E-learning helps prepare for Climate Change

Apertura-portaleE-Viticlimate, a European project in the Leonardo Program, is focused on the effects of climate change and the measures necessary to promote the adaptation of viticulture to these factors. The project partners (Italian, French, Bulgarian and UK) have met to combine their knowledge and to set up an e-learning platform aimed at increasing the understanding and awareness of the members of the industry regarding this key subject so as to develop agriculture in the upcoming decades.
We recently spoke with Giacomo Trombi from the DISPA (Dipartimento di Scienze delle Produzioni Agroalimentari e dell’Ambiente) of the University of Firenze, which is a centre of excellence in Italy and Europe for the study of Agrometeorology and which, along with the Edmund Mach Foudation in San Michele all’Adige (TN), has participated in the E-Viticlimate project as an Italian partner.

From knowledge to action

Dr. Trombi, let’s start by defining the problem.
“Climate change is already in effect and clearly visible to everyone, as is evidenced by the comparison of climate data over the last 20 years with data from the years ranging from 1950 to 1990. The climate is now inclined to be generally more variable and the frequency and duration of extreme events, like heat waves, is changing”.
Historically though, the climate has always demonstrated changes that were more or less intense…
“Today it’s not just that we are witnessing more rapid changes than in the past. The issue now is that we can no longer allow these changes to cause shortages that may dramatically impact the economic and social order in a highly efficient but also quite delicate production system, due to its characteristically high degree of specialization. We have more refined tools available now, both for predicting what will happen (for example simulating future growing conditions) as well as in terms of technology, agronomy or genetics. These tools all help us to adapt and to re-invent the system more quickly than we were able to do so before”.
And how does viticulture fit into this picture?
“The changes taking place in viticulture are apparent to everyone. The phenological periods occur earlier on average, and also the time of the grape harvest, and the vegetative and productivity periods are shorter. In some cases, the increase in temperature has led to a quality improvement in some wine regions and the creation of favourable conditions in regions that were considered marginal up to now, like the South of England. The problem is that at a certain point, the extremes also start to increase, for example heat waves and torrential rains, and these can jeopardize an entire season. Or the temperatures are too high for a quality growing season. The Mediterranean basin, among other things, is one of the so-called hot spots, a particularly delicate region which is considered one of the areas that will feel the negative effects of Global Change. This does not mean though that wine production must surrender to natural events but we must start to think about how to adapt to this phenomenon”.
What is the scope of E-Viticlimate?
“The partners got together to exchange ideas as to what they are doing in the area of research into the effects of climate change and the possibility to adapt the wine growing system in the different regions throughout Europe. Their objective was to come out with a digital e-learning platform for everyone in the industry: producers, vine specialists, oenologists, but also teachers and students”.

E-Viticlimate in detail

The course, after registering for free, consists of two training modules made up of several interactive lessons. At the end of each lesson there is a short self-evaluation quiz to ascertain how much you’ve learned. If you pass the quiz (with more than 50% correct responses) you receive a certificate from the University and the project partner companies. The platform is available in four languages (French, English, Italian and Bulgarian).
The first module, consisting of nine lessons and available in four languages, provides general information on climate, climate change and the effect on the physiology of the vines and grapes.
The second module is specific for every region and presents the studies and observations relating to climate changes both in progress and in the future, as well as the relative impact on the regional viticulture. Finally there are some indications as to potential agronomy and oenology tools and some information about possible mitigation strategies.
Although the project officially ended with the last partner meeting in Avignon (France) in September 2013, the E-Viticlimate platform will be active for all of 2014 and 2015.
In the first launch of the training package (February-August 2013) there were encouraging results even if the participants came from a base that was slightly different than expected, as Trombi explains: “The statistics regarding access and attendance were comforting and higher than average when compared to similar on-line training products. In reality though, we had expected a more operations-oriented user base, made up of wine growers, but the majority of those registered up to now are students, teachers and consultants”.
The product test period was quite short and maybe the product has not gone viral yet but it also could be more likely that industry members still have limited experience with both the internet and training tools.

Highlight: HOW TO ACCESS THE E-LEARNING PLATFORM

To access the e-learning platform of E-Viticlimate, you just have to register. Registration and participation in the course are both free. Instructions on how to follow the course are explained by a virtual tutor (see image) in the section entitled Demonstration. The lessons in the two modules can be completed according to your own time schedule and at the end of every lesson there is a quiz to test your level of learning. In case of doubts or questions, there is a Get help section where you can contact the project managers.

Article by Alessandra Biondi Bartolini, R&D Consultant (Pescia, PT – Italy)

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