the project proposed here to lead to reductions in water use and pesticide applications. Both of these goals have real, tangible socioeconomic impacts that will positively impact the profitability and sustainability of grape production, and the health and well-being of vineyard workers and the surrounding communities.