A new European research project, with the participation of CREDA, wants to reduce the negative impact of pesticides on vineyards and olive groves in the Mediterranean

Published on November 11th

  • This is the NOVATERRA project, which will develop a set of new strategies to achieve that the cultivation of vineyards and olive groves eliminates or significantly reduces the use of the most harmful pesticides, as well as their most negative effects.
  • The project is led by IRTA, within a consortium of 19 partners from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece and Belgium.

Vine and olive cultivation in Europe are very important. In fact, the European Union is a leader in the production, consumption and trade of wine, and has 45% of the world’s vineyard area (with Spain, Italy and France as leading countries in this regard), and a 65 % of production. Olive products are also an essential part of the agricultural economy in southern European countries: the EU produces almost 75% of olive oil production and 33% of table olives. all the world.

This level of production has been possible, in part, thanks to the use of plant protection products, which have kept the various pests and diseases that affect these crops at bay. The number of these products used in agriculture has doubled globally since 1980, but recently several studies show that pesticide abuse can have negative impacts on the environment, organisms (apart from pests) and even to human health. In addition, the demand for organic products is growing, and some of the most widely used plant protection products, such as copper, are on the list of substances to be replaced (Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009), at the same time much emphasis is placed on improving the efficiency of the application of the European Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (EC / 128/2009). management alternatives that allow the sustainability of the sector.

NOVATERRA, a new European research and innovation project that is just beginning now, wants to address this issue by creating a more global approach to ensure both food safety and the directives of the European Union for the sustainable use of pesticides The aim is to reduce the use and negative impacts of the most controversial plant protection products, the so-called pesticides, which are used for the integrated management of pests, diseases and weeds in both main crops Mediterranean countries: the vineyard and the olive tree.

During the various phases of the project, a set of new, integrated and sustainable strategies will be developed and tested, but also technically and economically viable. It is about reducing environmental pollution and damage to organisms that are not part of the target pests, while achieving better economic sustainability for Mediterranean farmers.

NOVATERRA strategy

It’s based on the integration of three key approaches: 

On the one hand, the use of alternative and natural protection products, such as biopesticides, biocontrol agents and adjuvants, as well as innovative formulations. This will be done in conjunction with testing of innovative biological control strategies to reduce the effects of major diseases and pests affecting the vineyard and olive grove: mildew, powdery mildew, botrytis and grape worm in vine and rooster eye, fly of the olive tree, the olive moth and the black caparreta.

Second, the use of a platform of intelligent agriculture for a more precise application of the products (smart farming). In this sense we want to develop and test new techniques using sensors, IoT and robotics integrated into agricultural machinery in order to optimize the dose of pesticides to be applied to vineyards and olive groves, ensuring maximum accuracy.

And third, the test of new soil management, with functional biodiversity and robotic weed management strategies, for greater crop health with fewer chemicals. At the end of the project, the most efficient integrated land management strategies will be selected and implemented in an Integrated Decision Support System (DSS), developed as a web application.

“It is a very ambitious project, and starting it in a year with such a high incidence of mildew, in the International Year of Plant Health, is even more relevant,” said Felicidad de Herralde, IRTA researcher and coordinator of the project. IRTA, in addition to coordination, is actively involved in the testing of alternative products in olive trees, through the Sustainable Plant Protection and Fruit Growing programs, and in vineyards from the Fruit Growing program in collaboration with VITEC. Also in soil management strategies and in the development of new guides and itineraries for integrated pest management, as well as in the assessment of the economic and environmental impact of the proposed practices, in collaboration with CREDA.

Who’s behind the project?

The consosrtium of the NOVATERRA project is led by Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentàries (IRTA), and supported in the conceptual design of the project by the consulting firm Arctica + i. It is made up of a total of 19 partners, with experts from 6 countries (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece and Belgium).

At the state level we find, in addition to IRTA, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC); the Center for Research in Agri-Food Economics and Development (CREDA); the Fundació Tecnològic del Vi (VITEC), the University of Burgos, Bodegas Terra Gauda and the Asociación Plataforma Tecnológica del Vino (PTV), together with the Fundación Empresa-Universidad Gallega (FEUGA).

This is the complete list of partners:

      • Research centers and universities: Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentàries (IRTA), (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UNICATT), Institut Français de la Vigne et du Vin (IFV), Instituto Politecnico de Bragança (IPB), Universitat de Burgos (UBU), Agricultural University of Athens (AUA), and Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC).
      • Technological SMESs: Hort@, AGENSO.
      • Phytosanitary producers: Dow Agrosciences (CORTEVA)
      • Producers Associations and transfer: VITAGORA, EBS, PTV, APPITAD, UNAPROL

The NOVATERRA project (Integrated novel strategies for reducing the use and impact of pesticides, towards sustainable Mediterranean vineyards and olive groves) began last October 27, when the project partners kicked off their first meeting. This project will receive more than 4.8 million euros through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program of the European Union. The project is expected to run for 4 years, until October 2024.

Communication contact IRTA:


About IRTA

IRTA is a research institute dedicated to agri-food R & D & I in the fields of plant production, animal production, food industries, the environment and global change, and the agri-food economy. The transfer of its scientific advances contributes to the modernization, competitiveness and sustainable development of the agricultural, food and aquaculture sectors, to the provision of healthy and quality food for consumers and to the improvement of the well-being of the population. IRTA is attached to Departament d’Agricultura, Ramaderia, Pesca, i Alimentació (DARP) from Generalitat de Catalunya.

The NOVATERRA project has received funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 grant agreement number 101000554.

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