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VITiculture Innovative Soil Organic Matter management: variable-rate distribution system and monitoring of impacts (VITISOM LIFE)
Start date: Jul 1, 2016, End date: Dec 31, 2019 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Background In Europe, there is a general lack of knowledge about the diverse functions of soils, and in particular about the best available measures for their improvement and conservation. In the specific case of vineyards, which have both economic and landscape value in Europe, there are several soil management problems that are often not adequately addressed at local or national level. These include: erosion, decrease of organic matter content, compaction, contamination, and restoration of carbon soil content. Modern viticulture is responsible for organic matter decline in vineyard soils, with transitions to intensive farming systems causing an increase in mechanisation and a reduction in row spacing that result in greater soil compaction. Objectives The objective of the VITISOM LIFE project is to introduce an innovative organic fertilisation system as a strategy to enhance vineyard soil protection, in relation to the EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection. The project aims to support sustainable soil management in the viticulture sector, through the development of a “Variable-rate technology” for organic fertilisation in vineyards. While it is already used for field crop management, the innovation consists in applying it to viticulture and in using organic fertilisers instead of chemical ones, so encouraging the diffusion of organic farming. The project also aims to provide cost-effective solutions for the improvement of existing viticulture practices in order to promote the conservation of the environmental functions of soils. Its methodology supports the transition to a more sustainable farming, as well as the prevention of soil erosion and organic matter decline in the viticulture sector. The project has relevant synergies with other EU policies, in particular the EU Rural Development Policy, the EU Cohesion Policy, the ERDF - Regional Operational Programmes, and the Rural Development Programmes of the four Italian regions involved. The main specific objectives are: Construction and implementation of five prototypes, each adapted to a specific pilot context and tested using different organic matrices (e.g. compost, manure, digestate); Improvement of the quality of vineyard soils in terms of soil structure, organic matter content and biodiversity, to help prevent erosion, compaction and organic matter decline; An increase in vine production, and an upgrade of grape and wine quality, with a possible positive economic impact at local, national and European level, due to the improvement of soil fertility; Reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from vineyard soils, in particular in terms of N2O emissions, due to the increase of soil carbon sequestration; and The definition of a complete framework for vineyard organic matter management and the exchange of best practices. The output of the project will be useful both to technicians, through a scale-up of a new technology for the vineyard sector, and to public authorities, thereby strengthening the foundation for policies about vineyard management. Expected results: The main expected results of the VITISOM LIFE project are: Design and assembly of five innovative fertilisation prototypes for the distribution of organic matter in vineyards and their testing in five pilot areas with different environmental and agricultural conditions; An average increase at the end of the project of 5% of the organic matter in the soils where the prototypes are tested; An increase of soil biodiversity of about 5%, in term of presence of earthworms and arthropods, relating to the organic matter content; A reduction of about 10% of GHG emissions from vineyard soils (expressed in CO2 equivalent) compared to chemical fertilisers; A reduction of about 10% of odour emission from the distribution of organic fertilisers; An expected reduction of costs related to organic matter distribution of at least 20%; Evaluation of the socio-economic impacts of the project; Quantification of the Carbon Footprint of the pilot vineyards; Publication of a manual on good practices in vineyard organic matter management, and a green paper on a European strategy for vineyard soil and ecosystem protection; and Increased awareness of sustainable viticulture, with at least 100 European farms, 10 public authorities and about 5 000 wine consumers expected to be reached through communication activities.

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