Viticulture

Water as a critical issue for viticulture in southern Europe: sustainability vs competiveness Sourced from the research article “Modern viticulture in southern Europe: vulnerabilities and strategies for adaptation to water scarcity” (Agricultural Water Management, 2016). Original language of the article: English.

Water is a vulnerable resource in the Mediterranean region, but irrigation demands have been increasing to mitigate effects of environmental stress. Sustainable wine production involves the precise use of water in the vineyard and winery. Improved knowledge on grapevine ecophysiology and genetics, the use of sensors for soil and canopy monitoring, plant phenotyping and improved crop management can help save water. In the winery, best management practices and improved water metrics will promote water savings and decrease wastewater production.

1/ Integrative water management. From leaf/plant to the winery and region

Water is a highly vulnerable resource in Mediterranean regions and climate scenarios for South Mediterranean Europe are not favourable. According to the OIV, the EU-28 leads global wine production and exports (50&nbsp% of global vine-growing area and 60&nbsp% of global volume). Spain has the world’s largest vineyard area (about 950&nbspKha) and the irrigated area has increased rapidly in recent years (from 36&nbsp% in 2014 to almost 40&nbsp% in 2019). Portugal, is the fifth largest wine producer in the EU, with a production volume of 6,4&nbspMhl and a cultivated area of 190&nbspKha, 10-15&nbsp% of which being now irrigated. Specific regional legislation imposes restrictions on water use, but irrigation has expanded in Southern Europe (e.g. Spain, Portugal, France) to mitigate climate risks and assure yields and quality. Mediterranean viticulture and wine industry must adopt more integrative approaches (from vine’s eco-physiology to landscape conservation and consumer trends) to be more sustainable and competitive. More efficient water use depends on improved knowledge of water management from leaf/plant to landscape/regional scales and from agronomical technology to governance (Fig.&nbsp1 and Fig. 2).

Figure 1. Water management from leaf/plant to landscape/regional scales and from agronomical technology to governance.

Figure 2. A) Soil management strategy in Alentejo (South Portugal) with row mobilization to avoid the use of herbicides (M. Costa); B) Small reservoir to store rainfall water and promote water infiltration, at Alentejo (South Portugal) (C. Lopes); C) Soil and vine’s temperature measured with thermography in experimental vineyards in Alentejo (Portugal) (Flir B20, Flir Systems, USA, mounted on a tripod) (M. Costa & R. Egipto) and D) in Balearic Islands (Spain) ( Gobi384 (Xenics, Belgium) mounted on a drone) providing thermal images on the temperature difference between soil and vines as well as temperature gradients from soil to the top of the canopy (J. Gago, J. Escalona, H. Medrano); E) Future field trial for grapevine selection and to study grapevine clones of Portuguese varieties (PORVID experimental fields, Pegões, Portugal) (M. Costa).

2/ Understanding plant-environment relations

Increased tolerance/resistance to drought and heat stress depends on the interaction of multiple traits/mechanisms (genetic, biophysical, physiological, etc.) occurring at different time scales. Short-term responses include appropriate control of stomatal conductance, drought signaling (e.g. via abscisic acid) and gene responses, whereas long-term responses relate to root/shoot balance, metabolic acclimation (e.g. respiration), berry quality traits and yield. Therefore, selection of grapevine genotypes for Mediterranean conditions must take into account a compromise between high water use efficiency (WUE)1 and leaf cooling, together with high hydraulic conductivity and adaptation to poor soils. WUE is a complex multi-trait phenotype related to stomatal control but also with leaf structure, leaf biochemistry and leaf diffusive properties, hydraulics and hormones23. Root distribution and depth depends on rootstock/cultivar combination and soil characteristics. The roots’ capacity to adjust water supply to shoot transpiration demand is crucial for increasing tolerance to drought and embolism. Stress recovery should be fast and efficient to improve adaptation to stress. Indeed, the vine’s carbon balance during water stress and recovery cycles depends on the speed and degree of photosynthetic decline/recovery and on the restorative capacity of xylem function4. Genotypes with carbon efficient plant/root systems would show a competitive advantage in dry climates and shallow soils by a more effective exploitation of soil volume using less carbon reserves. Large scale grapevine phenotyping is needed to characterize and select novel and/or uncharacterized genotypes. In parallel, molecular approaches will help to assess the role of specific genes influencing plant traits related to water and thermal relations (stomatal regulation, hydraulics, hormonal signalling)56.

