Code name: LACCAVE. Date of birth: 2011. Defining feature: how to adapt winegrowing to climate change. Over its ten-year duration, the INRAE LACCAVE* research project has brought together over 100 multi-disciplinary researchers and PhD students from fields such as genetics, ecophysiology, agronomy, environmental sciences, oenology, geography, economy and sociology. It has given rise to 10 theses and united policy makers to allow winegrowing to cope with climate change. So much so that this incredible programme is currently guiding public policy. But what are its main themes, and what solutions are being considered? We take a closer look at this innovative project.
- LACCAVE, forward planning and an optimistic message, if…
- What is the impact of climate change on vineyards?
- What are the possible solutions that have already been trialled?
LACCAVE, forward planning and an optimistic message, if…
The LACCAVE programme forecast the outlook for 2050 at national level, putting forward four scenarios that were subsequently debated in seven wine regions, sparking 2,700 proposals for action. The data collected fuelled the thought process for industry representatives who, under the coordination of INAO and FranceAgriMer produced a “strategy for the wine industry to address climate change”, presented on 26 August 2021 to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Since 2012, around a hundred researchers have been studying conditions for coping with climate change in the vine and wine sector*. Current messages are alarming but the researchers’ findings offer renewed hope – they claim that whilst the impact of climate change in vineyards is worsening, there are solutions for coping with the changes. If that is, and only if, the average temperature increase is reined in at under 2°C and joint support continues to be galvanised among industry players, the authorities and the research community.
What is the impact of climate change on vineyards?
Predictably, LACCAVE research work confirms that the impact of climate change is worsening across the wine regions of the world. For example, as the vine’s growth cycle is getting earlier, it is less able to withstand spring frosts like the ones that devastated vineyards across France this year. Among other consequences, harvesting is also being brought forward and the profile of the wines is changing – alcohol levels are higher, acidity is lower and there are aromatic changes. Other impacts include damage caused by extreme weather events – destroying crops and increasing erosion – wild fires and greater pressure from pests in the dampest years and regions.
What are the possible solutions that have already been trialled?
The good news is that there are solutions. The LACCAVE project has identified some of them. They include preserving and improving vineyard soils, which has now become urgent to promote the resilience of vineyards, using a combination of techniques such as controlled grass cover, organic matter amendments (compost, mulch, conservation grazing…) and adaptations to prevent erosion.
Renewing and diversifying plant material is another avenue, using heirloom grape varieties from Greece or Italy for example which are more drought-resistant and able to withstand higher temperatures and also produce less sugar or more acidity. There are also newly-created varieties or resistant vines. They require vine conservation centres – either individual or collaborative – and observation networks that must be provided with support and coordination in order to promote information sharing.
Water and water management are obviously part of the project and come with solutions and recommendations – they require that agro-ecological and water-saving techniques be used so that the vast majority of vineyards can be maintained without the use of irrigation.
And, as with resistant varieties, taking on board consumer opinions is also an integral part of the project. Consumers need to be “made aware of strategies that need to be rolled out to address climate change and involved in them”.
As research director Jean-Marc Touzard, who jointly heads up the LACCAVE programme with Nathalie Collat, points out: “The wine industry addresses the issues thrown up by climate change in an exemplary way because it is significantly affected by it and its players are very well organised. It has also taken an exemplary approach to studying and implementing at global level more general coping strategies for other industries”.
*The project was funded and coordinated by INRAE, and conducted in conjunction with the CNRS, universities, the Agro Institute & Bordeaux Sciences Agro, along with leading industry organisations INAO, FranceAgriMer, chambers of agriculture, IFV, wine marketing boards and producer organisations.
The results of research work conducted as part of the LACCAVE programme are available on the collaborative platform VINEAS