Reducing the 60% of water consumption in agriculture


05 July 2022
Montefalco (PG)

Reducing the 60% of water consumption in the vineyard thanks to an experimental project based on controlled irrigation. But that's not all: 'Thanks to a water purification plant, we are able to reclaiming waste produced during winemaking processes and provide for their expulsion into surface waters. The water thus treated is used to irrigate the company's green areas. For the cleaning and sterilisation of cellar instruments, however, we have installed a new microfiltration system that has enabled us to proportionally reduce the consumption of well water used for a greater quantity of grapes processed". This is Marco Caprai, who for thirty years has been at the helm of the family winery, Arnaldo Caprai in Montefalco, Umbria, home of Sagrantino, which he was the first to help relaunch and make famous throughout the world.

If today's water deficit is one of the burning issues of this hot - and enormously dry - summer, the preservation of water, as well as the environment in general, has always been the focus of research and experimentation at the Caprai winery. Starting with the project Agroclim TechnologyIt is a project,' explains Mattia Dell'Orto, Caprai's R&D manager, 'that has set out to the objective of counteracting the effects of summer heatwaves which, when associated with periods of water shortage, significantly compromise the production and quality yield of vineyards'.

To this end, an experimental irrigation system capable of releasing differentiated amounts of water in the different areas of the vineyard was implemented. The system, created by analysing satellite images and managed by software that detects soil humidity in real time, is activated if the set water stress threshold is exceeded and if the 5-day weather forecast does not confirm rainfall events.

"The aim,' continues Dell'Orto, 'is to provide as little water as possible only in the areas where it is actually needed to maximise water savings and production quality while protecting vines from heat waves".

Among the technologies implemented to cope with the changing weather conditions in recent years, as part of the Agroclim Technology project, Caprai has installed an anti-frost fan for spring frost damage control and a new product recovery sprayer to treat vineyards in a timely manner and reduce pesticide consumption by 50%.

Climate change is forcing a rethinking of agricultural techniques. "The expected consequences," says Dell'Orto, "can be summarised as milder and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers, and more frequent and more intense weather events. In particular, agriculture will have to be able to improve its efficiency in the use of water and reduce its losses. Water management in the vineyard is also a tool to modulate grape quality according to a precise oenological objective. Water resources will become increasingly scarce and must be used sparingly in order to reduce energy input and wine-growing activity. Climate change (global warming), which may foreshadow the need for more frequent irrigation, makes a better understanding of the effects of water on wine production and its rational distribution during the growing season all the more urgent'.

The use of the experimental drip system with site-specific distribution allowed only 60% of the water that would have been distributed with a traditional system to be used. Controlled water stress has proven to be one of the most efficient water-saving and production-improving strategies in the grapevine and is therefore an irrigation strategy designed to save water with an impact on grape production and quality.

When this experimental method is implemented in the company's vineyards, it will lead to a great efficiency increase in the available reserves without compromising the productivity of the vineyards, which, on the contrary, will benefit from a clear improvement in grape and wine quality in particularly dry years.

This is the case this summer. Take Montefalco where -51% of precipitation was recorded in the first half of 2022 compared to the average. In the first six months of 2022, only 176 mm of rain fell compared to the historical average of more than 360 mm. The Montefalco vineyard soil in June has already reached a negative water potential (water shortage), which is normally reached at the end of August. There is currently a water deficit in the Montefalco vineyard soil that is double that measured during the same period in 2021.

'In the current year,' Caprai continues, 'we will enhance the careful monitoring of our water consumption to calculating the water footprint (Water Footprint) of our winery. Already for the Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Collepiano and 25 Annidella from the 2010 vintage, we were able to accurately measure the total volume of water resources used to produce each of the two wines. This is not a calculation for its own sake, but an activity that promotes a more efficient water resource management process, both in winery operations and in vineyard treatments.

These are just some of the activities on the sustainability front (and not only environmental) that are recounted and reported in the sustainability report in which the Arnaldo Caprai farm, which is also Equalitas certified, is engaged for the second year, a report that in its first edition received a Special Mention in the Sustainability Report Award promoted by Corriere della Sera and Bologna Business School with Aiccon.

Few other wineries in Italy and around the world are immediately identified just by mentioning the name of the denomination to which they belong, like Arnaldo Caprai, itself a symbol of Sagrantino di Montefalco. A unique reality, synonymous with Italian excellence, capable of creating wines that are out of the ordinary in terms of depth, elegance and longevity: not only reds, but also whites. The credit for this adventure that began in the late 1970s goes to Marco Caprai, Arnaldo's son. It was he, in fact, more than anyone else who believed in the richness of Sagrantino, reinterpreting it in a modern key, through the most innovative production and business management methods, which have enabled him to win the favour of the public and critics all over the world. Not to be outdone by the whites: Arnaldo Caprai's Grecante, 100% Grechetto, managed to conquer Wine Spectator's Top100.
A great company, Arnaldo Caprai, that guards a green soul, considering issues concerning sustainability, protection and safeguarding the environment as fundamental. The point of observation always remains the same: trying to behave in harmony with natural evolution cycles, preserving and enhancing the territory in which it operates. This is why the company decided to create an Environmental Management System that complies with international regulations, developing a voluntary territorial protocol of environmental, economic and social sustainability of the production process.
It is in this unparalleled context that wines of unforgettable substance are born, complex and elegant, capable of narrating the best of an entire region, Umbria.


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