Saturday, 15 July 2006

Soil, Wine and other Quality Crops, a New Frontier of Soil Science.

Edoardo A.C. Costantini, CRA-ISSDS, Piazza D'azeglio 30, Florence, 50121, Italy, Susan Southard, USDA-NRCS, 2300 Loyola Drive, 2300 Loyola Drive, Davis, CA 95616, and Jessica G. Davis, Colorado State Univ, Soil and Crop Sciences Dept, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1170.

There is increasing interest in studying soil characteristics that affect the quality of wine. Research studies have established that the oenological expression of the vine corresponds to a specific plant growth and ripening model that is dependent on agricultural practices, climate and soil conditions. Evidence suggests that environmental factors influence the hormonal equilibrium of each variety which in turn regulates the expression of the genotype. On the basis of these studies, analysis of the best environmental conditions inside a vine growing area is possible. Positive soil management experiences in vineyards have focused attention to other specialty crops, such as olive oil, fruits and vegetables, and forage for milk and cheese production. Soil scientists can play an important role in pairing soils and wine grape production and other quality crop systems. This pairing may result in better economic, environmental and landscape sustainability. Examples of activities performed by soil scientists, alone or in cooperation with agronomists and other specialists include: i) soil survey and mapping including thematic mapping at different scales for specific soil functional characteristics and qualities; ii) advising the vineyard or plantation about the choice of the fields for variety suitability, landscape suitability and the risk of plant diseases in specific soil conditions and locations in the farm landscape; iii) advising about varieties, rootstocks, plant density, grass coverage; designing surface and deep drainage systems, slope levelling and reshaping; green manure and fertilization before plantation; iv) advising the vineyard husbandry about annual fertilization, soil conservation, and agrotechinque management (time and kind of cultivation and pruning). The increasing public expectation for “total quality” agriculture that sustains production while at the same time maintaining the quality of the food products, the environment and the landscape, creates an exciting opportunity for soil science consultants and researchers. Soil science societies are called to encourage studies and activities correlating soil characteristics with sensory crop quality.

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