Real-life testing in NOVATERRA’s multi-country project: advancing alternative natural products

NOVATERRA, with its primary objective of developing alternative natural products, including biostimulants and biocontrol agents, aims to minimise the reliance on conventional plant protection products (PPPs) for combating powdery and downy mildew. Task 2.2.1 plays a crucial role in this project by identifying and testing botanical extracts and natural compounds against these diseases in grapevines. This article delves into the practical implementation of these tests across multiple countries, involving various partners to ensure consistent and reliable results.

To guarantee comprehensive coverage and consistency of results, several partners have been collaborating in the testing process. Under the leadership of IFV, TERRAS GAUDA and other partners (UNICATT, IRTA, VITEC) conducted trials in vineyards with distinct characteristics, encompassing locations such as Nîmes and Gaillac in France, and Penedés, Priorato, and O Rosal in Spain. By conducting trials in different regions, we are aiming at capturing a wide range of scenarios and validate the effectiveness of the natural products across various environments.

In each trial, we compared the results of these strategies with those focused on the use of conventional products. For the trials to be comparable, we at TERRAS GAUDA chose a homogeneous plot with the same soil, climate, orientation, and grape variety conditions. It was then divided into two parts, one for the standard trial and another one for that using natural products.

We have been carrying out real-life trials in a viticulture with extremely favorable conditions for the development of downy mildew. The climate conditions and high vigor of our grape varieties favor fungal attacks because the temperatures are mild, and humidity is high. In this region which is considered as one of the most affected in Spain and of the most endemic in the world, downy mildew attacks are continuous and very aggressive.

Given the difficulties in controlling downy mildew in the region, TERRAS GAUDA’s involvement in Task 2.2.1 contributes to the consistency and credibility of the results by providing insights into the performance of natural products in a challenging environment. The success criteria in this region revolve around reducing the number of conventional treatments, aligning with NOVATERRA’s objective of adopting a “less chemicals” approach. Even though the initial results may not have met expectations, they provide valuable guidance for identifying the most suitable products to achieve the project’s objectives amidst the mentioned difficulties.