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New scientific article published: The pitfalls of water potential for irrigation scheduling

A new scientific article has been published entitled "The pitfalls of water potential for irrigation scheduling".

Abstract: The water potential (Ψp), has been widely used as an indicator of plant water status for irrigation management purposes. The simple infrastructure needed for its measurement and its direct relation to basic plant physiological processes, have contributed to the popularity of the methodology. When used for irrigation scheduling, it is commonly assumed that an unavoidable relationship exists between plant transpiration (T), soil water content and Ψp. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that variations in Ψp are not solely related to changes in soil water content, but are also an expression of the interaction between the plant and its environment. We used a soilplant-atmosphere-continuum (SPAC) model to highlight the importance of considering such interactions through a series of in silico experiments. Our analysis shows that evaporative demand, the hydraulic architecture of the plant, and the texture and depth of the soil play key roles in the final Ψp observed. To establish irrigation programs based on Ψp, without considering the environmental and plant factors that influence it, can create the paradox of having a plant that suffers greater water stress even when high irrigation volumes are applied. The conclusions from our in silico analysis provide some warnings that should be considered when using Ψp to schedule irrigation.

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How Does VISCA DSS Offer Smart Irrigation Management to Vineyards?

VISCA DSS is integrating climate and agricultural models with farmers’ management specifications in order to design short practices, medium- and long-term adaptation strategies to climate change.

The irrigation widget included in VISCA DSS provides recommendations for weekly irrigation needs based on plant and end-user requirements. This component of the tool has supported the irrigation management across the demonstration sites in Italy, Portugal and Spain. The irrigation model takes into account the plant physiological characteristics, the end-users’ necessities, and the irrigation and weather data during the growing season, to provide accurate irrigation volume forecasts for the next week. The model uses the midterm (weekly) weather predictions which is also included in VISCA DSS.

Figure1. Example of irrigation applied by the end user (purple line and bars) and predicted by the DSS (green line and bars) on an irrigation block at CODORNIU (Spain)

The irrigation widget in VISCA DSS allows the end-users to have an easy access to the irrigation data. The irrigation widget is divided into three panels (Figure 1). The left hand panel has an interactive map which shows the irrigation block selected in the parcel. The central panel presents the accumulated irrigation predicted (green line) and applied by the end user (purple line) and the right hand panel presents the weekly irrigation applied (purple bar) and forecasted by the VISCA irrigation model (green line).

What would happened if this forecast is not available (Business as Usual scenario)?

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Supporting Decisions on Canopy Management in the Italian Demo Site with VISCA DSS

VISCA DSS is integrating climate and agricultural models with farmers’ management specifications in order to design short practices, medium- and long-term adaptation strategies to climate change.

In the Irpinia Valley, located in south of Italy (about 60 km from Naples), a very warm winter influenced the precocity of the budbreak that occurred one week earlier than average. Also, blooming advanced earlier followed by a rainy month of June with some problems of downy mildew. However, with the predictions supplied by VISCA DSS, the Mastroberardino viticulture team was able to contain the disease by increasing the number of treatments sprays, anticipating the action as the prediction of several days of rainfall was given.

VISCA DSS showing that bud break and blooming have been achieved and earlier than normal (July 2020)

 

Blooming observed in the field - Italian Demo Site (July 2020)

This summer, VISCA DSS, in particular the short-term and mid-term climate forecasts, has predicted lower precipitation than normal and higher temperature than normal in Mirabella Eclano estate in the Campania region, where our Italian demonstration site is located. Before the phenological phase of blooming, the DSS, through the seasonal forecast, predicted a dry and hotter summer than normal, followed by the months of September and October with the same trend. Aglianico is the grapevine under the VISCA experimental plot and it is extremely sensible to powdery mildew disease. The dry season usually influences the development of the fungus directly on the grapes. Therefore, such useful predictions allowed the Mastroberardino vinegrowers to take decisions about the canopy and vineyards management in advance. First of all they programmed:

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How is VISCA DSS supporting the agronomic technique of Crop forcing in Raimat vineyards?

Crop forcing is based on moving the grape-ripening period from hot summer months to a cooler month later in the growing season. This is achieved by making an additional pruning, stopping the natural cycle of the plant and “forcing” it to restart its phenology (bud break, bloom, fruit set and so on). Shifting the ripening to a cooler month couples sugar accumulation with flavour and aroma development improving the quality of the grapes

This June, crop forcing has been successfully applied in our Spanish Demo site in Raimat in order to move the grape-ripening to October. According to VISCA DSS, performing the crop forcing at the beginning of June will move veraison from the last week of July to the mid October. In our Mediterranean climate, summers are characterized by hot and dry weather conditions, with temperature values that can be as high as 40 ºC. In Autumn, the temperature drops. The cooler weather conditions allow an optimum balance between sugar and flavor in the berry.  

