Project activities are organized in 7 work packages (WPs):

WP1: Project management and result dissemination, leader: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

Project management is aimed at:

  1. responding to the project complexity and the degree of integration required,
  2. guaranteeing consistency between the project work plan and its actual implementation,
  3. achieving the project goals in a cost effective way according to the agreed time frame and budget,s
  4. ensuring an effective process of decision-making and internal communication, and
  5. managing knowledge circulation and intellectual property rights.

The dissemination plan includes various communication routes, which are organised in four pillars focused on different audiences who have a potential interested in the project results:

  1. within-project audience,
  2. scientific community,
  3. professional users, and
  4. big audience.
WP2: Control of arthropod pests, leader: Agroscope.

The control of arthropod pests can be achieved by using plants able to:

  1. repel arthropod pests;
  2. attract arthropod pests by the use of trap crops;
  3. attract and/or conserve beneficials.

Repellent plants, such as garlic and basil, are used in vegetable production; they have, however, until yet rarely been deployed in vineyards. Trap crops are human deployed plant stands that attract pests away from nearby crops and protect them from economic damage.

It is, however, essential that the deployed trap crop is more attractive than the cultivated crop and that its phenology is coupled. Moreover, intensively managed vineyards often lack floral resources to fully exploit the ecosystem service of biological control.

The biological control of arthropod pests can be promoted by the provision of floral resources in order to attract and favour natural enemies such as parasitoids and predators. Plants provide them shelter and nutrition in the form of nectar, pollen and alternative prey, which in consequence favour the fitness of parasitoids and predators and lead to increased parasitism and predation of pests.

First a systematic literature search will be performed to identify plant species suitable for repelling or attracting target pests (e.g. Lobesia botrana, Drosophila suzukii) or conserving and promoting beneficials (e.g. parasitoids, carabid beetles, ladybirds, hoverflies, spiders).

Second identified plant species as for example garlic and basil will be evaluated for the potential to repel L. botrana, whereas dwarf elderberries (Sambucus ebulus) and planted bird cherry trees (Prunus padus) are tested as trap crop for D. suzukii. Candidate plant species for promoting beneficials are buckwheat, combinations of cereals and legume species, brassicas, and sunflowers.

Finally, selected plant species will be planted in organic vineyards in order to test whether they are able to repel or attract target pests and favour the beneficials of interest.

WP3: Control of soil-borne pests, leader: Agricultural Institute of Slovenia.

The possibility of controlling soil-borne pests (oomycetes, fungi, nematodes, arthropods) by using a range of plants as cover crops in the inter-row space of vineyards will be investigated by mean of selection and evaluation of candidate plants.

A literature search will be performed on cover crop plants able to control soil-borne pests.

Identified plant species (including different Brassica spp.) and correspondent bio-fumigation strategies suitable for the control of:

  1. Xiphinema index nematode, the vector of the Grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV);
  2. soil-inhabiting pathogenic fungi (including root and wood pathogens: Phaeomoniella chlamydospora, Phaeoacremonium spp. and
  3. soil-transient pathogens such as Plasmopara viticola.

Brassica spp. including mustard are candidate plants because they have rapid growth in fall, great biomass production, nutrient scavenging ability, and high concentrations of glucosinolates that result in released isothiocyanate compounds when plant cells decompose (bio-fumigation).

Selected plants will be grown in infested soil, incorporated into the soil at the right growth stage/s (bio-fumigation), and consequent changes in the pest population density with respect to an infested, untreated soil will be quantified by using proper detection/quantification methods.

The role of bio-fumigation in combination with beneficial microorganisms for controlling X. index at replanting stage will also be investigated.

WP4: Increase plant health through mycorrhizal fungi, leader: INRA

The validation of management a practice stimulating arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) will be evaluated; specifically, the sowing of cover crops seeds coated with AMF inoculum as a mean to overcome the difficult, efficient inoculation of the AMF in adult vineyards.

