Prosecco may be destroying the soil of northeastern Italy

Jack Wassik, Sci/Tech Editor

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Italy has been known for its wine for centuries, dating all the way back to the Roman Empire.

However, a report published at the beginning of January estimates that Prosecco production is depleting northeastern Italy of its soil.

Roughly 400 million kilograms of soil are being eroded away in Northeastern Italy due to skyrocketing demands for the sparkling white wine.

Jesus Rodrigo Comino, a geographer at the Institute of Geomorphology and Soils in Malaga, Spain, not involved in the study compared the loss to new vineyards in Germany with high rates of soil loss.

He went on to say that while in some cases, soil erosion is beneficial. In the case of northeastern Italy, it simply is not sustainable.

With precipitation and irrigation, washing away too much soil, the future success of the region’s vineyard could be in jeopardy. Not only harmful to the environment, but also the local economy as the region produces ninety million bottles of high quality prosecco every year.

Researchers from the University of Padua in Italy, have recently calculated the ‘soil footprint’ of the prosecco industry. Using the past decade as a model, comparing rainfall, land use, soil characteristics and topographic maps, they found that Prosecco production was responsible for 74 percent of the regions total soil erosion.

Using this information compared to Prosecco sales, they found that one bottle of wine resulted in 4.4 kilograms lost of soil.

While something that vineyards will have to work on, there is hope from the research team from Padua. Their simulations showed that if the vineyards were to grow grass in between vineyard rows, they could cut their soil erosion in half. Another soil would to plant hedges by rivers and streams to minimize the effect of river erosion.

Comino agreed saying: “Only the application of nature-based solutions will be able to reduce or solve the problem.” This also calls into question other vineyards, abraod and domestic, and whether or not they are experiencing heavy soil losses.