Sustainable soil management in vineyards and olive groves

In NOVATERRA project, innovative soil management strategies have been defined by mobilizing and integrating the current knowledge concerning management alternatives to chemical inputs including, for instance, use of permanent grassing or temporary cover crops, floral margins, mechanical and physical weeding, and mulching.

Results from a systematic literature review and meta-analysis were used to develop a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to identify best candidate alternatives for the reduction of chemical inputs, as the basis to integrate alternatives and design innovative strategies to be tested during the project. Innovative soil management strategies are being tested in field experimentation in geographical regions representing the variability of European growing conditions. Field experiments are being conducted to test technical aspects and to overcome known limitations of the innovative soil management strategies.

Efficacy of the innovative strategies will be evaluated by considering plant health, weed control, overall biodiversity (soil, soil cover, vines), vine and olive grove status during the season (as, for instance, nutritional balance in leaves, photosynthetic activity, presence of water stress, vigor, etc.), and grape/olive yield at the end of the season (as both quantity and quality).

The final step is an ex-post assessment of the soil management strategies. Following the ex-post assessment, a new design- assessment- adjustment cycle will be initiated incorporating the information from the previous cycle as well as new knowledge. At the end, final innovative strategies will be prepared to be implemented in a Decision Support System (DSS) for integrated soil management strategies. This tool will allow farmers to self- evaluate the limitations concerning soil in vineyards and olive groves, take right decisions about the necessary mitigation measure(s), implement them following good agricultural practices and, finally, check the success of the interventions.