The possibility of roots of the cover crops to carry the fungi to the vine root system through a Common Mycelial Network, the interactions within the community promoting the suppression of below-ground pathogens and above-ground herbivores, and an enhanced defensive capacity of plants after infection by AMF through a “mycorrhiza-induced resistance” (MIR) – which provides systemic protection against a range of pathogens, nematodes, and arthropod pests – will be investigated.

Grass plants with a high mycotrophy (ability to build mycorrhiza) suitable for their use as cover plants in vineyards will be identified and then tested in microcosm for their ability to “transfer” the AMF to vine plants.

The taxonomic diversity and the relative abundance of each AM fungal species of the consortium colonizing roots will be assessed.

Plants selected will be tested at small scale (microcosms, small plots, etc.) for the ability to carry the AMF to the vine root system and trigger the MIR.

Defense reactions of the mycotrophic plants will be activated using elicitors or small-molecules potentiators. The expression of defence-related genes will be monitored by quantitative absolute real-time PCR. Acquired knowledge will be tested with AMF strains currently used in commercial products in small spots in vineyards.

WP5: Control of foliar pathogens, leader: Universitat Politècnica de València

The possibility of using cover crops to control some relevant pathogens producing inoculum (spores) on plant debris (leaves, canes, mummified berries) present on the soil surface of vineyards will be investigated. The target pathogens are: Plasmopara viticola, Botrytis cinerea, Guignardia bidwelii, Phaeomoniella chlamydospora and Phaeoacremonium spp.

Spores of these fungi travel to aerial plant organs by rain-splashes (splash-borne pathogens) or air currents (air-borne pathogens) and cause infections under favourable environmental conditions. The possibility of reducing the amount of spores escaping the soil surface for both splash- and air-borne spores (through different mechanisms) by dense soil-covering vegetation and mulching will be investigated as a mean for reducing the disease risk and, then, the need of fungicides.

Small-plot experiments in vineyards will be set up to test the ability of plants used as cover crops to:

  1. reduce the falling speed of the rain drops and of the drop size, with consequent reduction of rain splashes and distances travelled by the splashing droplets;
  2. intercept splashing droplets which incorporate spores;
  3. reducing the air currents at the soil level;
  4. intercept the air-borne spores trying to escape the soil cover when grown in the inter-row.
WP6: Design innovative viticultural systems, leader: Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

New viticultural systems able to exploit plant biodiversity will be designed for organic vineyards based on results of the previous activities, following a design-assessment-adjustment cycle.

In the 1st year of the project, a design-assessment-adjustment cycle will be initiated, in which an innovative vineyard system will be defined based on current knowledge about functional biodiversity in vineyards. Afterwards, an ex-ante assessment will be performed to compare the innovative system with the current practice, using the indicators developed under the FP7 projects PURE and INNOVINE; these indicators will make it possible to compare the effect of the innovative system on the overall vineyard’s sustainability so to define the best system’s design to be tested during the 2nd year.

An ex-post assessment of the functional biodiversity solutions tested (2nd year) will then be performed. Following the ex-post assessment, a new design-assessment-adjustment cycle will be initiated incorporating the information from the previous cycle, the solutions resulting from the previous activities, and the new knowledge and tools eventually developed outside the project. The new system will then be tested (3rd year of the project).

At the end of the project, a final ex-post assessment will be provided and the final innovative viticultural systems based on functional biodiversity will be produced.

WP7: Test innovative viticultural systems, lead by Research Station for Viticulture and Enology Murfatlar

Innovative systems will be applied on large plots and compared with the current practice. A control plot, normally treated for the organic system, will be set up in each vineyard. During the grape growing season, the efficiency of the different systems will be evaluated for the density and dynamics of pest population, disease development and abundance of beneficial, mycorrhizal infection in root systems, and provision of ecosystem services.

The effectiveness of the innovative systems in pest and disease control will be evaluated by means of periodic surveys in the vineyards, conduced according to protocols agreed among the partners. The definition of common protocols will allow to collect comparable results and perform a common statistical analysis about the effectiveness of the innovative systems in pest and disease control.

The effect of the innovative viticultural systems on ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water purification, soil erosion reduction, landscape and soil health will be evaluated.