A journey into the regenerative strategies
Development of novel biostimulants, biofertilizers and amendments
Definition and design of new microbial consortia to be applied as biostimulant (SynComs) by exploiting the already available microbial collection (e.g. grape endophytes) stored in the research institute microbial collections. A safety assessment will be performed on the most effective microorganism strains identified. Biofertilizers (compost and digestates) will be produced mixing vineyard residues (grape pruning residues, grape stalks, pomace) with different ratio of raw materials (cow manure, milk or whey, wood ash, zeolite powder and pomace) to find the best performing mixture. The compost mixture will be also amended with selected PGP microorganisms. A protocol for the production of biochar from vineyard pruning residues will be developed by modulating process parameters to obtain the best physical and chemical properties. The products will be used in order to increase soil water and nutrient availability and to favor the presence and activity of beneficial microbes that will be evaluated through metagenomics.
Application of regenerative agriculture approaches under field conditions
The approaches will be applied under field conditions at the four different Mediterranean areas, in collaboration with the farmers involved in the Project. Differentiated protocols will be developed for each country based on their specific pedo-climatic conditions, main problems to solve and bioproduct application feasibility.
Studying the effects of the selected strategies.
The effect of different cultivation protocols (see WP2) will be evaluated using a multidisciplinary approach. In particular, the effect on soil chemical and microbial composition, grapevine physiology and phenology, yield and quality of grapes will be evaluated. Standard targeted metabolomic approaches (QToF, GC-MS and HPLC) using platforms available at CREA and ARC will allow to study the effect of different treatments on grape quality. Metabolomic analyses will be also performed on root extract from treated plants showing tolerance to pathogens, in order to identify differentially accumulated metabolites. Drought tolerance will be also evaluated, monitoring time course dynamics of plants subjected to water deficit. Results will be carried out using eco-physiological, water relation and abscisic acid (ABA) measurements to define the best strategy used in counteract drought effects. The effects of different treatments on the rhizosphere microbial community (archaea, bacteria, fungi) including viruses will be evaluated by metagenomic studies (Oxford Nanopore Long-reads Technology). Plant/soil microbiome interactions will be investigated at molecular level (metagenomic and transcriptomic sequencing platforms available at ENEA, FCiências.ID and CREA). The effect of microbial biodiversity on stress resilience will be assessed at molecular level investigating how this influences the expression of genes involved in stress responses (ABA metabolism and stress-related pathways).
Analysis of the environmental and socio-economic impacts
The impact of innovative approaches proposed in each area of study will be estimated using appropriate environmental, economic and social tools/indexes. The environmental impacts of the approaches proposed will be estimated using a dedicated Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in order to identify the environmental hotspots and the potential improvements. The study will be modelled through the specialised software Gabi 6.3. A survey questionnaire, as well as a semi-structured interview will be developed in order to collect information about current management practices and users’ characteristics of the methods under study. This will involve the qualitative and quantitative analysis of data from a set of practices with structural and performance feature profiles. Statistical methods will extrapolate the economic data to provide country-wide results and random utility models will be applied to analyse and model the users' preferences towards different features and highlight the most important attributes driving users’ choices. Overall analysis will lead to certain policy recommendations for new agri-environmental measures.