Joint experiments for the sustainable future of viticulture
The 2023 Viticultural Planning Workshop has been organized in Kőlyuktető by the horticultural team of the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) at the beginning of November with the support of the Agroecology-TRANSECT project. One of the major goals of the event was to create a close cooperation between the researchers and the neighbouring farmers in order to set up multiannual joint experiments in the vineyards of the Eger wine region.
The event took place in the Experimental Vineyard and Winery of the Eszterházy Károly Catholic University (EKKE), where the invited farmers listened to presentations on inter-row cover crops from the researchers of ÖMKi and the presenters of the Eszterházy Károly Catholic University and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME).
First, Dr. Tamás Miglécz, project leader researcher of ÖMKi, reported on the possibilities of conservation tillage in viticulture. In his presentation he demonstrated the drawbacks of intensive inter-row cultivation, and showed some conservation tillage methods as alternative solutions. In addition, he talked about the advantages of using the inter-row cover seed mix developed by the researchers of ÖMKi, also mentioning difficulties hindering its widespread.
In the second presentation Zoltán Szoboszlai and Zsófia Körmöczi Szoboszlainé, employees of EKKE, showed the results of the research carried out in the educational farm, called “To sow or not to sow? Summary of research results and production experience related to the use of multispecies living inter-row cover vegetation”. The experts presented the parameters analysed in the experiment, the methods and phases of soil preparation, and summarized the experience gained during the multiannual research. According to the results it can be stated that 20 kg of inter-row cover sowing seed is necessary for the optimal results, and it is also important that the seed mix shall include indigenous species. The experiment confirmed the hypothesis of the researchers that inter-row cover vegetation helps nutrient access – especially during drought periods –, and increases the water retention capacity of the soil. The impact of inter-row cover was also witnessed during harvest, since grapes needed about one more week of ripening in the case of rows treated with mechanical cultivation.
Dr. László Mezőfi, project leader researcher of ÖMKi, drew the attention to an alarming trend when speaking about the sharply decreasing number of insects. In Germany, the biomass of flying insects has already decreased by more than 75% (in nature protection areas according to the dataset of 27 years), while in Hungary more than 2 million swallows are “missing”, partially due to the lack of food that is flying insects. In his presentation, called “What can we expect from the sown inter-row cover vegetation? The impact of inter-row cover on useful insects and the pests of cultivated plants.”, the expert showed the main reasons behind the decreasing insect population, including intensive agricultural cultivation practices, insecticides, fertilizer use, deforestation and the transformation of wetland habitats.
According to the results of the experiments carried out at 3-3 sites of the Eger and the Tokaj wine regions, the experts of ÖMKi found that there were twice as much useful insects (hoverflies, ladybirds, spiders), twice as much wild bees and three times as much honeybees on those areas sown with the Living Inter-row Seed Mix of ÖMKi, compared to the inter-rows covered with the natural weed flora.
Our researchers also investigated the presence of powdery mildew, black rot, grey mould, downy mildew, European grapevine moth and the rust mite of grapevine. According to the results, the sown flowering inter-row cover vegetation does not increase or decrease plant protection risks.
Dr. Richárd Nagy, scientific worker of the Research and Development Centre of EKKE, highlighted the advantages of using remote sensing in his presentation, called “Mapping ecotopes as possible cultivation zones in vineyards by remote sensing methods”, where he demonstrated the use of developed digital technologies, primarily the possibilities provided by drone based data recording.
Then László Báder, doctoral candidate of BME, showed an interesting presentation on “The impact of ground cover on surface temperature and microclimate”, including thermal images. Besides the several positive impacts of applying inter-row ground cover, the measured results of the researcher indisputably confirmed the impact of ground cover on surface temperature. According to the thermal camera images and measures taken at 3 PM during summer, the row covered with vegetation was 25°C cooler than the uncovered one.
After the presentations and lunch Dr. Ferenc Tóth, leader of the horticultural team of ÖMKi, coordinated the exchange of experience between the specialists and the farmers, and helped to find joint research activities.
As a result of the workshop, ÖMKi continues its research on the application of the living inter-row cover vegetation with 6 new vineyards.
The event was supported by the European Union, and has been carried out within the Agroecology-TRANSECT project. Number of cooperation support: No 101060816.