Environmental Problem

Nowadays, agriculture faces new challenges and threats, some of the most important being related to environmental and climate issues. In the specific case of viticulture, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, EU is the world leading producer and exporter of wine and still encompasses the largest vineyard area in the world (38%) representing 20% of total agricultural employment in the EU (being mainly composed of small producers).

The critical environmental impacts of grape production come from the intense use of pesticides, from the very high variability of the amount of fertilizers and from energy consumption related to the application of fertilizers and pesticides and for irrigation, pruning and tillage which are normally done with diesel tractors. EU regulations highlight the strong need to reduce pesticides (e.g. the recent EU regulation of 13 December 2018 restricts the use of plant protection products containing copper pesticides in order to minimize the potential accumulation in soil and the exposure for not target organisms).

The impact of global warming on wine growing European regions is increasing and vast portions of the Mediterranean basin may become completely inhospitable (warmer) to grape production by 2050. In particular, changes in temperatures and humidity may increase the presence of pest and diseases as their temperature limits move poleward.

In this contest, vineyards can require lots of external inputs (water, pesticides and fertilizer) to reduce biotic and abiotic stressors and to ensure grape production. Moreover, it is also important to note that the intense use of fertilizers significantly contributes to the production of ammonia and to the eutrophication phenomena.

Most of EU vineyards are today based on traditional agronomy management and they have not been significantly driven by technology. The increased consumer awareness of environmental impact of viticulture and the importance of wine quality in relation to human health are encouraging the practice of alternative agronomic strategies, and the world of wine is heading towards a transformation enabling Precision Agriculture (PA) applied to viticulture. The objective is to gain in efficiency, in productivity and overall in quality of wine.

New technologies can help winegrowers in the decision-making process in order to adapt their production mode in their vineyards using new devices (sensors, robots and drones) and digital techniques to monitor and optimize agriculture production processes. At the moment, a lot of progress has been made in PA development and the PA market is fully embraced by the sector and investors, but the full potential of PA has not yet been harnessed.

In this context, WINEgROVER represents a cost-effective integral solution based on the implementation of a new PA system developed in a previous R&D project. The proposed implementation actions will allow to monitor the vineyard throughout the whole vegetative cycle of the plants and intervene in the phases of irrigation and application of pesticides and nutrients in order to increase the environmental ustainability of the vineyard limiting and optimizing the grape production inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, water and fuel).

Mitigation of pesticides, mineral fertilizers (with consequent reduction of ammonia) and of gaseous and PM emissions will be major goals to accomplish in order to limit the impact on the environment, on health and on air quality.