Drought in Italy

A month-long drought and unusually high temperatures for this time of year are threatening Italy's agriculture. Crop losses are expected, especially in the northwest of the country and in parts of the northeast, Lazio, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily. Veronika Crecelius reports.

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Draught in Italy (Photo: cbies/AdobeStock)
Draught in Italy (Photo: cbies/AdobeStock)

Irrigation systems are of limited help because some municipalities have already decided to ration water and limit its use to food and hygiene. In some places, no water comes out of the tap at night. Due to low water levels, water withdrawal from rivers for agriculture has been limited. The country is expecting a nationally binding decree to restrict water consumption in the next few days.

Veneto (still) in the Green Despite Water Shortage

The Veneto region announced losses for some grape varieties in an initial harvest forecast, and the spread of flavescenza dorata is also a concern. In May it rained 46% less than average, in April 33%, in March precipitation was reduced by as much as 81%, in February by 52% and in January by 53%. As a consequence, Veneto has a shortage of 300-400 mm of water so far this year. In addition, nighttime temperature has not been dropping enough to bring relief.

Vine health is satisfactory so far.

Hardly any Fungal Diseases and Good Yields

"Despite current conditions, the phytosanitary situation in the vineyards is satisfactory. The low rainfall has kept fungal diseases in check, so that two or three treatments less than average have been carried out," explained viticultural researcher Diego Tomasi, who represented the Veneto Protection Consortia at the presentation of the harvest forecast.

In terms of volume, total production is expected to be average. Pinot Grigio is expected to lose 10-15%, Corvina about 5%. For other varieties, the outlook is positive. Chardonnay is expected to increase 5-10%, Garganega from flat vineyards 10-15%, Glera (DOC and DOCG) 5-10%. Among red varieties, Merlot from the municipalities of Soave, Lison and Vicenza is estimated to be up 10-15%, and Corvinone and Rondinella harvests could also increase 10-15%.

Few Extremes Nationwide

Unlike for other agricultural products such as grains and corn, "drought in the vineyard is not yet of extreme concern, except sporadically in some areas with skeletal and calcareous soils," Riccardo Cotarella told the Winenews portal. The president of the Association of Oenologists, Assoenologi, assesses the vegetation in the third week of June as quasi-normal. But now begins a phase with higher water demand, because the grapes are getting bigger, he said. "Let's hope for rain, also because the vines do not need so much water. A few  40-50 mm downfalls at the right moment would be enough to guarantee the water reserves of the plants. However, we need to be aware, that the grape production has been very generous so far, which implies higher water consumption," explained Cotarella as he outlined the current situation.

Italy's wine sector is considering how the growing water shortage due to the climate crisis can be countered in the future. Suggestions range from more effective rain catchment systems and measures to reduce water consumption to the creation of reservoirs, research into stress-resistant rootstocks and grape varieties, and special soil cultivation.


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