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Land suitability model for viticulture and grape varieties in the context of climate change in the Alps

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Land suitability model for viticulture and grape varieties in the context of climate change in the Alps
01.01.2017 - 30.06.2019
Project Description

In a highly globalized world, alpine agriculture is under great pressure from multiple factors: small-scale socio-economic dynamics, complex topography and an increased exposure to land use and climate change. This is particularly true for perennial crops such as grapevines.

Over the last decade, new vineyards have increasingly been planted at the cooler limits of wine production suitability (above 1000m a.s.l.). Moreover, due to a warming climate, valley floors are likely to become too hot for certain grape varieties (i.e. Pinot Noir, Schiava) in the future and a shift to other later ripening cultivars might become necessary.

The main aim of the project is to provide a flexible instrument, specifically designed for farmers and stakeholders (wineries, regional authorities, producers), that assesses the actual and future suitability of grape growing in the South Tyrol and Carinthia (A) region. A particular focus is given to the combined analyses of quantitative parameters (using data on topographic, climate, plant phenology) and qualitative ones (crop yield data).

The following list summarizes the three main pillars of the planned activities:

• Firstly, we analyze historic grape harvesting statistics (i.e. sugar content, acidity, harvesting dates of the past 20-30 years) from South Tyrolean and Carinthian wineries and try to link them to topographic and climate conditions to characterize the effects of geography and a changing climate on wine production.

• Secondly, for a total of 40 vineyard sites across the study area, the plant phenology stages of the pinot noir variety will be analyzed in detail (bud burst, bloom, veraison, harvest) and the respective micro-climatic site condition registered (temperature, radiation, soil water potential). The objective is to relate plant growth to climate characteristics along different elevational gradients.

• Thirdly, a land suitability model will be designed, that addresses both the historical wine development (step one) in the study sites as well as the respective phenological and topo-climatic characteristics (step two). At the end for each land parcel of the study area an objective evaluation on its suitability for viticulture will be possible. It is foreseen that the model will be made available to the public and regularly updated.

The projects team consists of an interdisciplinary cooperation of different South Tyrolean and Carinthian research institutions with complementary areas of expertise, covering the fields of agronomy, spatial modelling and statistics.

Detailed Description

Alpine agriculture, and especially perennial crops such as grapes, are bearing the pressure of globalization in terms of unfavorable topographical and socio-economic conditions, and the effects of climate change. The project’s aim is to develop a regional land suitability model for viticulture in South Tyrol and Carinthia. In order to support and promote a sustainable planning of vineyards, the data on climate change collected during the last 20 years and their effects on wine-growing will be considered. The project will be developed as follows:

• Evaluation of historical wine grape harvest data of several South Tyrolian and Carinthian wine producers in order to define a relation between their development and the climatic context over the past years.

• Over the entire project vineyard areas, 40 vineyards will be selected, their climatic parameters will be measured and the grapes development will be exactly described.  

• Last, an evaluation / assessment model will be developed, in which historical harvest data as well as climatic measurements will feed into.  The model will be publicly accessible and regularly updated. This project will be carried out by an interdisciplinary team with complementary strengths and expertise from South Tyrol and Carinthia.  

Egarter Vigl Lukas
Tasser Erich Ignaz
Balotti Andrea
Stella Chiara Maria
Kammer für Land- und Forstwirtschaft in Kärnten
Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry


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