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New strategies to reduce use of plant protection products in winemaking

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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IMAGE: Wine grapes are shown. The aim of the initiative is to show that it is possible to reduce the frequency and intensity of applications of plant protection treatment for fungal... view more

Credit: NEIKER-Tecnalia

To cut down on using plant protection products in viticulture is the goal of a project coordinated by the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development (NEIKER-Tecnalia) and to be implemented over the next three years. The aim of the initiative is to show that it is possible to reduce the frequency and intensity of applications of plant protection treatment for fungal diseases such as mildew and oidium, two of the main pathologies affecting vineyards. Cutting down on the use of these products is of great importance from both an environmental and economic perspective. The project, known as FITOVID, is part of the European Commission's LIFE programme. NEIKER is the coordinating partner, the others being AZTI, Tecnalia Research & Innovation, the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

Amongst other variables NEIKER-Tecnalia researchers aim to demonstrate that the plant protection habitually used by winemakers on their vineyards can be equally effective applying less amounts. To this end, it is necessary to test and evaluate new strategies of handling, control and fighting against the micro-organisms which cause mildew and oidium. The technical experts wish to show that it is possible to tackle these pathologies by applying solely the optimum quantity of plant protection products, and which vary according to the geographical zone in which the vineyard lies within the Basque Country. In effect, the research is to be carried out in the agro-climatic zones of the Rioja Alavesa and Txakoli.

One of the problems arising from the use of conventional pesticides is the waste arising from the processing of the grapes and, thus, found in the must and the wine; The experts will measure the waste produced by the active material of the plant protection products, how their presence varies depending on the environment and on the different parts of the product obtained which, in turn, depends on the different strategies used for treating the mildew and oidium, and how all this affects human health. The use of plant protection products known as 'zero waste' as an alternative to the habitual products will also be evaluate.

Early detection of fungal diseases

The strategies of control for the two diseases will be based on the use of technological tools for the early detection and location of the fungus. New technologies enable detecting the presence of the pathology even before the appearance of visible symptoms. This rapid detection enables choosing the most suitable moments for the application of plant protection products, and more precisely.

All the results of the research will be presented to wine producers with various demonstrative trials. The project has been put forward taking into account the 2009/128/CE Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, which sets out a framework for achieving the sustainable use of the products employed to combat pests. The Directive and the LIFE FITOVID project itself seek the reduction of the risks and the effects involved in using pesticides on human health and the environment. Other objectives are boosting the integrated management of pests and diseases and the quest for alternatives to conventional chemical pesticides.

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