3/ Best practices in the vineyard and winery and improved metrics

Best practices in the vineyard and winery are crucial to save water (Table 1). Irrigation below evapotranspiration losses (deficit irrigation) helps to save water but relies on robust assessment of soil/plant water status and on knowledge of genotype characteristics in order to tune irrigation as function of the varieties and/or farm’s irrigation sectors. Assessment of soil spatial heterogeneity (e.g. by soil profiles, electrical conductivity maps) is crucial for efficient fertilization and irrigation. Increasingly cheap yet robust sensors are being tested and used in precision viticulture. Improving water performance metrics requires precise quantification of water inputs and outputs in the vineyard and winery (Table 1). However, the high number of indices used to characterize “sustainability” makes it difficult to compare companies in different countries regarding the efficiency in the use of inputs (e.g. water). Benchmarking can also help to improve farm and winery efficiency by setting more objective standards for environmental performance. In parallel, soil conservation is another critical issue for Mediterranean viticulture. Minimizing herbicide use and increasing soil organic matter (O.M.) are approaches to promote sustainable management. Cover crops benefit soil O.M. and prevent erosion, but they compete for water under dry conditions, which demands precise irrigation strategies.

Table 1. Non-exhaustive list of water saving, best water management practices and water conservation strategies to be implemented at different scales, the vineyard, the winery and the region.

4/ Certification and environmental legislation

Water metrics and certification for environmental sustainability are increasingly important issues for the wine industry and governmental officials. Water footprint (WFP) emerged as a basic, theoretical, consumption-based indicator of water use and it looks at both direct and indirect water use by a consumer or producer7. However, generalized values of WFP for a certain commodity can hide differences between regions and mislead consumers and authorities. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is another tool that can be used to assess environmental impacts of wine production8. Viticulture, especially under irrigated conditions, can have a major water footprint but winery wastewaters have also high pollutant impact if mismanaged. Robust WFP and LCA analysis depends on reliable water statistics but the availability of data on water use, water abstraction, water quality remains critical for proper quantification and governance of water flows at farm, the winery and the region. In 2007, the EU Commission established a strategy to face water scarcity based on five pillars: 1) put the right price tag on water, 2) promote more efficient water related technologies and practices, 3) improve drought risk management, 4) enhance water-saving culture and 5) improve knowledge and statistical data collection. However, down-scaling such policies to national and regional levels is a difficult practical task.

5/ Final remarks

Modern viticulture must integrate best practices for more sustainable water use and nature conservation. More reliable statistics and standards are crucial to support water metrics and water management policies to minimize the environmental impact of the wine industry. Precise vine and soil management supported by larger, cheaper yet robust sensing technologies are envisaged to assist decision support systems for vineyards and wineries. Ultimately, improved knowledge exchange and demonstration (e.g. peer to peer) is a crucial tool for innovation and implementation of best practices in global agriculture (see https://nefertiti-h2020.eu). This can be especially relevant for smaller companies (vineyards, wineries, enotourism)9 in countries where public extension services are strongly reduced such as in Portugal.

The translation of this article into English was offered to you by Moët Hennessy.

