PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE VITICULTURE THROUGH ICT IN THE SLOVENIAN-ITALIAN CROSS-BORDER AREA
The SUSGRAPE project aims to reduce chemical inputs and CO2 emissions in vineyards through ICT solutions. The development of new biopesticides is also under study.
The SUSGRAPE project provides Slovenian and Italian wine growers the necessary support in reducing the environmental impact of agriculture and in producing quality crops while reducing the costs of vineyard management.
The main areas of the SUSGRAPE project, funded by the Interreg V-A Italy - Slovenia 2014-2020 Programme, which complements and brings together different know-how to achieve a common objective, are: predictive models for diseases, peronospora and oidium, in local microclimates; continuous agrometeorological monitoring and study of micro-organisms on vines with a view to develop biological means to combat diseases.
The project is coordinated by the Area Science Park, a national research institution and science and technological park in Trieste, and the partnership consists of Primo Principio, an ICT start-up, the Primorska Chamber of Commerce in Koper, the largest, strongest and most influential network of business and entrepreneurs in the region, and the University of Primorska, with expertise in agriculture and microbiology, the Centro Internazionale di Ingegneria Genetica e Biotecnologie - ICGEB, which coordinates microbiological research activities, 18 specialised growers involved in the Consorzio Tutela Vini Collio, and Vinakoper, a Slovenian wine-growing and winemaking company with a long tradition and more than 500 hectares of cultivated land. The SUSGRAPE project has established a stable cross-border Slovenian-Italian network of scientific and technological cooperation in viticulture and wine, with room for new partners.
The basic idea is to integrate the vineyard and wine sector with digital technologies through the development of a decision support system (DSS) for vineyard management, aimed at optimising the integrated disease management, peronospora and oidium control, and reducing the frequency of irrigation.
The DSS system consists of an environmental monitoring system linked to two integrated predictive models in a software framework.
The environmental monitoring system includes measurements of climate, soil and plant-related parameters such as: air temperature and humidity, rainfall, air pressure, wind speed and direction, soil temperature and moisture, and leaf wetness.
The forecast models were developed using existing forecast models in the scientific literature. Both models have been converted into computer language and uploaded to Primo Principio's WiForWine® platform.
Forty-two (42 stations) have been installed in the vineyards: 18 in the Italian Brda/Collio area and 24 in Slovenian Istria; the stations are distributed to cover the different microclimatic zones in both areas. The stations are self-powered and connected to a central server with 4G technology.
Data from agrometeorological stations and probability indicators from predictive models provide a wine-grower with an overview of a number of important parameters from the local area, which can be used to make better decisions on the implementation of plant protection measures and vineyard irrigation. The user-friendly display of this data on any web-enabled digital device makes it quick and easy to view data.
During two growing seasons, 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, vine growers, agronomists and oenologists from Consorzio Collio and Vinakoper were testing the predictive models in pilot vineyards located near agrometeorological stations. The aim of this activity is to adapt the models to the morphological and climatic characteristics of the two geographical areas involved (Italian Brda/Collio and Slovenian Istria), as well as to strengthen the transboundary application of these models, with the possibility of testing them in the Goriška Brda area in Slovenia and the north-western Italian Adriatic coast.
Through validated models and field monitoring, SUSGRAPE will contribute to the following production priorities: the rationalisation of plant protection measures and consequently lower costs for fungicides, the optimisation of irrigation and fertilisation, savings in man-hours and improved labour efficiency.
An additional element in the SUSGRAPE project is the collaboration between ICGEB and the University of Primorska to analyse the potential of microbiology in agriculture. The researchers are studying the microbiome of sugarcane in both geographical areas with the aim of identifying and isolating micro-organisms with antagonistic effects on the development of fungal diseases. The aim of the research is to develop plant protection products of biological origin, so-called biopesticides.
The SUSGRAPE project also organises 2 sets of training courses for students and pupils. The first set of courses for agronomy students will focus on agronomic predictive models and environmental monitoring technology, while the second set for biology and biotechnology students will be based on the latest research on the microbiome.
The SUSGRAPE project therefore aims to show wine growers that, by investing in appropriate technologies and gaining new experience, excellent results can be achieved. The foundations will be laid to further spread the IoT technology (Internet of Things, or in this case "plants") in viticulture, the success of which will depend on the economic sustainability and investment of the wine-growers.