The Piacenza province is a rural region in the North-West of Italy, in Emilia-Romagna. It’s a good example of variegated agriculture, as the agricultural land is distributed in plain, hills and mountain areas. The wine grape is undoubtedly the main culture of the fruit growing sector of the Piacenza province, with a total area of 5.961 ha. The average agriculture enterprise is of small-medium scale, with an average utilized area of 18 ha.
The “Colli Piacentini” wine district is a name of a wine producing area in Piacenza province. It comprises around 90 wineries. Among them we can distinguish 4 huge cooperative wineries, the rest are family vine growing and winemaking farms of small or medium size. The R-FAS system in the Focus Region is composed by Universities of Milano and Piacenza, private advisory services, farmers’ unions (associations) and in some marginal level by private companies (machinery and input providers). Regional and local authorities perform the functions of production control, but have no role in advisory landscape.
The soil improving case in Piacenza Focus Region has been selected in order to reveal the challenges for advisory system in viticulture, which is one of the important sectors of Italian economy. The innovation in focus consists in the use of permanent cover of inter-row in alternative to herbicide use or ploughing. The adoption of innovation started in early 90’s and it’s still in continuous transformation. This allows us to examine if farmers’ attitude towards the innovation and the type of advice they use have eventually changed during the past decades
The introduction of cover cropping in Colli PIacentini viticulture practices, studied in the AgriLink project, started since the 1990s. Traditional tillage in the whole vineyard has been gradually replaced in several lots by the usage of different cover crops, often in combination with tillage, mulching or herbicide use. This practice reduces soil compaction and erosion, facilitates soil water management, increases soil organic matter, allows machinery access even in rain periods, reduces disease pressure, increases biodiversity, and reduces pest pressure.
The technology is not linked to input sales, either in terms of equipment or products, and its introduction was not driven by any sort of suppliers or business actors. Today, more than 75% of farmers in the region are using permanent spontaneously grown crops in their vineyards, sometimes alternating it with tillage, other 5-10% start to introduce temporary cover crops used as a green manure.
The large majority of farmers adopted the innovation by following the example of peers, both from the neighbourhood and from other viticulture areas in Italy. The introduction and spread of the practice was supported by private agronomic consultants, while public advisory services seemed to have no role in this process. The lack of public advisory and training services resulted in relevant complaints voiced by the farmers. This experience highlights the need for assistance in the development of i) instruments facilitating peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, and ii) public advisory services, in order to access up-to-date and reliable information on innovation in viticulture.
Full report is available here.
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