The VISCA DSS tool is presenting this phenological cycles of the vineyards and taking into consideration the applied agronomic technique which is fed by the end-users:

VISCA DSS shows the phenology stage before crop forcing 

VISCA DSS shows the phenology stage after crop forcing 

What would happened if this forecast is not available (Business as Usual scenario)?

Without a tool like VISCA DSS, we cannot explore the optimum pruning date to implement the crop forcing. Having a seasonal forecast linked to phenological models provide a useful guideline to decide the optimum date to perform the crop forcing.

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Adaptive actions to support vineyard management using VISCA predictions in Douro Valley, Portugal

VISCA DSS is integrating climate and agricultural models with farmers’ management specifications in order to design short practices, medium- and long-term adaptation strategies to climate change.

In the Douro Valley, where our Portuguese demonstration site is located, the combination of abundant rainfall in March and April of 2020 and a very warm winter influenced the precocity of this year’s growth cycle, with budbreak recorded three weeks earlier than average. These conditions caused recurrent and earlier than expected outbreaks of downy mildew. However, with the predictions supplied by VISCA, the Symington viticulture team was able to plan a very effective treatment schedule, which successfully contained the disease.

Flowering also advanced earlier, arriving two weeks ahead of the regional average, and in order to safeguard good fruit set and ensure a healthy crop, the team at Symington continues to rely on timely VISCA predictions to plan ahead and keep disease pressures at bay.

DSS showing that budbreak has been achieved (May 2020)

 

Pictures of Ataíde vineyard of first week of May 2020 showing the phenological stage of bloom

During April, VISCA DSS predicted higher rainfall than normal in Douro. This increase of precipitation would risk the spread of grape diseases causing some loss of crops. To avoid this loss, the Viticulturists of Symington have decided to make 4 treatments sprays instead of 3 with an earlier positioning than usual in the calendar, to block the downy mildew cycle.

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Explore the Preliminary Results of VISCA Project!

VISCA project has been developing a Decision Support System (DSS) that integrates climate and agricultural models with farmers’ management specifications in order to design short practices, medium- and long-term adaptation strategies to climate change. After more than three years since the launch of our project, we are publishing the ‘VISCA Booklet on Preliminary Results’. The booklet gives an overview of the project, a description of the DSS and the integrated climate services, the added value of these services with testimonies from the end-users as well as the preliminary results driven from the demonstration sites in Italy, Portugal and Spain. The booklet also presents an overview of the replicability and the way forward (exploitation). You may download VISCA Booklet here.

 

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How will climate change affect the viticulture in the coming decades in Europe?

Conclusions from the Decadal Projections Performance Report

Facing climate change and climate variability is one of the main challenges in viticulture. Developing strategic actions to adapt viticulture to the impacts of a warmer climate is one of the main interests of the sector, which has been suffering for changes in the quality and yield.

A report has recently been published by VISCA project Decadal projection performance report (D2.5) which provides a set of regional climate projections at European scale and at demosites of the project (Campania region, Mirabella Eclano Estate (Mastroberardino-Italy), Costers del Segre region, Raimat hills (Codorniu- Spain),  Douro Valley, Porto (Symington-Portugal)). These projections would bring an added value for the wine industry to plan long-term adaptation strategies to face climate change and a new climate variability in the coming decades.

First of all, EURO-CORDEX climate projections have been analysed in terms of their ability to reproduce the historical climate. As a result, it has been confirmed that EURO-CORDEX is representing correctly the temporal and spatial correlation of the main interesting variables such as mean temperature and precipitation, climate extremes such as droughts, spring frosts and heatwaves and, finally, specific agronomical parameters such the Winkler index.

After that, the analysis of climate projections at European scale and at demosites is providing by comparing the climatology off the period 2070-2099 against the historical period 1976-2005. In terms of precipitation, a decrease in the southern European countries, which is more intense in the summer months. In terms of temperature, there is a clear increase throughout Europe, although it is more intense in southern countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and in norther countries like Sweden and Finland. Regarding extreme events, there is an increase of the length of droughts, especially in the Iberian Peninsula, a decrease of frost days in spring months and an increase of heatwaves, especially in the southern European countries.

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3 VISCA deliverables now available for download!

VISCA project has published recently 3 new public deliverables related to the analysis of climate projections at the European scale and particularly at the demosites of the project, report on a full year application of the CS-DSS and VISCA booklet presenting preliminary results.

You may download them below:

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 730253.