AgriLink The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: soil improving cropping systems. - AgriLink

The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: soil improving cropping systems.

Italy, Piacenza
Region

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.

Region map

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

Study focus

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.

Partner and responsible person contact

Vinidea SRL

Vinidea srl (VIN) is a micro-enterprise founded in 1999 that provides information transfer and innovation brokerage for the wine industry.  VIN looks for scientific and practical news from all over the world and then makes it available to agronomists and enologists.  They make full and effective use of all available tools to promote the sharing of information among the different categories of wine specialists: from classic conferences to webinars and internet tools, study trips, written articles, audiovideos, translations from and into different languages and surveys.  VIN is publisher of the journal Infowine (Internet Journal of Enology and Viticulture) which is available in 6 languages and read by 40,000 wine professionals worldwide.

Lessons learned
1 Two most important triggers for the adoption of the innovation: climate change and the change of production.
The two most important triggers for the adoption of the innovation in the “Colli Piacentini” wine district are climate change and the change of production and business model that took place in Piacenza wine area in the last decades.
2 The most important source of the information for the farmers were other vine growers.
The most important source of the information for the farmers were other vine growers (neighbours and colleagues in neighbour regions) who contributed to raise awareness on the innovation and promote good group dynamics engaging several pioneers. It was also revealed a significant role of the University in training vine growers and advisors on the specific contents of the innovation. Private independent advisors present in the Focus region were also providing support in adopting the innovation for some of farmers, who had access to paid professional advice. Surprisingly, sometimes the information about the innovation was communicated to farmers several informal advisors (technicians and researchers) who often do not consider themselves as advisers.
3 Context to create synergy between farmers and researchers.
In cases when the farmers participated in Operational Groups for Innovation and other projects finances by EU (LIFE+, RDP), it allowed to create synergy between farmers and researchers, pushing farmers to start a lively interaction with the University regarding different types of innovation.
4 The advisory landscape in the Focus Region reflects poor saturation.
On the other side, the advisory landscape in the Focus Region reflects poor saturation, which leads to the lack of competition between advisors, somehow detrimental to the innovation mood also among the advisers. Public Advisory is practically disappeared, letting small farms without any independent support, as small-scale farmers have limited access to paid professional advice.
5 Weak coordination within the AKIS.
It should also be mentioned the weak coordination within the AKIS, missing the opportunity of an integrated approach towards innovation, something always strategic but even more than strategic if the challenge is to have an environmental impact. In the focus region R-FAS were and are only partly implemented. Especially FAS systems linked to M.2 of RDP 2014-2020 were only recently offered in Emilia Romagna Region, so they weren’t playing any role in the implementation of the innovation in study.

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