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May 30, 2022 View:

Global warming will cause the average latitude of the world's vineyards to shift up 650 km

Recently, a conference on sustainable vineyard development under climate change was held in Rome, where Luca Mercalli, president of the Italian Meteorological Society, suggested that climate warming will force the average global vineyard to move up 650 kilometers in latitude and 800 meters in elevation, and the Italian Union of Agri-Food Cooperatives said Italy will lead the global research and development of new disease-resistant grape varieties.

Image from: Italian Wine Network

At the conference, Luca Mercalli, president of the Italian Meteorological Society, predicted that by the end of the 21st century, in addition to a decrease in the area planted with vineyards worldwide, the geographic distribution of planting areas will shift to some of the margins of viticulture or to higher altitudes that are now considered unsuitable for growing grapes. By the end of the century, the average elevation of vineyards worldwide will rise by about 800 meters and the average latitude will shift northward by about 650 kilometers.

Today in many mountainous regions, vineyards are already running to the top of the mountain. Luca Mercalli explains that the average global temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celsius over the last century, and 1.5 degrees Celsius in Western Europe and the Mediterranean region. By comparing the geographical distribution of vineyards 100 years ago, we can see that today"s vineyards are on average 250 meters higher in elevation and have moved 22 kilometers north. With the Paris agreement on greenhouse gas emission reductions having failed, global temperatures are likely to rise by around 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Therefore, a continuous change in altitude and latitude in the geographical distribution of vineyards is inevitable.

Image from: Italian Wine Network

Global warming is now already having a significant impact on agricultural production, particularly in the area of viticulture and winemaking. 2017 saw a significant drop in grape production in Italy due to a series of catastrophic weather events such as the April frost and the May drought, and other countries in Europe such as France and Spain also experienced reduced grape production on various scales. A total of 320,000 grape growers were affected in Italy, France and Spain, who make about 50% of Europe"s wine production and 25% of the world's wine production. As a result, wine cooperatives in the three countries hope to work together to identify viable solutions to the climate change problem.

Scientific research is a powerful tool to combat climate change. In recent years, significant progress has been made in research aimed at genetic improvement of disease-resistant grape varieties and new rootstocks with greater adaptability to the environment. The Italian scientific community is a leader in this field. The University of Udine, in collaboration with the IGA, Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo and other institutions, has carried out the first round of cross breeding, and the research has resulted in 10 new grape varieties registered in the Italian National Catalogue of Approved Crop Varieties.

Attilio Scienza of the University of Milan, Italy, told the conference that in recent years, grapes harvested from disease-resistant vineyards in Italy have excelled in terms of quality and yield. The wines produced from disease-resistant grapes in Italy have shown attractive characteristics compared to other European countries. More importantly, Italy is developing more innovative methods that will significantly shorten the long cycle required for screening breeding.

Michele Morgante of the University of Udine, Italy, concludes: We are using technological advances to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural processes and to reduce the use of water, fertilizers and pesticides in production. We are identifying genes that help grapevines use water and nutrients more fully and protect themselves from pathogens. New genetic improvement techniques can help us rapidly translate our knowledge and technology into new grape varieties that will help us face the enormous challenges posed by climate change.

Ruenza Santandrea, of the Italian Federation of Agri-Food Cooperatives, said: "Beyond scientific research, Italian wine companies and wineries must also do their part. We must insist on sustainable development of the vineyards, starting with prevention and selecting plants that are less susceptible to disease in farming. We must also conserve water and energy, and implement good production practices.

Speaking about the expected grape production in 2018, Ruenza Santandrea said: since the end of February this year, the weather conditions in Italy have been in line with the normal cycle of vine growth. We hope that this year's harvest season will continue longer than last year, but for now we have to remain cautious.