NOTES

  • Medrano H, Tomás M, Martorell S, Escalona J-M, Pou A, Fuentes S, et al. Improving water use efficiency of vineyards in semi-arid regions. A review. Agron Sustain Dev. 2015, 35, 499–517.
  • Medrano H, Tomás M, Martorell S, Escalona J-M, Pou A, Fuentes S, et al. Improving water use efficiency of vineyards in semi-arid regions. A review. Agron Sustain Dev. 2015, 35, 499–517.
  • Chaves MM, Costa JM, Zarrouk O, Pinheiro C, Lopes CM, Pereira JS. Controlling stomatal aperture in semi-arid regions—The dilemma of saving water or being cool? Plant Sci. 2016, 251, 54–64.
  • Chaves MM, Costa JM, Zarrouk O, Pinheiro C, Lopes CM, Pereira JS. Controlling stomatal aperture in semi-arid regions—The dilemma of saving water or being cool? Plant Sci. 2016, 251, 54–64.
  • Chaves MM, Zarrouk O, Francisco R, Costa JM, Santos T, Regalado AP, Rodrigues ML, Lopes CM. Ann. Bot. 2010, 105, 661-676.
  • Gago J, Fernie AR, Nikoloski Z, Tohge T, Martorell S, Escalona JM, Ribas‐Carbo M, Flexas J, Medrano H. Integrative field scale phenotyping for investigating metabolic components of water stress within a vineyard. Plant Meth. 2017, 13: 90.
  • Hoekstra A, Chapagain A, Aldaya M, Mekonnen M (2011). The Water Footprint Assessment Manual – Setting the global standard. https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/TheWaterFootprintAssessmentManual_2.pdf
  • Ferrara C, De Feo G. Life Cycle Assessment Application to the Wine Sector: A Critical Review. Sustainability 2018, 10, 395.
  • Montella MM. Wine Tourism and Sustainability: A Review. Sustainability 2017, 9, 113.

Authors


Joaquim Miguel Costa

miguelcosta@isa.ulisboa.pt

Affiliation : LEAF- ISA, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal

Country : Portugal


Margarida Vaz

Affiliation : ICAAM, Univ. Évora, 7002-554 Évora, Portugal

Country : Portugal


José Mariano Escalona

Affiliation : Grup de Recerca en Biologia de les Plantes en Condicions Mediterrànies, Dep. Biologia, Univ. de les Illes Balears, 07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Country : Spain


Ricardo Egipto

Affiliation : INIAV – Pólo de Dois Portos, Quinta da Almoínha, 2565-191 Dois Portos, Portugal.

Country : Portugal


Carlos Manuel Lopes

Affiliation : LEAF- ISA, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal

Country : Portugal


Hipolito Medrano

Affiliation : Grup de Recerca en Biologia de les Plantes en Condicions Mediterrànies, Dep. Biologia, Univ. de les Illes Balears, 07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Country : Spain


Maria Manuela Chaves

Affiliation : LEAF- ISA, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal

Country : Spain

References

  • Costa JM, Vaz M, Escalona J, Egipto R, Lopes C, Medrano H, Chaves MM. Modern viticulture in southern Europe: Vulnerabilities and strategies for adaptation to water scarcity. Agricultural Water Management. 2016,164, 5-18.
  • Medrano H, Tomás M, Martorell S, Escalona J-M, Pou A, Fuentes S, et al. Improving water use efficiency of vineyards in semi-arid regions. A review. Agron Sustain Dev. 2015, 35, 499–517.
  • Chaves MM, Costa JM, Zarrouk O, Pinheiro C, Lopes CM, Pereira JS. Controlling stomatal aperture in semi-arid regions—The dilemma of saving water or being cool? Plant Sci. 2016, 251, 54–64.
  • Chaves MM, Zarrouk O, Francisco R, Costa JM, Santos T, Regalado AP, Rodrigues ML, Lopes CM. Ann. Bot. 2010, 105, 661-676.
  • Gago J, Fernie AR, Nikoloski Z, Tohge T, Martorell S, Escalona JM, Ribas-Carbo M, Flexas J, Medrano H. Integrative field scale phenotyping for investigating metabolic components of water stress within a vineyard. Plant Meth. 2017, 13: 90.
  • Hoekstra A, Chapagain A, Aldaya M, Mekonnen M (2011). The Water Footprint Assessment Manual – Setting the global standard. https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/TheWaterFootprintAssessmentManual_2.pdf
  • Ferrara C, De Feo G. Life Cycle Assessment Application to the Wine Sector: A Critical Review. Sustainability 2018, 10, 395.
  • Montella MM. Wine Tourism and Sustainability: A Review. Sustainability 2017, 9, 113.

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