Better information about crop cultivation possibilities in mountain regions

Economic pressure on farmers in mountainous zones has led them to look for extra revenue sources, with crop cultivation often bringing in relatively large sums of money. Based in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano in north-east Italy, the VEGEMONT project has created a freely accessible, user-friendly online map (webGIS) summarising the chances of successful cultivation of various crops in the region.

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Vegetable fields in Venosta valley, Autonomous Province of Bolzano © Laimburg Research Centre Vegetable fields in Venosta valley, Autonomous Province of Bolzano © Laimburg Research Centre

" The VEGEMONT web map shows the production potential of niche vegetable crops and strawberries in the mountain areas of South Tyrol at altitudes of between 700 and 2 000 m above sea level and makes this knowledge accessible to farmers and extension services at a relatively high resolution, as well as providing decision-makers with information with which to evaluate crop potential at territorial scale. "

Markus Hauser, Group leader in vegetable growing, Laimburg Research Centre

VEGEMONT identified crops to be included on the map by consulting the main local stakeholders. Analysis of a large amount of data related to climate and crop requirements led to the elaboration of mathematical growth models for each crop.

These models support evaluation of an area’s suitability for vegetable cultivation, making it possible to ascertain whether the local climate would allow a crop to mature. They also help users to work out harvest periods based on planting dates.

An extra income source for dairy farmers

Mountain agriculture in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano is primarily characterised by small-scale dairy production. In recent years, mainly due to liberalisation in the milk market, dairy farms have faced increasing economic pressure, leading to a slow but steady drop in the number of farms.

Crops with high added value like vegetables or aromatic plants provide an additional source of income which could help to keep many farms in business, especially those in disadvantaged regions. Vegetables are particularly interesting, as the machinery and farm implements necessary for their cultivation form part of the standard equipment already found on most dairy farms.

Moreover, mountainous regions have short growing seasons which start later than in lowland areas, resulting in later harvests. Ripening and delivery dates for mountain farms are thus out of step with those of other farms. As a result, their fresh vegetables can reach the market at times when production capacity in other regions is very low.

Accurate and timely information on crop potential

Farmers interested in growing vegetables need accurate and timely information about the suitability of their fields for the cultivation of different crops. At the same time, decision-makers require an overview of the larger-scale potential of the various crops if they are to be able to successfully launch supporting actions such as development of infrastructure and policies related to marketing.

By making sound information available for both groups regarding the suitability of mountain regions for cultivation of vegetables, VEGEMONT is helping to unlock the underexploited potential of such crops. Vegetables for which the map provides information include cauliflower, salad vegetables, carrot, beetroot, chicory and onion. It also has details for strawberries.

Farms and related services can now identify quickly and easily those vegetables that could be grown in their fields. If the results produced by the map are viewed at a larger scale, such as for a whole valley, they give decision-makers information about the potential of each crop at the wider territorial level.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “VEGEMONT - Mapping of the most appropriate areas for horticulture in the mountain zones” is EUR 460 200, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 159 827,46 through the “Autonomous Province of Bolzano” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date