Climate: the paths of the Laccave project to save the vines

In April 2013, the publication of an article by American researchers in the scientific journal PNAS, makes a lot of noise. These conclude that there is a possible decline in vines in regions such as Bordeaux, the Rhône valley or even Tuscany. The answer was not long in coming, other researchers, in particular from the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), advancing the difficulty of concluding such a scenario without taking into account the variations of soils, grape varieties, climate. and, above all, the adaptation strategies already in place.

Today, however, the vineyard is well under the threat of climate change and health pressures which continue to increase. Research programs, even action plans, have already been considered. The Laccave project, launched in 2012 under the aegis of what has become INRAE (National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, since 1is January 2020), is coming to an end. Ten years during which a hundred researchers worked, participated in conferences and exchanged their knowledge with wine growers or elected officials in order to find solutions.

From November 24 to 26, in Montpellier, Laccave’s results were presented at a scientific seminar, and the findings are clear. “The impacts of climate change are intensifying in the vineyards”, indicates the final press release. The dangers are there: an earlier development of the vine, making it more vulnerable to late frosts; more pronounced water stress; the characteristics of wines modified with more alcohol, a drop in acidity and yields …

Renewal of grape varieties, soil restoration

“Climate change puts the vine under greater constraints. She is shaken when she was already not in good shape, suffering from many diseases and weakened in particular by the monoculture practiced for a long time ”, alert Jean-Marc Touzard, research director at INRAE ​​in Montpellier. A “national vineyard decline plan” has even been put in place., in September 2016. It offers tools to fight against esca (a wood rot caused by fungi that affects vines) or flavescence dorée (a decline of the plant due to leafhopper attacks), or even to modify the practices of pruning, grafting, etc.

From “Technical and organizational solutions are possible and have already been tested”, say those in charge of the Laccave project, who put forward recommendations for the use of public authorities and winegrowers. Among these, the renewal of grape varieties, bringing “A strong genetic variability of the grape variety / rootstock pair, allowing later varieties to be planted, resistant to drought or to higher temperatures, producing less sugar or more acidity”. Another element is decisive, explains Jean-Marc Touzard, responsible for Laccave: soil restoration. “We have been cultivating on the same soils for centuries, in monoculture, with massive recourse to chemistry in the 1960s. We must restore organic matter in the soils and adapt them to climate change”, states the researcher. Among the other solutions, the association of trees and vines, the adaptation of the vinification …

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As for the announced disappearance of vineyards in the south of France (too much heat, not enough water) and the possibility of new wine regions further north, the answer is prudent: “The rise in altitude and the creation of new northern vineyards are possible with risks and collective investments that are still difficult to assess. “ Making wine in Brittany or Ile-de-France will not mean transforming these new areas into great wine-growing regions, nor will it guarantee the success of great vintages.

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Climate: the paths of the Laccave project to save the vines

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