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Matching market challenges


Copper is an essential nutrient for humans, although excessive exposure can be harmful. Copper-based preparations have been used for over 200 years to control fungi and bacterial diseases in cultivated plants. Downy mildew caused by a fungus called Plasmopara viticola, is one of the most important and devastating diseases for grapevines. However, since 2006, copper use has been limited by some regulations because it can cause health and environmental problems (mainly due to its accumulation in the soil), being a little controversial with principles of sustainable production. Today, there are many compounds which have been studied that provide protection against downy mildew. However, some studies also found that many of these compounds would not actually be used as a total replacement as alternatives for copper in viticulture, for a total disease control and, some of them have secondary problems because they might induce phytotoxic effects. Current alternatives to copper allowed in EU organic agriculture, are less effective and inconsistent in controlling downy mildew with high disease pressure.

The general objective is to test and implement new effective products and strategies that replace the use of copper in the vineyard, eliminate copper in the soil to favour its recovery, and achieve a cost-effective ecological viticulture management system without the use of this toxic component. Different alternatives will be compared to copper use in efficiency and environmental impact. Soil vulnerability techniques will be tested and strategies to recover copper-contaminated soils will be evaluated. All techniques will then be combined in an integrated vineyard protection strategy that will be applied in field trials across partner vineyards in Portugal, Spain and France under integrated and organic farming management modes. Results will be demonstrated and presented to the wider grape and wine community across those countries and inputs for effective and science-based policy-making in line with the objectives of the European Union and national authorities of the southwest Europe region.

The COPPEREPLACE project has received funding from the INTERREG SUDOE program funded by the European Fund for Regional Development.